More Than Meets the Eye




Scripture:

  On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Mark 4:35–41 NRSV)

Observation:

Another day had been spent along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. By now it had probably become a custom for Jesus to teach from the boat. To get away from the crowds the disciples raised the anchor and set off across the sea. Others came along as well because there were more boats. This event was experienced by more than just the twelve. 

The description of the storm is quite vivid. If Mark is repeating Peter’s first-hand account, then we get an idea of how bad this situation was. Sudden storms are not uncommon on the Sea of Galilee where the wind can come down off of the surrounding heights, especially late in the day or early evening. This wind came, almost with tornadic force and the boat was swamped by waves. These big, strong, professional fishermen were suddenly terrified. They awakened the carpenter rabbi who was exhausted and had fallen fast asleep. Their experience with Jesus meant they had developed a level of faith that led them to believe that awakening him would make a difference. 

It appears that the disciples were rebuking Jesus when Jesus got up and rebuked nature. The disciples — all of them — not just those in the boat with him, but the other surrounding boats, were stunned. Can you imagine everyone looking in awe at Jesus as the storm is suddenly stilled and they find themselves in silence on the sea. 

Jesus revealed that he had authority over the wind and the waves. Sometimes this story is seen metaphorically, the raging waters representing the chaos of the world, either of today or that of the persecuted church in the hands of the Roman Empire. No matter, we are shown that the power of Jesus is greater than nature, the chaos of this world, and anything that enemy can throw our way. 

Kent Brower puts it this way, “Jesus’ sleep is probably due to exhaustion. Perhaps, as a part of the conflict with evil in which he is engaged, the storm arises because he is in the boat. If so, the storm is symbolic of opposition to God and his rule. In this context, his mastery over the sea and the storm appear to be important for the subsequent story.” (NBBC) The subsequent story is the healing of Legion. 

Application:

We try to explain away some of Jesus’ miracles, or confrontations with evil, not as demoniacs, but of those suffering from seizures or mental illness. But how do we explain this miracle over nature? Could it be that before the other miracles that would be described by Mark, Jesus demonstrates that his power is far more than meets the eye. His power is not explainable by human standards, but is supernatural. 

Augustine provides us with an interesting application of this passage: 

When you have to listen to abuse, that means you are being buffeted by the wind. When your anger is roused, you are being tossed by the waves. So when the winds blow and the waves mount high, the boat is in danger, your heart is imperiled, your heart is taking a battering. On hearing yourself insulted, you long to retaliate; but the joy of revenge brings with it another kind of misfortune—shipwreck. Why is this? Because Christ is asleep in you. What do I mean? I mean you have forgotten his presence. Rouse him, then; remember him, let him keep watch within you, pay heed to him. . . . A temptation arises: it is the wind. It disturbs you: it is the surging of the sea. This is the moment to awaken Christ and let him remind you of those words: “Who can this be? Even the winds and the sea obey him.” (Augustine, SERMONS 63.1–3)

What we discover with Jesus in the boat is that his power is much more than what meets the eye. Whether we find ourselves in a metaphorical storm, or a real one, we need to open our eyes to see the power of God. Far too often I know that I am the one who creates the limits, or boundaries for God’s activity in this world because of my own fear. Brower tells us that Jesus’ “sleep during the storm contrasts with the disciples’ terror. God “grants sleep to those he loves” (Ps. 127:2), and Jesus’ sleep reflects his serene trust in God, who watches over him.”

Reflecting upon who Christ really is means that we can learn to rest in the midst of the most troublesome storm — whether physical or metaphorical. Looking beyond the material, we discover the transcendent God who is able to do much more than we could ever ask or imagine. The challenge is to learn to join Jesus in peaceful rest in the midst of the storm. 

Prayer:

Lord, may I lay down and rest in your peace. Amen. 

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