We continue to dig ourselves out from one snow storm after another. The storm of the decade is followed by the storm of the century. Snowpocalypse followed by polar vortex followed by snowmaggedon followed by bombogenesis. We have to remind ourselves that it is February and we live in New England. Snow happens this time of year.
In the same way, Christ followers need to remember that storms are part of God’s curriculum for our lives. We should not be surprised or dismayed when they come.
Mark 4 is one more example of the teach-test principle. Jesus teaches his disciples and then tests them to see what they have learned. Any time you see boats or bread in the gospels, a test is coming. The teach-test principle is based on the idea that God will not move us on and teach us new things until we learn the lessons he has for us. This helps explain why some people keep spinning their wheels rather than making progress in their spiritual growth.
Mark 4:35-41 is the first of four miracles that demonstrate Jesus’ comprehensive authority. Jesus has power over nature (4:35-41), demons (5:1-20), disease (5:24-34), and death (5:21-23, 35-43).
Jesus calming the storm comes at the end of a very busy day. He was teaching the crowds (3:20). His family came to confront him about his schedule (3:21, 31-35). The religious leaders accused him of being in league with Satan (3:22-30). Jesus used parables to teach the crowds about the kingdom of God (4:1-34). Now that evening has arrived, Jesus wants to travel to the other side of the lake (4:35).
On the journey, Jesus falls asleep in the stern of the boat (4:38). He was understandably exhausted after a busy day of ministry. His sleep could also show his contentment from being in God’s will.
The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by high hills and narrow valleys that function as a natural wind tunnel. Because of the geography, violent storms can rise without warning. It is a commonplace occurrence. While a squall was fairly typical, this storm was severe enough that it threatened to swamp the boat and frightened professional fishermen.
The disciples are panic-stricken and wake Jesus with a reproach. They feel he doesn’t care about their situation, that he is indifferent.
Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Peace! Be still!” It literally means, “Be silent! Be muzzled, and remain so!” This was the same phrase he used to silence the man with an unclean spirit (1:25). It may indicate that there was a demonic power and purpose behind the storm. At his command, the wind stopped and the lake became calm.
Jesus rebuked his disciples for being afraid in a crisis. Despite Jesus’ explanations and tutoring, it still had not dawned on them that God’s power was present in Jesus (Psalm 89:8-9).
This passage reminds us that storms are part of our journey through life. Some are ahead of us. Some are behind us. Sometimes we are right in the middle of the storm.
The presence of a storm doesn’t mean the absence of care. Jesus cares about our growth towards maturity. Sometimes the storm is part of his curriculum for our lives.
We should keep in mind that God will not rescue us from every storm. Sometimes he calms the storm; sometimes he calms his child. Sometimes he saves us from trouble; sometimes he walks with us through trouble.
We need to learn to trust God before the storm arrives. When it hits in full force, we are in survival mode and we don’t have time to prepare. If our faith is not already strong, we will struggle with unbelief.
We need to learn to trust God completely, even if our obedience leads us into a storm.
Finally, to enjoy shelter in the storm, focus on God’s promise and his presence. Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side,” not, “Let’s go to middle and drown.” He had already promised they would arrive safely. Jesus was present with them in the boat. With the assurance of his promise and his presence, we can sleep through a storm.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 15, 2015. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.