Life is full of storms. Real storms that can shake the foundations of the life you’ve built. Imagined storms that can plague your mind and frazzle your nerves. Storms — small and big, short and long, mild and furious — will always be with us. You are either in the storm or in the calm before the storm. Fortunately, Jesus teaches us how to deal with storms.
The three greatest life-threatening forces in ancient cultures were natural disasters, demonic possession, and death. Mark strung together three scenes from Jesus’ life to show HIS power over these greatest enemies – The calming of the storm (Mk. 4:35-41), the exorcism of Legion (Mk. 5:1-20), and the raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter (Mk. 5:21-43).
The accumulative effect of these three back-to-back scenes is to dramatically prove Jesus’ sovereignty over all things. Jesus has power over the worst kinds of evil that the mind could possibly imagine.
The point Mark is trying to make is clear: Whatever it is that you are facing – Jesus is bigger.
Jesus and the Storm
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” (Mk. 4:37)
Jesus was getting into a boat to cross from the West (Jewish) side of the Sea of Galilee to the East (Gentile) side. The trip across (at the widest point of the sea) was about eight miles. It was probably less than that where Jesus and his disciples were crossing. Somewhere on their journey across the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm hit them. 1
Now, remember – Peter, James, John, and Andrew were fishermen who grew up on this lake and fished it all their lives. They knew how to read the clouds and how to smell a storm coming. They knew every contour of the lake’s shores and every current of its waters. And yet, they found themselves in a situation beyond their abilities.
The narrative is quite descriptive of the storm and its effects – It was a FURIOUS squall that hit them – the waves of water were filling the boat faster than they could drain it. The boat was nearly swamped. It would soon sink. They knew what would happen next – you can hear it in their voices – you feel it in their screams – “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Experienced fishermen screaming their frustration at Jesus in the middle of the storm – it paints a picture of imminent doom – It was a really bad storm and every instinct was telling them that there was no way out. The shore was too far away – the waves were rising too quickly – the storm came on them too suddenly – and the winds were too strong. They had made their calculations and they knew the odds were against them. They had lost friends this way before. They were sunk – metaphorically and literally – and they knew it.
Is God Ever Asleep?
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mk. 4:38)
When they started screaming at Jesus it was a sure sign that they had lost all hope of surviving. Think about it – fishermen were crying out to a carpenter – Wake up! Do something about this! They were desperate.
Do you ever feel that way about God? – Like he’s asleep? – Like he doesn’t care about what’s happening to you? – Like you pray and pray and pray and nothing seems to change? – Like you’re doing everything you know to do and God is silent or absent? How can Jesus be asleep? 2
I don’t know. Mark obviously wants us to see the contrast between the terror of the disciples and the calm demeanor of Jesus. The storm was raging. The boat was sinking. The disciples were screaming. And Jesus doesn’t seem worried about a thing. He seems to have it all under control. That is, after all, the point of the entire story.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:1-4).
The Big Question
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mk. 4:41)
The driving question in the gospel of Mark to this point is the question that the disciples ask at the end of this story – Who is this guy? Who is Jesus? The demons, the wind and the waves, and even death — they all obey him.
It’s the most important question you will ever face. It’s the question that will hound you and haunt you until you answer it. Who is Jesus?
And … how do I find peace in the storm?
Three Truths About Jesus and the Storm
1. Jesus can do what you cannot do.
You have no power over storms. You can’t make them go away. You can’t guarantee they won’t overwhelm you. Your only hope is to wake up Jesus and get him in the game. Jesus can do all that you cann0t do.
2. You can count on Jesus, especially when you’re terrified.
I have fears. So do you. We cannot make them go away any more than we can make the storm go away. But, if you have Jesus in your boat, you don’t have to be terrified. Jesus has a calming effect.
3. The miracle cannot produce faith.
In the end, the disciples were still unsure about Jesus. Jesus asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” After everything he had done to this point in the story – all the miracles and healings and exorcisms – and still, they struggled with their faith.
Miracles do NOT produce faith. They can strengthen it, but faith is something that comes from God. And God builds your faith one storm at a time.