On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:35-41, ESV).
Jesus stepped onto the boat, tired from a day of ministry. He had spent the day telling those who had lived nearby about life in the Kingdom of Heaven. He had taught them the Parable of the Sower, the Lamp and the Basket, the Seed Growing, and the Mustard Seed—all important messages. Now it was time to move on to a different shore, a higher calling. A man across the lake needed what only Jesus could bring: freedom from the terrible captivity of the enemy. The man lived in new territory among people who had not heard the message of the Kingdom. It was time to go.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
The passage begins with a transition. Jesus is called to leave His home region to preach in the land of the Gerasenes. Even though it is into the unfamiliar, Jesus leads His band willingly away from the well-known and frequently traveled areas of Judea and Galilee.
And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.
To go to His next assignment, Jesus had to leave the support of the familiar crowd and the comforts of home. His disciples were in the boat with Him followed by a few other smaller boats, but the vast majority of His human support was left behind on the shores. Because of the divinity of Jesus, we often forget His humanity. He was leaving for the unknown.
People fail to gain their new levels and territory when they will not leave their support and comforts behind. In other words, they would rather hang on to their higher status in their current level than risk having to start over in a new place. They stand on the shore with the crowd at their back, and though a ship is ready, they cannot see the other side. So they don’t get in the boat. They remain where they are in stagnation, missing the greater level God has for them.
God has greater levels and blessings for believers if they would trust Him enough to leave the crowd behind. Paul states, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, ESV). If the Apostle Paul, by the time he wrote Philippians, did not think he had achieved the upward call (or everything God had for his life), then we should always look for our next assignment. The Kingdom is ever-increasing (Isaiah 9:7), and so should we as part of it.
Just as God did not let Jesus step directly from one shore to the other side of the lake, people cannot hold onto one season or calling while grasping the next. There is almost always going to be a time of passage or transition. Stepping into the boat is an act of faith as is sailing away from the shore.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
I always thought of this as a thunderstorm, but that is not what the Bible says. The storm is called a ‘windstorm.’ In other words, there was no rain. The wind made the water so rough that waves were breaking into the boat and filling it with water, tossing it to and fro so that they could not make for land.
Wind in the Bible is almost always symbolic of the spiritual world. The boat represents the church or personal ministry, and the sea represents humanity. This was a literal storm in Jesus’s life, but God (omniscient and eternal) can teach on multiple levels at once in a single set of verses. Don’t miss the symbols. Spiritual forces under the command of the enemy will stir up people against a ministry in transition. The waves were breaking into the boat to sink it. Some of the people will be internal and others external, but their purpose is to bring down the ship. They probably don’t realize their petty quarrel or demands were planted in their mind by the enemy, but they become a wave barreling toward the boat.
Notice, when Jesus was preaching to the crowds during His old assignment earlier in the morning, there was no storm. Only when the transition began and new territory was up for grabs did the enemy strike with a storm. The expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven is offensive to the enemy, and he will fight against it by attacking during the vulnerable moments.
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
The enemy doesn’t fight fair. Not only was Jesus in transition, but our Lord was tired. The storm arose when Jesus was asleep. This was physical fatigue, not willful neglect or a lack of care.
Jesus slept peacefully even as the boat was rocking terribly and taking on water. In transition, tired, and in an unexpected storm, Jesus still did not worry or lose His peace.
And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Sometimes, even ministry partners can discourage, whether they mean to or not. They fail to see the big picture and concentrate on the problem in front of them. The Kingdom vision is a long view spanning from Creation to the Consummation of the Age (the End of the World), so any problems between are at best episodic.
The disciples had seen signs and wonders from their leader, and instinctively they knew if anyone had the answer, it was Jesus. The question ‘do you not care’ shows how calm Jesus was in the situation. The disciples could only see the storm, the waves tossing them about, the boat filling with water, and ultimately their own watery demise.
I admit that I have, in the past, approached prayer that way. ‘Jesus, I know you can help me out, but I am not sure You will or if You care?’ That is not faith. It is fear. Fear of the unknown, the storm, and sinking all rolled into one. It is also a prayer that will not be answered. The Bible says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6, ESV). Ironic. Don’t you think? If you are inside the boat and don’t believe Jesus for your request, you are as bad as the people outside the boat being whipped up by the forces of the enemy.
The disciples also claimed they were perishing. Come on. Not one of them had perished or even been washed overboard. Neither their boat nor the smaller ones had sunk. They accused Jesus of not caring about a problem that hadn’t happened yet.
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Jesus does not argue with the disciples. He rebukes the wind (spiritual forces) and speaks peace to the sea. Sometimes, you have to rebuke the enemy in the name of Jesus. Yes, out loud. We know from the Bible that “Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9) and has the “name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). That means whatever can be named—debt, cancer, fear, failure, rebellious children, etc.—Jesus is Lord and has a greater name. Rebuke the spirits blowing storms into your life!
Jesus spoke peace to the sea. Sometimes, the people tossing your ministry and life like the waves, once the spiritual enemy is rebuked, simply need to be spoken to. Call them on what they are doing. Peace came first, but the command of ‘be still’ followed. Ask the Holy Spirit for discernment as to who you need to tell to ‘be still.’ Notice the result was not calm but ‘a great calm.’
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Faith in God is the opposite of fear. Any of the disciples could have calmed the storm if they had rebuked the winds in faith. Jesus did not yell or lecture. He modeled how to calm the storm and reminded them all that they could have as well.
And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Somebody inevitably says something like ‘He was Jesus, so, of course, the storm obeyed him.’ What they are really doing is making excuses for why the storms rage in their lives unabated. But Jesus said, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father’” (John 14:12, ESV). Whatever Jesus had done by John, chapter 14 (turned water to wine, healed many sick, cast out demons, prophesied, feed the five thousand, walked on water, raised the dead—to name a few), we can do and with greater authority. We can speak to and calm the storms in our lives in the name of Jesus.
As an aside, I often hear strange theological statements about storms in people’s lives, justifications for inaction. Sometimes, God does test us, and we must patiently endure. I am not making light of that. But if a person’s life is one disaster followed by another, then he or she needs to rebuke their storms.
Ask yourself, ‘Who sent the storm in the passage above?’ It wasn’t God because surely Jesus was not rebuking His own Father. The enemy sent the storm, and Jesus had the answer. Often, people stay in needless storms with the tools to calm the waves, but their theology will not allow them. They say things like ‘it must be the will of God for me to suffer through this’ or ‘God is testing me.’ Just because God can control the storm does not mean that He sent it.
One more theological nugget about the opposites of faith and fear. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18, KJV). The disciples feared because they were not perfected in love. Jesus loved them, but they did not understand it yet. They still had to grow. They had to see Him calm the storm to understand it was not punishment or judgment. They still had to mature… “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Featured Image by Josep Castells
In-Text Image by Johannes Plenio