23 February 2013

Mark 4:35-41

"He said to them, 'Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?'" (v. 10)


The Sea of Galilee is prone to sudden violent storms, particularly in the early evenings of autumn and winter. The lake is 680 feet below sea level but surrounded by hills. This height disparity leads to temperature differences between the lake and surrounding area causing fluctuations in pressure. This results in strong winds funnelling through the hills and sweeping down to the lake. Such storms can die down as suddenly as they arrive, but they can be dangerous, particularly to anyone who is out on a small boat.

In today's passage the disciples are in fear for their lives, as the boat starts to take on water, but Jesus sleeps soundly through the commotion and has to be woken up. There are echoes here of Psalm 44: "Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? … Rise up, come to our help" (vv. 23, 26). 

Jesus' quelling of the storm again raises the question for the disciples of just who Jesus is. Their familiarity with the psalms would have brought to mind:"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed" (Psalm 107:28-29). In the creation story in Genesis 1 and in other creation stories too (eg Job 38:4-30; Psalm 74:13-17; Proverbs 8:22-31), God controls the waters as an essential aspect of bringing order out of chaos. Job's affirmation of the greatness of God includes "By his power he stilled the Sea" (Job 26:12). So for the disciples the stilling of the storm would have been more than just a miracle; it would have been Jesus acting as if he had the power of God.

"Have you still no faith?" - Having faith is so much more than accepting beliefs about God and Jesus; it is a relationship of love that includes trust and confidence in God, in whatever situation we find ourselves. As the disciples discovered, it is during the storms of life that faith really counts.

To Ponder

  • Throughout this week's passages, there has been the recurring question: who is this man that he can heal / drive out demons / forgive sins / control the elements? What is your answer?
  • What is it that you are really afraid of? How could a sense of God's presence help in that situation?
  • If God does control the waters, how do you begin to explain tsunamis and floods?

Bible notes author

Philip Sudworth

Philip has retired from a career in the education service. He is now kept busy by voluntary work with local children's charities.