22 January 2016

Mark 4:35-41

“A great gale 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?’” (vv. 37-38)

Psalm: Psalm 18:1-19


One commentary I consulted said this passage was simply there to demonstrate the authority of Jesus - I felt like responding so what? Because I suspect that for most of us life includes times when, like the disciples in this passage, we are terrified, thinking that all is lost. When we are fighting storms, chaos, the power of evil and particularly when we feel that those things are overcoming us, I'm not enamoured with simplistic opinions about the authority of Jesus or views that blame my lack of faith, as the victim, for why Jesus isn't calming the storm in my life and saving me from drowning.

So I was relieved to find a very different perspective from Tom Wright - one that puts this into a much bigger picture. (He describes it as being like a blockbuster movie including us that is so large it needs to be seen on a big screen with surround sound.)

In this view the fear and danger is an old one, one expressed in much of the Old Testament where seas and storms are about chaos and evil. The danger is much more than even a violent, unexpected storm on Galilee.

In the same way the solution, Jesus, is much more than a quick fix of the local storm. That reminds me of the beautifully illustrated danger of quickly answered prayer that we see in the film Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey which includes wonderful scenes of chaos when God (beautifully played my Morgan Freeman) has given Bruce the power to hear and answer prayer. Getting fed up of the endless requests Bruce simply answers all prayers with yes ... and chaos ensures. This question of the authority of Jesus can't be worked out by simplistically answering all prayers affirmatively. Instead it connects with eternity - it connects with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in which the cosmic timetable of chaos and evil isdefeated.

If this is not about the power of Jesus to calm storms in our lives if only we have enough faith (a view that can end up condemning all), then maybe it is more about living through the storms as people of faith knowing that in the end evil does not triumph.

To Ponder

  • When you feel frightened of being overcome by storms, how might this passage help you?
  • When viewing different ways of understanding a passage, how might this influence your behaviour? And would this be helpful/appropriate (or not)?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dave Warnock

Dave Warnock is a Methodist minister in the Leicester North Circuit based in Syston, Leicester. He is passionate about lots of things (including Scripture, discipleship, gender/sexual equality, pacifism and cycling) and loves being part of the Methodist people.