Sunday 23 June 2024

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (v. 41)

Mark 4:35-41 Sunday 23 June 2024

Psalm 107

Our passage today marks a key moment in the gradual revelation of Jesus’ true identity to his disciples in Mark's Gospel. In fact, we might call it an ‘epiphany’ – a dramatic moment when God is revealed and true understanding may follow for believers.

The story follows on from Jesus’ teaching 'beside the sea', which began at the start of this chapter (Mark 4:1). This is the Sea (or Lake) of Galilee, around which Jesus spent much of his life and ministry. As modern visitors to Israel often testify, sudden storms such as the one depicted in this passage still regularly occur there, owing to the unusual topography of the region. Cold air from Mount Hermon to the north clashes with the warm air rising from the lake to produce regular squalls.

The storm encountered by the disciples is described by Mark (and Luke in his parallel passage) as a 'windstorm' (v. 37) in our translation. The choice of words by biblical authors is often worth noting. As with English, the author could have chosen several other words to describe the storm but he chose this one. The original word only appears once more in the New Testament (2 Peter 2:17) but is found repeatedly in the Greek version of the Old Testament and Apocrypha. It describes the whirlwind out of which God spoke to Job (Job 38:1), the one that took Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:1) and the metaphorical one that brought about the destruction of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 32:32). In Mark’s story of the storm, we also find allusions to the primordial chaos of the world before the creation in Genesis (Genesis 1:2); the story of Jonah in another storm trying to flee from his calling (Jonah 1); and the cries of God's people for help in the Psalms – “Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?” (Psalm 44:23).

In all these ways, and more, this simple story points to a much deeper meaning: the person asleep in the stern of this boat is not merely a human but is the same God described in their scriptures. The disciples still call him by the respectful, but simple, name of 'teacher' (v. 38) at this time. As they witness more epiphanies and their faith grows, though, they will finally recognise him as Emmanuel: 'God with us'.

To Ponder:

  • What does this passage say to you about who Jesus really was, and is?
  • Why might Jesus have chosen not to reveal himself fully to his disciples from the very beginning, even though they were among his closest friends?
  • How do we find the peace that Jesus offers in the storms of our own life?

Ever-present God, calm the storms of our own life and help us to experience the true peace that only you can give. Amen.

First published in 2021.

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