35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
It was a hot, sunny day in East Anglia. The wind, blowing straight up the river, was exceptionally strong. It was one of those days when most sensible people stayed off the water. I, on the other hand, was whistling up the river on my boat, going probably the fastest I have ever been.
All of a sudden, I saw myself heading straight into an enormous wave. As I struggled to avoid the impending crash of boat into wall-of-water, I was hit from behind by a freak gust of wind. I lost control of the boat. I saw the giant wave approaching in slow motion. I felt the boat jar as I collided. I saw the front of the boat nose-dive into the water as I felt myself pulled under. I took a gulp of air, just as my head was swallowed by the strength of the water. I desperately tried to get my head above water, but something was holding me down.
The wind continued to push my boat through the water, as the boat continued to plough deeper and deeper. I struggled to breathe. I thought I was going to die.
I was pretty stupid to go out sailing on that particular day, but I thought I could cope. I knew the waters pretty well, and knew that I would be able to manage to sail the boat without any significant problems. But, as I learnt, weather conditions can change pretty quickly – even for an experienced sailor.
I can empathise with the disciples in this passage to a certain extent. They had sailed the Sea of Galilee many times before, but they were still petrified when they were hit by the squall. As they frantically struggled to bail the boat out, they caught sight of Jesus sleeping in the stern, as if nothing was happening. They were amazed – just who did this guy think he was?
Mark records exactly who they thought Jesus was; they viewed him as a teacher. What precisely they expected a teacher to do in this situation is not clear, although maybe they simply wanted some help emptying out the water. They may have expected Jesus to do something magical – Jesus had conducted several miracles already by this stage in his ministry. Whether they were expecting anything amazing to happen or not, they were amazed – and terrified – by what Jesus did. All he had to do was say “Quiet! Be still!” and “the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
Jesus’ disciples were clearly challenged by the events of that evening. They’d put to sea with a guy they’d recently met, whom they had identified as a good teacher. By the end of the evening, they were wondering just who Jesus is. “Who is this?” they asked themselves. “Even the wind and the waves obey him.”
This is the first of a series of miracles that Jesus conducted in order to demonstrate who he is. He hoped to demonstrate that he was who claimed to be – the Son of God, the Messiah, the Christ – God himself, indeed. Who else would have the authority to command the wind and the waves? Maybe, the disciples in their own minds were starting to accept this, but, as one reads on in Mark’s gospel, it becomes clear that it took them a long time to fully realise this.
It has been a popular exercise over the years since Jesus’ miracles to look for rational explanations of what Jesus did – after all, miracles don’t really happen, do they? It’s coincidence, or slight-of-hand, or it didn’t really happen. I personally do not see why it should be necessary to explain away Jesus’ miracles. After all, if he was God incarnate, there is no end to what he can do.
Take a look back at Genesis 1. Genesis tells us that in the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. He separated the water above the earth from the water on the earth. He parted the water to allow dry ground to appear. All of this – and so much more – was achieved just by a simple spoken command. The God who did all of his was the very same God who, in the human form of Jesus Christ, was with the disciples in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. To look at it the other way round, Jesus, the “teacher” in the boat with the disciples, was also responsible for creating the earth and the water in the first place. Why should the God of creation not be able to calm a storm just by commanding it to be still? Jesus was thus demonstrating his deity.
Paul firmly believed that Jesus was the Lord not only over his church (here represented by the disciples), but also of all creation. In Colossians 1:16, he affirms “for by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” In the next verse, Paul confirms that Jesus, as the creator-God, has complete control over his creation: “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This miracle demonstrates perfectly Jesus’ authority as the Lord of Creation.
This is just one example of where Jesus uses his power and authority to back-up his claims to be the Son of God. He surprised and amazed the disciples with his actions. We too should be prepared to be surprised and amazed. Jesus will confound our expectations, just as he did those of his followers during his earthly ministry. He will turn our worldview on its head – particularly when we get complacent.
Finally, it is worth glancing at how Jesus responded to his disciples’ fear, as this is surely how he will also respond to us. He asks them “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
This correlation between fear and faith is interesting. If we lack faith, we will find it hard to put our trust completely in God, just as the disciples did that evening on the Sea of Galilee. Instead, we must have complete faith in God, and what he has planned for us. If we succeed in this, there will be no reason to fear.
So, to conclude, remember just who Jesus is, and be amazed at his power. Be prepared to be greatly challenged by the things he does in your life. Put your trust completely in him, and he will look after you. With faith, there is no need for fear.