Mark 4:35–41 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 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?”
Grace, mercy, and the peace that surpasses all understanding be to you from God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Who is this?” The disciples asked, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” The disciples were filled with a great fear (v. 41) and wanted to know.
Who is this Man Who has called the disciples to follow Him? The disciples have been following and have witnessed Jesus say and do some amazing things. They heard Him proclaim, “The time is fulfilled and Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Gospel.” They saw Him rebuke and cast out demons. They saw Him heal those who were sick in crowds that thronged around Him.
Still, the disciples ask after Jesus calms the storm, “Who is this? Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Sure it is amazing when a person heals someone of their leprosy. It is nifty when a person casts out a demon. But those things had happened before. In fact, God had given people power to do those things for centuries. Through His prophets and judges and great men and women, God had done some great things.
This, this is different. This is different because now “even the wind and the sea obey this Guy.”
Who is this Man in the boat with the disciples? Who is this Man, this Jesus, Who speaks to the wind and the waves as though they are in His pets, and they listen, and they obey—Who is He?
Jesus had put His disciples in in the driver’s seat telling them, “Hey, let’s go to that other side over there.” So, the disciples dismissed the crowd and took Jesus in the boat. On the way across, this ‘great windstorm’ arose—lit. ‘a cyclone, a great, a windy.’ The description is a little redundant, cyclones are usually big and windy. This one was especially so.
The Sea of Galilee was and still is famous for these terrible storms. There was a storm in March of 1992 on the Sea of Galilee where waves were measured at 10 ft. Archeologists have found a boat from around Jesus’ time, its height is just over 4 ft.—remember that about half of that (depending upon how the boat is built) will be under water while the boat is floating. Now, the disciples were seasoned fishermen; they grew up on this lake. But this storm had them worried. The boat was already filling with water. Jesus had put them in the driver’s seat, and things were not going well.
The disciples looked in the stern, the back of the boat, and there was Jesus, sleeping on a cushion.
Don’t misunderstand the disciples’ question in v.38. They were not accusing Jesus of being indifferent. In fact, the opposite. They, when they ask the question, expect a positive answer. “Jesus, we are perishing. You care, right?”
Notice the disciples woke up Jesus to ask this question and then in v. 39 Jesus ‘awoke.’ The disciples woke Jesus up from His sleeping, and their question really woke Him up so that He was ready to act.
But Jesus didn’t trim the sails and ply the oars. He didn’t tell them to change course to head into the waves so they don’t break over the sides. The disciples, these experienced sailors, turned to least-seasoned sailor. They turned to the ‘Teacher’—the carpenter’s Son.
Jesus spoke to that great windy cyclone and to that mighty sea; a better translation would be, “Be quiet, shut up.”
These commands from Jesus were words the disciples had heard Jesus speak before—to demons. When demons had spoken about Him, Jesus told them sternly to “Shut up” (Mk. 1:25) [sorry parents]. The fact that demons obeyed His commands was amazing, but now Jesus commands the wind and sea.
At the words of Jesus, this ‘great storm’ is turned into a ‘great calm.’ Then this Man Who commanded the wind and sea turned to His disciples and asked, “You become cowardly and timid at wind and waves? Have you still no faith?”
Do you get the sense that Jesus is frustrated with His disciples? You should. But don’t get all self-righteous though, you wouldn’t have done any better. In fact, you don’t do any better.
The disciples were filled with a ‘great fear.’ Notice the ‘greats’ in this text: a ‘great cyclonic windstorm’ (v. 37) silenced by Jesus into a ‘great calm’ (v. 39) which then produces a ‘great fear’ (v. 41).
It wasn’t the storm that caused this great fear; it’s not the great calm that causes the great fear. The great fear was caused by the realization that the disciples were in the presence of the One Who can speak and create this great calm. This fear is the true fear of God.
The disciples woke Jesus up because they assumed that He would act to save them, but the extent to which He saves them causes them to fear greatly.
Today, ask with the disciples, “Who is this? Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him.”
Yahweh, the great I Am, had asked Job in our Old Testament text (Job 38:1-11), “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined the earth’s measurements—surely you know! Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? [Who] prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?”
Job couldn’t answer Yahweh’s question, but Jesus can. He is dressed for action like a man and can make known to God these answers.
Jesus can answer, “Yes, I was there. I was the Word which You spoke. I was there in the beginning with Yahweh. All things were made through Me” (Jn. 1:1-2). Jesus is the kind of man Who heals, casts out demons, forgives sins, and even dominates creation, all with His Word. Jesus has the authority that we think only belongs to God. Indeed, Jesus is God with us.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was in control over the waters when the earth was created. He was in control over the waters that destroyed the earth but raised up Noah and his family. And Jesus was in control of the waters that day on the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus didn’t stop being in control of the waters though. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18). He was in control of the waters of the Red River when they rose to 54.35 ft. on April 22, 1997; He said to the water, “This far shall you come, and no farther.” He was in control of the waves when the tsunami rolled over Japan; He said, “Here shall your proud waves be stayed.” He was in control of the waters this past week as they fell on Duluth.
“Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” That word obey that the disciples use in their question might be somewhat surprising. It literally means “to be under the sound/word of.” Obey is a fine one-word translation, but it is not the robotic, “I hear and obey.” It could be translated “be subject to” or “follow.”
“Who is this, that even the wind and the sea are subject to His Word?”
He is Jesus, the One Who still speaks to the waters. He puts His Word in the waters of baptism. He tells those waters to flood over you and to wash away sins—and they do. His Word in those waters brings peace and forgiveness.
Jesus is still Lord over creation. His creation still listens to Him. But this text doesn’t give you any promises that Jesus will turn all the storms of your life into a great calm.
The comfort of this text is much greater. Jesus has calmed the greatest storm of all—the eternal wrath of God that you deserve because of your sins. He has taken that upon Himself.
When the subsequent storms of this life are stiffed up by this sinful world, remember that Jesus Christ is in you. Maybe, though, you think He is sleeping. You think that because you have forgotten His presence. Rouse Him. Remember Him.
Pray the Psalms: Ps. 44:23 23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject [me] forever! Ps. 35:23 23 Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord!
He keeps watch within you. Heed Him. Be under His Word. Especially that Word that He has spoken to you which has made you clean (Jn. 15:3). Amen.