At sea, a storm involves everyone, yet Jesus was not involved in the ordinary way, bailing or rowing. What are our expectations on how Jesus should and will become involved in our lives?
This Week’s Passage: Mark 4:35-41
I. Establish the text
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
36b There were other boats alongside the boat with Jesus, thus merely bailing or rowing would not be sufficient, as the others would presumably drown while Jesus and the disciples continued.
38a How is it that Jesus could sleep in a boat that was nearly swamped? Would not the water in the boat make him wet and awaken him?
38b Is this question not the same as our questions? At a hospital bedside of a friend: “God, don’t you care if we suffer?” At a funeral: “God, don’t you care if we grieve?” Watching a news report of violence: “God, don’t you care if there is no justice?”
39 A demonstration that God is Lord of all.
40 Is Jesus asking about their terror in response to their fear of the storm, or in anticipation of their fear of God who acts? Or both?
41 The disciples go from fear of the storm to the fear of God who answers their prayers. When God chooses to act miraculously in the world it shatters our understanding of how things happen, making the whole of life unpredictable and scary.
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- Preceded by four parables about the kingdom of God: The sower, the lamp on its stand, the mystery of seed growth, and the mustard seed.
- Followed by the healing of Legion of Geresenes and two other stories of casting out demons.
II. Literary Study.
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
- Matthew 8:18,23-27 – Omits specificity of location in the boat. Omits presence of other boats with them. Omits Jesus being asleep on the boat. Changed accusation of Jesus’ indifference to a plea for help. Omits Jesus’ direct speech to the waves.
- Luke 8:22-25 – Consistent with Matthew’s version.
- Psalm 4:8, Prov 3:23-26, and Job 11:18-19 — Provide precedence for those with faith sleeping in the presence of evil.
- Psalm 107:23-30 Is similar in that the LORD quiets the storm once the merchant’s courage melts away and they call upon the LORD. But it differs in that they leave not in fear, but glad as the LORD guides them to a safe haven.
C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms
35 “[just] as he was” What does this mean? NIV, NRSV, NIV, NAB & NJB add “just” to the Greek. Why not translate this as: “as he was [already] in the boat” (see REB & 4:1)?
39 /siwpa, pefimwso./ Literally: “Silence. Muzzle it.” Many translations sanitize this to “Peace, be still.” But would the original language have a connotation like: “Put a cork in it!”
III. Question the text.
A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.
The disciples would have immediately busied themselves with responding to the storm, striking sails, rowing to keep the boat parallel with the wind, and bailing. They would have been shocked to see Jesus sleeping as waves broke over the gunwales. They would have been even more terrified when the wind ceased after Jesus spoke.
Jesus would have been exhausted after a full day of teaching. He’s miffed that they need to wake him to calm the storm.
B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?
Sea and storms are often metaphors for chaos, evil, or separation from God.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: Even when we do not notice Jesus with us in life’s storms, he is Lord of all.
- Emotional Center: In the midst of a storm, seeing God is difficult.
- Music: “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
- At sea, a storm involves everyone, yet Jesus was not involved in the ordinary way, bailing or rowing. What are our expectations on how Jesus should and will become involved in our lives?
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
- “Jesus, we don’t need you to stop the storm, just wave and show us you’re part of the solution.”
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
Pheme Perkins (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Mark,” Abingdon, 1995) notes that like Jonah, Jesus is accused of not caring if the crew perishes. She also notes that Matthew’s version more closely follows pattern of the ancient sea rescue myth.
Ralph Martin (Knox Preaching Guides: Mark, JKP, 1981.) interprets Jesus sleeping as indicating “perfect trust in the sustaining and protecting care of God.” He notes the parallel with the exorcism of the demoniac in chapter 5. He cites Tertullian’s use of this episode as a parable: “The ‘little ship’ of the church is often rocked in the storm and nearly swamped until the Lord of history comes to his persecuted people, as in Mark’s church, and rebukes the oppressor.”
Lamar Williamson, Jr. (Interpretation: Mark. JKP, 1983.) laments that the familiar translation of verse 40 (“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”) lacks contemporary force equivalent to the Greek. [He might like Peterson: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”]
James H. Price (“Jesus’ Authority,” The Presbyterian Outlook. Feb. 17, 2003.) notes “the mighty deeds or miracles of Jesus are signs of God’s mastery over the demonic powers that degrade and control life. … in the first century no rigid distinction was made between ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural.’ ” For discussion he asks: “What are some of the powers that control and subjugate men and women today?”
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond
A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?
Even when we do not notice Jesus with us in life’s storms, he is Lord of all.
B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.
We innocently go out onto the sea with Jesus and he awes us, calming the storms that would drown us.
C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?
To appreciate the terror of inviting Jesus to response within our lives.