On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side." Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"
- Mark 4:35-41
Yesterday we read that Jesus continued to teach in parables. He said, "Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." Then He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him." And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come." Then He said, "To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade." And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, "Let us cross over to the other side." Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!" My study bible has several observations about today's reading. First, it says that Christ allows the windstorm deliberately. This happens while He's sleeping in order to build and perfect the faith of the disciples and to rebuke their weaknesses. Eventually they must be unshaken by life's temptations in their mission as apostles. Here their faith is still mixed with unbelief. In faith, they awake Him, but express unbelief when they declare that they are perishing. I always note in this story that several of these men are seasoned fishermen, used to fishing on this sea. Jesus' mastery over creation is another sign that He's the Messiah, and also divine. But as a man, He sleeps and needs rest. He has assumed all the natural actions of the flesh, says my study bible, of which sleep is one. This image of Christ and the disciples in a boat is as traditional one to illustrate the Church. My study bible says, "God both permits storms and delivers us through them, so that we can see His protection more clearly. Christ's rebuke of the storm is also an illustration of His calming the tempests in the human soul."
It's interesting to look at some of the Greek words in today's reading. When Jesus says, "Peace, be still!" the Greek gives us two words that actually mean "silence." The word translated as peace is a command to be quiet. It gives us a sense of the roaring sea and storm. It is clearly a command from someone in authority. The word translated as be still is from the word for "muzzle." It is a command for silence, to cease the fuss, the roar, and the noise. In these words we have an image of God silencing a chaotic, clashing, and frightening world. In a way, the "hush" conveyed through these words echoes the Spirit of the Lord hovering over the dark waters that covered the world in the beginning of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-2). When Jesus challenges His disciples, saying, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?", He's asking them, in a sense, where their trust in His leadership and guidance is. To be fearful, in the context of the Greek word used here, is to doubt the future and the success of the current endeavor. Faith, as discussed frequently in this blog, is another word for trust. Trust is the fuller meaning of the word for faith in Greek, its root and heart. Christ shows His authority as supreme, and also His knowledge in His guidance for the Church. When He calls all of us to faith through His words to the disciples, He's assuring us that regardless of what we experience, we must trust in Him, trust in God. As readers, we know what these disciples will experience when He is no longer living as the human Jesus in the world. They will face persecutions and martyrdom, and make a host of sacrifices in their mission of the Church. At the root of this trust in Christ we find the deep need for a kind of unity with our Creator. That is, a depth of loyalty and love that endures through all the difficulties of life, the struggles that face us for that faith and that Church, the kinds of evils that may exist in the world. That is a call for faith that goes far beyond a nominal acceptance of a way of thinking or viewing life, but into the depths of the most difficult kinds of struggle. The image of Christ with the disciples in the boat, as noted above, is by tradition given to us as an image of the Church. It places Christ squarely in the center as leadership, before all else. Our trust and confidence is in Him, and in His peace, even as we may be guided through a sea of troubles.