Mark 4:35-41 – The Disciples’ First Test (pt. 1)

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?”

I. The End of a Long Day (vv. 35-36)

In these verses Mark records for us the last events of an extremely long day.  Mark tells us right at the beginning that what is about to happen in this account occurred “on that day, when evening had come…”  What we see here is that the events that take place in this passage come at the end of the same day as the events that are recorded in 3:21-4:34.  Before we look at the rest of this account I think that it is important to remind ourselves of all that has occurred on this same say.

This day, as it was recorded by Mark, began all the way back in 3:21, where Jesus’ family thought He was crazy and tired to kidnap Him for His own good.  Additionally, on this day Jesus had to deal some scribes from Jerusalem who had launched a smear campaign against Him.  Their objective was to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people by claiming that His power came from Satan (3:22-30).  After debunking these scribes, Jesus spent some time in Peter’s house teaching a small group of his followers (3:31-35).  Following this time of teaching Jesus then went out and began teaching the massive crowds in parables.  This teaching is recorded in all of chapter 4, and has been the subject of our study for some time now.  It was at the end of this excruciatingly long day that Jesus finally looked at His disciples and said, “Let us go across to the other side.”  Here Jesus is talking about crossing over the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore.  This would have been about a 5 mile boat ride, and it would have taken Jesus away from the massive crowds that had assembled to hear Him teach.  It is unclear exactly why Jesus chose to do this.  It may have been that Jesus wanted to leave the western bank of the Sea of Galilee so that He could preach to a new group of people (cf. 1:38).  However, this does not seem to be the case here because when Jesus gets to the other side he does not do any preaching.  For this reason, I think that it is far more likely that Jesus simply “hit a wall.”  He was absolutely exhausted, and he needed rest.  He had to get away.  Thinking back on all the event of this day, it is easy to see why Jesus was so exhausted.  Additionally, “the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, which, in contrast to the western shore, had large no large cities along the shore of the lake”[1] would have been the perfect place for Jesus to get away.  With all of this in mind, we see why Jesus and His disciples left the crowds behind.  In fact, literally they dismissed the crowds so that they could make their exit.

In verse 37 we see Jesus taking the initiative to leave, and in verse 38 we see the disciples responding to Jesus’ initiative.  They were the fishermen—the boat probably belonged to Peter and Andrew—and so they prepared for the departure.  Mark tells us that when things were ready to go they took Jesus “just as He was.”  This seems like a strange statement to here, but don’t forget that Jesus had been teaching for most of the day from this very boat.  So it is very likely that disciple got things ready to go while Jesus remained in the boat.  Then, when the time came, the disciples launched boat with Jesus in it.

There is one more detail that Mark adds to the end of this verse, and it is very interesting.  Mark tells us that “other boats were with him.”  Apparently, the crowds, after being dismissed, weren’t ready to leave Jesus.  So, they hopped in their own boats and started to follow Jesus.  There are a couple of points that make this detail so interesting.  First of all, it is ironic that even when Jesus tried to get away he was surrounded by curious onlookers.  Secondly, all of these vivid details about this day have Peter’s finger prints all over them.  He was the one who relayed all of these details to Mark, and Peter was right there when all of this happened.  This is why Mark was able to paint such a descriptive picture of this account.  And what a scene this is, can you imagine being there?  Jesus and His disciples setting out as the sun begins to set with a flotilla of followers surrounding them.  That is, until without warning (Matthew 8:24) a furious storm came upon them.

[1] Hiebert, 124.