Mark 4:35-41 – The Disciples’ First Test (pt. 2)

Part 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?

II. The Furious Storm (v. 37)

In verse 37 Mark gives us a first hand look at what it would have been like to be in the middle of this furious storm: “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.”  This was a mighty storm, and if you have ever been out on a boat in the middle of a storm you know how scary this would have been.  For us here in FL we might compare this kind of storm to a hurricane, or a tornado.  This kind of furious storm was not all that unusual on the Sea of Galilee.  “The Sea of Galilee (see at 1:16) lies nearly seven hundred feet below sea level in a basin surrounded by hills and mountains that are especially precipitous on the east side. Thirty miles to the northeast Mt. Hermon rises to 9,200 feet above sea level. The interchange between cold upper air from Mt. Hermon and warm air rising from the Sea of Galilee produces tempestuous weather conditions for which the lake is famed.”[1] That being said, this was an unusually bad storm.  In fact, Mark tells us that that the waves just kept breaking into the boat[2] and the boat starting taking on water.  This is a scary situation, even for experienced fishermen.  Remember, these guys weren’t in some huge cruise ship.  Most likely this boat was just a typical Galilean fishing boat.  It was probably about 26 ½ feet long, 7 ½ feet wide, and 4 ½ feet deep.  It may have had a sail, and a place for 4 rowers to propel the boat.  All total, this boat would have probably held no more than 15 people.  So this was not a big boat, and yet it was going through a massive storm.  This explains why the boat was taking on water, and it explains why this was such a desperate situation.

Before we move on to see how the disciples, as well as Jesus, reacted to this situation I want to point out this was the first real test that these disciples had experienced.  I am sure that they had some hard times or situations before this.  But this was the first real crisis that these guys had to deal with as followers of Jesus.  This is important because what we are going to see is that trials test our faith.  It is very difficult to hide your true character in situations like this, and so trials help us to evaluate our own hearts. They reveal where we struggle, and what our faith is really like.  1 Peter 1:7 says that trials test the genuineness of our faith.  And James 1:2-4 tells us that this “testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  In other words, trials like this one play an important role in our lives as Christians.  When God sends a storm our way it is for a reason.  This was certainly the case on this night, and in verse 30 we see two contrasting responses to this divinely appointed storm.

[1]James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2002), 148.

[2] Note the use of the imperfect tense.