Scripture reading – Mark 4-5
We continue our chronological reading of the Scriptures with today’s assignment, Mark 4-5. You will recognize the Parable of the Soils\Sower (Mark 4:1-20]) is the same as that which is recorded in Matthew 13 and Luke 8. Rather than review the Parable of the Soils, I invite you to turn your focus to an exciting event that occurred at the close of the same day when Jesus ended His teaching (Mark 4:21-41).
Mark 4:35-41 – A Storm and a Revelation
Exhausted from teaching (reminding us that, though He was Divine, He was also man with physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus exhorted His disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (4:35). Knowing the far shore was seven miles away, Jesus laid down in the “hinder part of the ship” (meaning the stern or the latter part of the boat), and went to sleep (4:38).
The Sea of Galilee, fourteen miles long and seven miles wide, lies 700 feet below sea level, and has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round. Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the area is part of the Jordan rift. When cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north, funnel through the hillsides, the cold air collides with the warm sub-tropical air often producing sudden, violent storms on the Sea of Galilee.
On this occasion, the disciples found themselves caught in a violent storm so intense, the waves of the sea filled the ship (4:37). Matthew writes concerning the same occasion in his Gospel: “there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).
Though at least four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), even those veteran seamen were unable to salvage the desperate situation. With cold winds whipping, and waves crashing, the exhausted disciples cried out to Jesus, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).
Such a question was a faithless affront to their Master, who “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (4:39-40).
Jesus knew the weakness of the disciples’ faith, and their failure to place their trust in Him (Luke 8:23-24). The sudden stillness of the winds and waves left the disciples wondering among themselves, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (4:41). They were struck by a sense of fear, awe, and respect. They had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.
The psalmist writes, “O Lord God of host…Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8a, 9).
I close with some practical observations we can take from today’s devotional. The first: Storms in life might take us by surprise; however, they come as part of God’s plan for growing our faith and dependence on Him. The Lord knew the disciples would face a storm when He commanded them to launch out into the sea. It was His plan to challenge their faith, that He might prove He was Sovereign and LORD of creation.
A second lesson: Our response to trials and troubles will evidence our faith or lack of faith in God and His plan for our lives. The disciples did not fully know Who Jesus was, and He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).
Finally, storms and troubles are opportunities to know God’s ways personally and intimately. They remind us that God’s will for our lives will sometimes guide us into challenging trials meant to assess our priorities, and reveal our limitations apart from Him. They test our faith and trust in Him.
Remember: The safest place in the world is in the will of God, even in the midst of a storm.
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith