A note from Jeff: The inspiration for this post comes from a sermon by my good friend Joaquin Garcia. I've stolen a lot of his ideas, so I need to give him a hat tip. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You've all heard the story.
Jesus and his disciples are on a boat. Jesus falls asleep. A fierce storm arises. The disciples fear for their lives. They wake Jesus up. Jesus calms the storm. He then rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith.
What's the "moral" of this story? What's the author's point? Does this passage teach that Jesus will, "calm the storms of your life"? That's certainly a popular interpretation; one reiterated in countless books, devotionals, sermons and CCM songs. But is ts accurate? Can we draw such an inference from this passage?
I think we can. However, we need to make a few crucial clarifications. Let's look more closely at Mark's account of this story (see Mark 4:35-41).
Before we examine the details of the story, it's important that we establish the broader context. Here are three things to keep in mind.
- Mark gives us a framework for understanding Jesus' earthly ministry. Jesus is God's Son (1:1). He has a message to proclaim (1:14-15) and a mission to accomplish (1:2-3). God is going to establish his kingdom through Jesus, who alone has the authority to serve in this capacity (see 1:22, 27; 2:10, 28).
- At every turn, Jesus is opposed by Satan (1:13, 21-28, 32-34; 3:11-12, 22-27; 4:15).
- Jesus calls twelve men to join him on his mission (3:13-19), and gives them authority over Satan and his servants (3:15).
With these contextual points in mind, let's look at the story.
Jesus wants to cross the Sea of Galilee (v. 35). Why? Because he wants to continue his mission. The Gerasenes need to be liberated from Satan's bondage and hear the good news about God's kingdom (51-20). To reach them, Jesus and his disciples must sail across Galilee. While they're sailing, a fierce storm arises. This is hardly a coincidence. Satan himself is behind the storm. In Scripture, the sea is a picture of chaos; of forces inimical to God (see Psalm 29:10; 74:13; 89:9; Isaiah 17:12; Daniel 7:2-3; Revelation 13:1; 21:1). Satan is opposed to Jesus' mission, and attempts to thwart it. In 1:25, Jesus rebukes a demon with the words, "Be silent and come out of him!" Here, he rebukes the sea with the words, "Quiet! Be still!" These verbal parallels are significant. Jesus is contending with natural and supernatural forces. And clearly he has the upper hand over both. He quickly calms the storm. And then he rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. Faith and fear are closely connected in Mark's gospel (see 5:36). Faith casts our fear, and fear casts out faith. The disciples woke Jesus because they didn't trust in his word (4:35), or in his saving power. Therefore, they needed to be admonished.
So what does this passage teach us? Will Jesus calm the storms of your life? Yes and no. Jesus will not fix all of your problems, nor will he free you from pain or discomfort. Yes, Jesus will give you peace in times of difficulty. That's a good principle. But it can't be derived from this passage. This story isn't about finding peace in difficult times; it's about Jesus' authority to overcome Satanic opposition.
Here's what I think we can glean from this passage:
Jesus has the authority to accomplish his mission. So trust in his saving power as you follow him on mission; and trust it when you suffer Satanic opposition.
Jesus calls us to be fishers of men and women (1:17). As we proclaim the good news of the kingdom (and demonstrate God's love through acts of mercy), we will encounter Satanic "storms." The enemy will oppose us. He will use sickness, and loss, and persecution to derail us. In those moments, we must resist the temptation to fear. Instead, we must press on. We must acknowledge that Jesus has authority over Satan. And we must trust in his power to accomplish his mission.
So yes, Jesus will calm your storms. But remember this; you're on a mission, and that's why Satan is opposing you.