And on that day, when even was come, he saith unto them, Let us go over unto the other side.
And leaving the multitude, they take him with them, even as he was, in the boat. And other boats were with him.
And there ariseth a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the boat, insomuch that the boat was now filling.
And he himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion: and they awake him, and say unto him, Teacher, carest thou not that we perish?
And he awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful? have ye not yet faith?
And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?Mark 4:35-41 ASV
Christ here proposed a crossing to the eastern side of Lake Galilee.
This beautiful lake was surrounded by at least a dozen towns in the time of Christ and was the most densely populated area of Palestine.
It is thirteen miles long, six miles wide, pear-shaped; and the surface lies 700 feet below sea level.
Steep mountains rise along both the western and eastern shores. It is fed by the Jordan river which enters at the north end and exits at the south where it resumes its course to the Dead Sea.
The water is fresh and sweet, abounds with fish, and is edged with sparkling pebbly beaches.
Due to its depression below sea level and the bordering mountains, it is subject to very severe and sudden storms, such as the one related here.
Even as he was . . .
This means that:
The disciples sailed off with him just as he was in the boat from which he had been teaching the people; and they did not wait to provide any accommodations for the passage.
And other boats were with them …
This very important detail indicates:
(1) that the great audience on land was supplemented by a considerable number who approached in boats to hear the Lord, and
(2) that there were other witnesses of the great miracle besides those aboard with Jesus.
This also emphasizes the sudden and unexpected nature of the storm; because, if it had been threatening, neither the disciples nor those in the other boats would have begun the crossing.
The sure evidence of the eye-witness is apparent in the stark and vivid details.
“Only here in the New Testament does Jesus sleep.”
Carest thou not that we perish …
Both Matthew and Luke soften the disciples’ outcry, so that they do not appear to reproach Jesus; such a comment being quite fashionable among the scholars who have decided that Mark was prior to Matthew and Luke, that Matthew and Luke did not consider Mark dependable at all and therefore felt free to “correct” him, and that, moreover, their motive in so doing was to protect the disciples’ reputation as regarded their conduct toward the Master!
We reject this view as demeaning to the gospels, unreasonable, speculative, imaginative, and totally unreliable.
Matthew even recorded that Jesus called Peter “Satan” (Matthew 16:23); why, then, should Matthew have been embarrassed to record such an understandable remark as this?
It is far more likely that the explanation lies in the fact that this is what Peter said, Mark’s close connection with that apostle accounting for his record of it here.
And he awoke …
It is not even stated here that Jesus arose, but Matthew supplied that detail (Matthew 8:26).
He rebuked the wind …
To regard this as mere oratorical personification would be absurd; rather there is here a distinct tracing up of all the discords and disharmonies in the outward world to their source in a person, a referring them back to him, as to their ultimate ground; even as this person can be no other than Satan, the author of all disorders alike in the natural and in the physical world.
In this situation, Jesus appeared dramatically as the antitype of the first of the prophets, Jonah.
Both were asleep on a ship at sea in a storm; both were awakened; both were vital to the safety of their vessel, Jonah being a danger to his and Christ the security of his; both produced a great calm, Jonah by being cast overboard, and Christ by fiat; the calm was instantaneous in both cases.
Peace, be still …
These are the same words used by Jesus in casting out the demon (Mark 1:25), harmonizing with the view expressed by Trench.
Many of Jesus’ miracles, if indeed not all of them, were also parables with extensive application to the spiritual life of Christians; and from very early times, this one has been a favorite. Dummelow has recorded the following:
Augustine (400 A.D.) says, “We are sailing in this life as through a sea, and the wind rises, and storms of temptation are not wanting.
Whence is this, save because Jesus is sleeping in thee, thy faith in Jesus is slumbering in thy heart?
Rouse him, and say, Master, we perish. He will awaken, that is, thy faith will return to thee, and the danger will be over.
It is ridiculous to make a big thing out of the fact that Matthew recorded this question as taking place before the great calm.
Could Jesus not have said it twice?
Besides that, the oldest historical reference to the gospel of Mark stated quite flatly that:
The apostles of Christ were slow, even with all the advantages they had, to understand fully the divine nature and power of Jesus, whose question here exhibits some element of surprise at their dullness.
Mark’s purpose in his gospel shines in such an expression as this, of which there are a number of examples.
He intended that the mighty works of Christ should lead to they identification of Jesus Christ as a supernatural person, one with the Father, and fully able to give eternal life to them that come unto God through him.