Posted by: jevcat | March 10, 2012

Jesus Calms the Storm (Unexpurgated Version)

Yesterday’s lectionary Gospel reading was the story of Jesus calming the sea, as told in Mark 4:35-41.  This is a story that appears in some form in all of the Gospels, but I totally like Mark’s best.  It’s the earliest, and, as far as I’m concerned, it is absolutely the most “real” or true-to-life version.

It’s evening after a long day of preaching and teaching, and Jesus and the disciples are headed, at his suggestion, via boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  A storm comes up, the wind is howling, the boat is being tossed high and sliding down the other side of waves that are crashing in over the sides, filling it.  At least four of the disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, are all fishermen.  At this point, they’ve probably got the landlubbers bailing for all they’re worth (if they’re not busy being sick over the side) while they themselves call on every bit of experience garnered over the years to get the sail reefed in and keep the boat from foundering.  The work is hard, desperate, and dangerous, and they know, even better than the others, just how much trouble they’re in.

Acadia National Park, Maine. Photo by Roger Bingler.

And where is Jesus through all of this?  Sound asleep.  And here’s where I start to love Mark best.  It not only tells us he’s asleep, but that he’s asleep on a cushion in the stern – I love, love, love that level of detail:  not just in the stern, but in the stern curled up on a cushion, a detail that’s almost heartbreaking in its home-i-ness.

Now, in Matthew (8:23-27) and Luke (8:22-25), the disciples wake Jesus to ask him to save them.  That’s not exactly how it goes in Mark.  In Mark, they wake him not with the trusting, beseeching plea for rescue of the later Gospels, but (as translated in the NRSV) with the rougher, “Do you not care that we are drowning?”  I expect that this is an expletive-deleted version of the actual query.  I believe it probably went more like, “Wake the hell up.  This was your @#$% idea, and if we’re all going to drown for it, you are bloody well going to be awake for it!”  I’m certain that this is closer to what my own reaction would have been, had I been present.  Of course, that’s why I like Mark’s Gospel so much:  it’s you-are-there quality.

Of course, in all versions, poor, tired Jesus does wake up and calm the storm, and I’m not at all sure the disciples didn’t find that at least as terrifying as the storm itself (I think I would have).  As frequently happens, they also earn a rebuke for their lack of faith – something I’m also certain I have earned many times of the years.

So, I guess I’m in good company those times I yell at God.  Maybe it would help if I could look at it that when it feels as though the water is coming over the wales and God is not paying sufficient attention to the degree of storminess in my life, I should know to just keep on doing what I can to keep afloat and on course, and God, who might be getting a little much-needed rest, will be awake and present when the time is right to act.


  1. My latest crisis of faith has led me to the same place. I guess that is why it is called faith. God is ALWAYS there, sometimes He just reminds me that I need to have more faith in Him.

    • Yup. And hugs.

  2. I can’t wait too long for God to act during these storms. I can’t swim.

    • Carl, sometimes it feels as though I can’t, either, but somehow I haven’t drowned yet.

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