“Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” Reflections on Mark 4:35-41

waves crashing

Each week, Moravians across the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean share a common message through their Sunday bulletins.

This month, we share insights written on Mark 4:35-41 for the Fourth Sunday of Pentecost. Thanks to writers past and present for their contributions to the Moravian bulletin series.

Jesus Stills a Storm
Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.

A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Our Savior in the Storm

Doug Rights, pastor, King Moravian Church, King, North Carolina • June 20, 2021

When I was young, I loved storms. In the winter I loved snowstorms, which brought cancelled school and snow forts. In the summer, I loved thunderstorms, with their strong winds, rumbling thunder, flashes of lightning, and sheets of rain. As I grew older, I learned about the destructive side of storms, such as blizzards, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. I also learned about and experienced other types of storms, which are the storms of life. These storms include broken relationships, loss of loved ones, life-threatening diseases, and the uncertainties of life. Some of these storms you see coming, while others come suddenly.

There are two great lessons in the story of Jesus calming the storm in Mark 4. One lesson is that for Jesus’ followers there will be storms. Just being a Christian does not mean we will be spared the storms of natural disasters or the storms of life.

The other great lesson is that we, like the disciples, have someone we can turn to when there is a storm. We can turn to Jesus. Just as Jesus calmed the storm on the water, Jesus will help calm whatever storm we face. In the story, Jesus called the wind and the waves to be still.

When we turn to Jesus in our storms, his words “Be still” are not so much at the storm we face. Instead, Jesus’ words “Be still” are words for our hearts. They are words of assurance saying that Jesus is with us. They are words of assurance saying that, with Jesus, we do not need to be afraid. They are words of assurance saying that Jesus will help see us through whatever storm we face.

Sadly, many people who face storms in life do not turn to the Savior.  Yet if we put our trust and faith in Jesus, we have a Savior who is with us in the storm and through the storm.

The Miracle of Assurance

Tim Sapp, pastor, Advent Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.• June 24, 2018

The miracle of calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee was proof that Jesus was the Son of God, but this miracle left the disciples bewildered and confused as to who Jesus was. Who was this man who could command the wind and the waves to be quiet and they would obey?

The disciples were naturally afraid of what a furious storm could do because of their knowledge and experience. However, this man called Jesus, whom they had made a decision to follow in ministry, had the power to control nature, and this was just as alarming for them. 

One may wonder why Jesus decided to take the boat to the other side of the lake that day, but all we know for sure is that the disciples were obedient to his request. This obedience gave them the opportunity to witness a great miracle that exhibited the deity of Christ and gave them something that they could remember for the rest of their lives. Because of their faith in him, they could weather other storms that came their way.

This story reminds us today that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. We are his people, and by our faith we should remain obedient to his will by the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Our faith will not guarantee us that we will not have storms in our lives. However, we do have the assurance that when the storms come, our Lord will be with us to either remove them or sustain us through them for the glory of God. 

Coping with storms

Bruce Nelson, pastor, Lake Mills Moravian Church, Lake Mills, Wis. • June 24, 2012

In Mark 4, we have the story of Jesus calming the storm. There are several interesting things we could note in these seven verses. The first thing that I note is that Jesus left a crowd behind him at the end of the day. It tells us that Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and left a crowd behind.

Why did he leave the crowd behind? Was there not still more ministry to be done with them? I ask this question all the time. I think churches often ask themselves this question: “Is there not more ministry that I or we should be doing?” I would like to think that there is always more that we could be doing. But we are not expected to do it all. And we definitely are not expected to do it all within a short period of time. In this passage Jesus is modeling doing ministry and taking care of oneself.

We could learn from Jesus by looking closely at how he spent his time. In the verses preceding Mark 4:35-41, we see many parables. Jesus had been doing a great deal of teaching, and he no doubt was tired at the end of the day. It was evening and he realized that he needed some rest. When he was made aware of a significant challenge—in this case a windstorm that frightened the disciples—he awoke and calmed the storm. First, he calmed the storm, and then he taught the disciples that they need not be afraid.

Jesus did not do ministry twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and neither should we. We should take time to do ministry. We should take time to relax and rest. We should realize that storms may come in our lives, and Jesus may not take those storms away immediately; but we should also realize that at times he may say to us, “Peace! Be still!” We should realize that Jesus will walk with us through all our storms.

“Peace! Be Still”

David A. Marcus Jr., pastor, Covenant Moravian Church, Wilmington, N. C. • June 22, 1997

Perhaps you have spent time in a sailboat. Relying on the boat to stay afloat, you slide across the water propelled by a gentle breeze.  Sailing is very much like living within the will of God.  As Christians, we must rest upon God to sustain us, and upon the breath of his Spirit to empower us.  During times of crisis or “storms” in our lives, living within the will of God is most difficult.

In the threat of wind and waves along the Sea of Galilee, the disciples begin to question their faith, and ponder whether their Master cares whether they survive. Of all the stories in the New Testament, perhaps, this story is most symbolic of the Christian church.  We are like the disciples in the boat.  Like the disciples, we have Jesus in our boat, and yet, storms appear.  This story is evidence that having Jesus with us in the boat is not a guarantee that there will not be storms in our lives.  Like the disciples, when storms appear in our lives, we often lose hold of our faith.

Sometimes the Lord calms the storm; sometimes the Lord lets the storm rage and calms the believer.  Jesus spoke the words, “Peace! Be still!”  These words of Jesus are directed to all the different storms that we face.  Through our faith in Jesus, we know Jesus will protect and care for his disciples.

There are no storms that by Christ’s power we cannot endure!

Waiting for Emergencies

Frank Jones, pastor, Lake Auburn Moravian Church, Victoria, Minn. • June 26, 1994

As a junior high student, I played in the band.  My real love was trombone, but that required practice and work. Being lazy, I was last chair – last voice in the trombone section.  Then there was an opening in percussion, and the band director kindly suggested that this might be for me!  Our high school had a new cymbal player the next day.  There, I could be part of the band without “working,” and that suited me just fine!

The problem was that you still had to pay attention to the music and the director, something I often failed to do.  The result was missed, or worse, mis-timed cymbal crashes!  For those who are wondering what that has to do with the story of the disciples in a stormy sea… I offer that our faith can be like that cymbal player – “napping” until called on!

In the story, Jesus is with the disciples, but they are doing their own thing – ignoring him and letting him sleep.  Only when there is danger in their minds do they remember he is there and call on him to do something!  It should not take a rocket scientist to see the point here.  We all go about life “doing our own thing.”  But when our efforts get us into trouble, we remember faith in the Jesus we have followed, and we call for help!

There are lots of symbols in this passage.  We are all tossed about and in danger of “losing it.” But why must we wait to call on Christ, or keep him in our “back pockets,” only for emergencies?