Many treatments of the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea (Mark 4 and parallel passages) take the form of inspirational sofa talk: “Jesus will calm the storms of your life.”
What is true about this approach is that believers will have storms. There is no doubt whatsoever that Christ-followers are not exempt from suffering, from trials, from tribulations, and in the already-but-not-yet kingdom of Christ nets still break, illness still strikes and jobs get lost.
In fact, we are told “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29).
What is NOT true about this approach to the storm story is that Jesus doesn’t promise to calm all storms. He didn’t calm Paul’s literal storm and subsequent shipwreck, he didn’t calm Stephen’s witnessing storm and subsequent stoning, he didn’t calm the storms of many believers over many years since his earthly ministry.
In fact, the text itself reveals what it is not: After Jesus calmed the sea, the disciples did not stand around and enjoy a touchey-feely man moment, singing Kumbaya and thanking Jesus for solving their problem.
They were filled with “great fear,” and rightfully so. But why?
Jesus here revealed himself as Lord, sovereign over all things, including the wind and the waves, which he could calm with a word. The disciples said “who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” and they might have also been thinking, like us:
- what will he command me to do?
- who is he going to speak to next?
- if he owns the wind and sea, what does that mean for my life?
This episode is one of many in the gospels that record examples of resistance to Christ, when the implications of who he really is come into conflict with our own desires, our own plans, our own ideas about how our lives should be.
It is at these times that our behavior reveals whether we yield to the lordship of Christ.
The disciples might have thought that Jesus’ cure was worse than their storm disease. It was worse, yet better, too, just as submitting to the sovereign Lord is both fearful and delightful.