We all have done it at some point. When something caused us frustration, we blurted out some words to someone we wanted to blame for the problem. “You are the reason this happened today!” Blurted statements often come directly from our hearts without a filter. We think it and then speak it. And when that happens, we often regret speaking our mind.
In today’s passage, we will be looking at Mark 4:35-41. We will see how the disciples faced a test of their faith in Jesus. During a tempestuous situation, they blurted out something that questioned whether Jesus really cared about them. As you can imagine, Jesus used this situation to teach them a lesson. I think that God can use the same lesson in our own lives. So let’s start at the beginning.
- A change of plans (Mark 4:35-36)
What does it say?
Mark begins the paragraph with the words “on the same day, when evening had come.” These words are important because they tell us how full the day had been. This will help us to understand something about the story later. But until then let’s consider how much had happened on that day. Apparently, this day had started in Mark 3:13 when Jesus went up on a mountain. Between then and this boat trip, what had happened?
• Jesus had called the twelve disciples (Mark 3:13-19).
• Jesus had entered a house and attracted crowds of people (Mark 3:19).
• Jesus was accused of being controlled by Satan (Mark 3:20-30).
• Jesus announced that his real family was made up of those who do God’s will (Mark 3:31-35).
• Jesus told the Parable of the Four Soils (Mark 4:1-9).
• Jesus explained the Parable of the Four Soils (Mark 4:10-20).
• Jesus talked about the lamp under a basket (Mark 4:21-25).
• Jesus told the Parable of the Patient Planter (Mark 4:26-29).
• Jesus told the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32).
After such a long day, Jesus decided to take a boat trip during the evening. He said, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Apparently, He had some plans for preaching the gospel and ministering to people on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As you may recall, Jesus had chosen to speak from an unusual pulpit. He sat in a boat near the edge of the water because there were so many people there (Mark 4:1). But now it was time to depart, so the disciples rowed the boat away from the multitudes on the shore and headed for the other side.
Because of the crowds, there was not time to go to shore for a bathroom break or to eat supper. They had to take Jesus as He was. The size of the crowd must have been very large. If there were only twenty people, He could have taken a break for a moment. But this was a multitude possibly made up of thousands of people. So, there was no easy place to get away from them. And even this watery escape was not absent of visitors. Mark tells us that there were little boats also with Him. Apparently, even being in a boat wasn’t sufficient to keep the people away from Him.
What does it mean?
In this part of the narrative, there is no secret meaning to discover, but there is a question that can be raised. Why did Jesus want to go over to the other side of the sea? “Though not stated, He probably desired relief from the crowds and rest. Perhaps also He sought a new sphere of ministry (cf. 1:38).”3 Evidence for this is found in what we see later in this story and what happens in the next chapter.
How does it apply?
What do you think about ministry and rest? On the one hand, it is important to see the need and to try to meet it. In other places, Jesus said that doing God’s will was more important to him than eating (John 4:34). We also read about Him getting up early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). Jesus was not lazy nor did He neglect the work of preaching the truth to people. But in this instance, Jesus was tired from a long day of ministry. There comes a time when you need to get rest. We are not made to keep going for long periods of time without sleep. And I think if we look back to the Parable of the Patient Planter, this should be clear (Mark 4:26-27). There we see what Jesus thought about preaching and resting. We need to be active in ministry, but we also need to take times to rest.
- A question of caring (Mark 4:37-38)
What does it say?
As they were traveling across the Sea of Galilee, a great windstorm arose. These storms are common because the Sea of Galilee was “surrounded by high hills and narrow valleys that functioned as wind tunnels.”3 I have read about people who have visited this area of Israel. Apparently, that body of water is below sea level and the surrounding hills funnel wind onto the lake with fury. One man said that he had to double stake his tent so that it wouldn’t be blown away. He also mentioned that he was swimming in the water when one of these storms came up and he almost didn’t make it back to shore!
You might think that wind would have been helpful to the disciples as they could have raised a sail and made it across the sea more rapidly. But this was not the case. The wind raised great waves which crashed onto the boat and filled it with water. As you know, it is better to have the water on the outside rather than on the inside of a boat. So, the disciples became worried and probably used anything available to bail the water out of the boat.
While all this was happening, Jesus was sleeping on a pillow in the stern. The fact that Jesus was asleep in the boat gives me the idea that this was not a small boat like a canoe or rowboat. It was probably a large boat which was big enough to carry Him and the twelve disciples. How big was it? In 1986, two brothers came across the remains of a fishing boat in the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists say that it was similar to boats built close to the time of Jesus.1 The remains of the boat measured 27 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. It was a flat-bottomed boat and would have been good for fishing close to the shore. If this was the type of boat they were in, it makes sense that Jesus had a place to sleep in the back of the boat. It also makes sense why the disciples were so afraid as such a boat could easily fill with water and sink.
As the wind blew and the waves broke over the sides of the boat, the disciples awakened Jesus and spoke rather pointedly toward Him. They blurted, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” I imagine that the noise of the winds and waves caused this question to be shouted at Jesus. I also imagine that their frustration with Him was high because He was sleeping and not helping them with such a serious situation.
What does it mean?
I think that the point of this part of the story is found in the question asked by the disciples. They were perturbed with—maybe even angry with—Jesus for sleeping while they were struggling to survive. Their question was more of a statement than a question. In effect, they were saying, “You are sleeping and don’t even care whether we drown in this storm!” This shows us that the disciples didn’t truly understand who Jesus was and how much He cared for them.
How does it apply?
There are times in our lives when we may be tempted to doubt God’s care for us as the disciples did. We see what seems to be a lack of concern from God. Crime rates are up. Morality is at an all-time low. We are or someone we love is suffering with bad health. We are struggling with finances. We see a lot of turmoil and think that God is oblivious and doesn’t care. “We are inclined to be pathetically petulant when He doesn’t take action we can see.”4
This has happened to many believers over the years. Habakkuk wondered why God wasn’t doing anything about his evil society (Hab. 1:1-4). Elijah thought he was the only one left serving God (1 Kings 19:10). Job believed that God was harming him and didn’t hear his cries (Job 30:16-23). In each case, these believers had to come to the place where they trusted God regardless of what they were facing. Only then did they find peace.
Do you believe that God cares for you? If you are doing well, have decent health, and are currently happy, you might answer yes. But if you have been experiencing difficulties, you might be tempted to think that God doesn’t care about you. You might even call out to Him and question His concern for you. But be careful. The Bible is very clear that He watches over His children. He does care. But He also allows us to go through difficult times to teach us to trust Him. Will you trust Him through your trials?
- A question of faith (Mark 4:39-41)
What does it say?
With the wind and waves beating furiously against the boat and the disciples yelling at Him to help, Jesus awakened from His sleep. When artists draw a picture of this event, they normally show Jesus standing in the boat with his hands in the air. But you may find it interesting that the word “arose” here does not mean “stand up” but “wake up.”2 Jesus had been awakened from a deep sleep. Think back to a time when you were awakened in the middle of a deep sleep. It is an odd feeling where you don’t exactly know where you are or why you just woke up.
After waking up and seeing His surroundings, Jesus acted quickly. He rebuked the storm and said, “Peace, be still!” Instantly, the wind ceased blowing and there was a great calm. Imagine that: no more wind and no more waves. Jesus then asked the disciples why they were so fearful and why they didn’t have faith. This caused the disciples to be even more fearful. They looked at each other and said, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
What does it mean?
The reason this event was recorded is important. The disciples had been with Jesus for a while but were not yet fully convinced of who He was. They had seen Him do miracles. They had heard Him teach them great truths about God. But they were still unsure of who He was. What happened at this point was designed to answer the first two questions asked by Jesus by answering the last one from them.
The three questions are as follows:
• Why are you so fearful?
• How is it that you have no faith?
• Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?
This passage shows us that Jesus was not just a man but is also God. The Bible reveals that God “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) when Jesus was born. Although He was the Creator of the universe, He chose to become a man to interact with people, to show His power, to point us away from our sin, and to eventually die on the cross to pay for our sins. Jesus was not just a preacher, He was and is God.
When the disciples saw Jesus command the elements to stop raging, they were in awe. Who was this? The answer is that Jesus is God Almighty who controls everything. If they had known the answer to their own question, they would not have asked the other two questions. They would have had faith in His ability to save them. They would not have been overcome by fear.
How does it apply?
If God has brought you to the place where you know that Jesus is God and you are trusting in Him, you are in a good place. Who Jesus is makes all the difference. If He was just a good man who lived a long time ago, then He really can’t do anything for you today. But if He is God Almighty who controls everything, then He can be trusted to take care of you throughout all of the storms of life. Do you trust Him to care for you?
Many years ago, a minister in Philadelphia wrote the words of a song.5
Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?
O yes, He cares — I know He cares!
His heart is touched with my grief
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary
I know my Savior cares.
In our passage today, we have seen that a bad storm caused the disciples to doubt if Jesus even cared about them. The wind and waves overcame their trust in Him, and they angrily yelled at Him for not helping. If only they had known who was in the boat with them, they would have never made those angry statements.
My hope for you is that you will not only believe who Jesus is, but that you will come to the place where you trust Him with your entire life. As we continue through the Gospel of Mark, you will see that trusting Jesus doesn’t just help with your personal difficulties. It also involves trusting Him with your eternal destiny because each of us must repent of our sins and trust that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. That is the ultimate reason why Jesus came.
If you would like to know more about this, consider reading ahead in the Gospel of Mark to find out what Jesus did for us.
1 “Sea of Galilee Boat” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Galilee_Boat#:~:text=The%20remains%20of%20the%20boat,fresh-water%20lake)%20receded. on 10/7/2023.
2 διεγείρω “arouse completely; stir up; wake out of sleep; arouse”
3 Grassmick 122.
4 Gutzke as quoted by Hiebert 126.
5 “Does Jesus Care?” as viewed at https://hymnary.org/text/does_jesus_care_when_my_heart_is_pained on 10/7/2023.
Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983.
Hendriksen, William, Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.
Hiebert, D. Edmond, The Gospel of Mark, Greenville: Bob Jones University Press, 1994.
Ironside, H. A., Expository Notes on the Gospel of Mark, Neptune: Loizeaux, 1969.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. IV, Matthew through Romans, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983.
διεγείρω as viewed at https://biblicaltext.com/dictionary/%CE%B4%CE%B9%CE%B5%CE%B3%CE%B5%CE%AF%CF%81%CF%89 on 10/7/2023.