This is one of more than fifty stories in Mike’s new book on Faith throughout the Bible. It will be available in late Spring—God willing.
All day long Jesus had taught and healed the sick (Mark 3). When the crowd grew large, he moved down by the lake and stood on a boat anchored away from shore (Mark 4), which allowed the crowd of thousands to sit on the hillsides and hear his words. Late in the day, when it began to grow dark, Jesus told the disciples to sail to the other side—about a two-hour trip under normal conditions. Exhausted from the day, he moved to the rear part of the ship, beyond the bow spray, to an elevated spot, and lay down on a cushion, no doubt, with a tarp to cover him, and went sound to sleep.
This is where it gets interesting. Satan is the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), and from the book of Job we know that with God’s permission he has the power to bring storms, and direct them to the destruction of property and people. We have already seen Satan attempting to thwart Jesus’ ministry on the mount of temptation. And we know that he has infiltrated Jesus’ ministry with one of his own agents, a thief and traitor, called “the son of perdition” (John 17:12). And we know that right after Jesus overcame Satan on the mount, he provoked the citizens of Jesus’ hometown, Nazareth, to attempt to kill him by casting him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). We also know that Satan will eventually stir the disciples to deny him (Luke 22:31), and the religious Jews to kill him. Likewise, this story reveals Satan’s role in present events.
As Jesus slept, Satan sent a mighty storm that tossed the boat around. Then big waves started breaking over the top of the boat, filling it with water, causing it to be in imminent danger of sinking miles away from shore. These fishermen were familiar with these waters and with their boat, but they became very fearful at this sudden and uncommonly furious storm. They must have been amazed that Jesus was still in a state of exhausted sleep, but in desperation they decided to wake him.
They shook him awake, and said to him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Of all things, they accused him of not caring for their safety—of being insensitive to their suffering. (Hello, human, Christian person.) Their attitudes are unbelievable, unless you view them through the mirror of self-knowledge. They assumed that by allowing it go on this far, he didn’t care what happened to them. All lack of faith is rooted in that sentiment. When frightful or painful times come, does it make us feel God may not be caring for us as we think he should?
This is the perfect illustration of faithlessness. They doubted God’s commitment to their wellbeing. Faith is believing “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The rebuke they hurled at Jesus was an indictment, a slight on his character. It was anything but believing “he is a rewarder.” They were making Jesus subservient to their interests, as if it was his full time duty to protect them from bad things. This is worse than lack of faith. It is grievance in the place of faith.
When they woke him, he quickly stood up into the storm, holding on to the rigging, and, as waves drenched them, he “rebuked the wind” sternly (Mark 4:39). The word rebuke is never used toward an inanimate object. For context, in another places, we read things like, “Jesus rebuked the devil” (Matthew 17:18). Jesus saw the wind for what it was, the work of Satan attempting to end the ministry of the second Adam who came to establish the Kingdom of Heaven upon the earth, and turn the hearts of men back to faith in God. So he rebuked the wind like a man does a rebellious child, commanding it to cease; and cease it did, like turning off a fan. After all, he is the creator of wind, so it had to obey him. But the water remained choppy even after the wind ceased, so he said to the water, “Peace, be still,” and it instantly flatten out as it obeyed its creator, leaving the lake as calm as any they had ever seen.
Within five seconds of waking Jesus, the disciples went from violent tossing to silently squatting in a water logged boat on still waters. They were afraid before, but their fear reached a new level as they stared up in wonder at Jesus standing up on the stern as Lord of creation.
And then he rebuked them, saying, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” The question was, “Why do you fear with me in the boat; does my presence not inspire faith?” Regardless, “they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and sea obey him” (Mark 4:41)? There is a thrilling song titled, “Behold what manner of man is this” that celebrates this moment. He had called them “slow of heart.” And this revealed their spiritual slowness.
This story is a great example of faith not being a personal power arising from within us, rather, faith is how we view Jesus Christ in his commitment to our welfare. The problem is, we develop selfish, sissy, and arrogant expectations and try to exercise “our faith” to get him to conform to our interests. When he said, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body…for your heavenly Father knoweth that yea have need of all these things” (Matthew 6), he meant that our trust and surrender should begin before we decide what the end should be. Outcome driven faith is no faith at all; it is presumption. We want to avoid the storms of life, and sail on calm waters. We don’t want to be buffeted by unfavorable winds, and be tossed about uncontrollably, and be brought to the edge of death. But God wants our trust in him to be greater than Satan’s tricks, nature’s fury, and the realities of life in this sinful flesh. The “trying of your faith” is real if you are riding a boat off into the dark with Jesus. For Satan is ever conspiring to find our weak spot and eroded our confidence in God.
Jesus is so sure of his commitment to us that he wonders, “Why are ye so fearful?” A teaching question! When we have confidence in the goodwill of he who is riding out the storm with us, it won’t prevent us from getting wet, but it will cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).