When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, “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?” Mark 4:35-41.
In the Gospel reading from today’s Lectionary, we find Jesus and the disciples after a long day of teaching and healing. In fact, the crowds had swelled to such a point that Jesus had preached from the boat as the crowd listened on land. Jesus devoted much of his teaching that day to explaining about the Kingdom of God. I think we might interpret today’s Gospel in that context, although Jesus will now show the disciples what the Kingdom is like.
When a violent storm arises and threatens to swamp their boat, the disciples feel a genuine terror. I have often asked the exact question that they raise: “Do you not care that we are perishing?” I have often asked God almost exactly the same question: “Can you not see what’s going on down here?” We wonder where God is while we struggle through our troubles, our danger, and our fears. And yet, the disciples found that their rabbi was with them all along, sleeping in the stern of the boat. So, this story suggests that while we are panicking in chaos and certain that we are perishing, Jesus remains right there with us, in the middle of the storm.
Mark tells us that Jesus rebuked the storm, telling the maelstrom: “Peace! Be still!” We all wish that we could give such instructions when chaos arrives. What would happen if we could rebuke cancer, or automobile crashes, or church fights, telling them: “Be still!” Even the wind and the sea obeyed Jesus, but I suspect that’s mostly because Jesus had such a profound trust of the Father.
Earlier, I suggested that this Gospel passage, like those that immediately precede it, is about the Kingdom of God. Jesus can sleep through the storm because He knows that God reigns over all, and wants to take care of, all creation. While the control of meteorological events may seem beyond most of us, trusting God is well within our reach. Perhaps then, we too can be still.
I wish you Sabbath peace,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis