When we were studying Mark 4:35-41 for Bible Study, the Feasting on the Word materials mentioned four powerful message that we can find in this story:
The story is about the identity of Jesus and the choice the disciples have to relate to him with either faith or fear.
Jesus calms the storm to show that disciples should also confront that which threatens life in a gentle, but firm manner.
Jesus shows in this story that he will never leave us in time of trial. We should have faith that he will calm our storms.
Fear is a natural but unhelpful response in times of trial. Our actions should be based on trusting that God is present with us.
We had several conversations about these messages, especially the helpfulness of fear (which can be helpful in some situations and unhelpful in others), the differences between fear and awe… specially as awe or temor in Spanish relate to respecting and not fearing the fear or falling to a terror that paralyzes.
My original take on this passage related to the second message specially since we are, right now, confronting something that threatens life, and are making decisions about wearing or not wearing masks, stepping into some aspects of life that look a little bit like before the pandemic (going to the supermarket for example), and how to confront them as Jesus did… exercising a peace that surpasses the disciples understanding… and mine as well.
But after listening to a comment by Pastor Rodney in the Bible Study and going to the office this week and finding “Where Is Home Daddy Bear?” and reading it… something else in the story caught my attention.
The Need to Recognize Where Home is
In the story, Evie Bear is feeling anxious. Her family is moving to a new home and that scares her. I’m pretty sure a lot of us can identify with her. Changes cause anxiety. And a long trip where we feel that we are lost does not help either.
The wonderful thing about the story for me is, that Daddy Bear gives comfort and love to Evie when she is feeling anxious and frightful. But… Evie does the same thing for her Daddy Bear, when he is feeling lost and anxious, helping him to focus and to find the river that will lead him to their new home.
They both know who to depend on when anxiety and fear overtake them. They both know who their center is and who gives them peace. If the story started with Evie questioning where home is, it ends with her realization that “home is people who love you”, because home is the place where you find love, peace, certainty, and the breath you need to keep going.
Why Did the Disciples Wake their Master?
As I mentioned before, when we see this story in the Bible, we focus on how it is a story about fear. But what if it is not a story about fear, but a story about finding home and what that means?
Pastor Rodney’s comment is what made me think of this possibility. Mark starts setting the stage:
“Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.”
Jesus went on a boat and was followed by other boats. I’m guessing some of the fishermen that were part of the disciples were in those boats. We know at least four: Peter, Andrew, John and James. It is probable that they did not swim very well, or at least we were reminded of that in Bible Study, because of Peter’s episode with Jesus. But at the same time, I can’t help but suppose that these fishermen knew the sea. They knew the weather. They knew the waves and they knew all the tricks to stay in the boat. And even though all the illustrations and art of this passage just show one boat, Mark mentions “other boats.” Safety in numbers I presume.
Then “gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped.” The disciples had four fishermen among them. Their master is asleep. I think they could have handled this situation without having to wake Jesus up… Jesus who is a carpenter by trade.
So… Why did they wake their teacher? And why did they wake him with a reproach? “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” This is where Pastor Rodney’s comment comes in. He mentioned that the disciples could have done other things. Gotten water out of the boats. Tried to ask the fishermen for a solution to the problem. But at least, instead of getting paralyzed and silenced by fear, they go to Jesus with their fears, with their insecurities, and with their reproaches. They know where to go to find the answer to their fears, even when they don’t realize it.
Peace! Be Still!
When we read Jesus’ answer, we imagine that he is angry with the disciples. I think we might interpret that because he rebuked the sea, and we imagine rebuking with a loud and stern voice that says, "Peace, be still!!! But what if Jesus says his next lines like an understanding father… like Daddy Bear, trying to extend his love to the disciples and trying to calm his fears? Imagine him saying, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Or as the TLA says in Spanish: “¿Por qué estaban tan asustados? ¿Todavía no confían en mí?”: (Why were you so afraid? You still don't trust me?)
In this version of the Bible then, faith is not the antidote to fear, so not having faith is not the issue. Relationship and trust are the antidotes to fear. The disciples are still getting to know their Teacher. Their trust is growing. If not, they would not have woken him up… but they still got a ways to go. Nevertheless, Jesus is understanding and loving. Jesus has everything under control. Jesus is home. And home is people who love you… who calm your fears… who silences your storms… who gives you peace.
I’m reminded of this when I hear the old hymn “Master, the tempest is raging!”. The way that my old pastor led this hymn was telling. He started the refrain with a soft voice:
“The winds and the waves shall obey thy will. "Peace, be still!"
Then, his voice went to a crescendo:
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea,
Or struggles or evil, whatever it be,
No water can swallow the ship where lies
the Master of ocean and earth and skies:
And then, the voice went soft again to communicate the peace:
They all shall sweetly obey thy will.
"Peace, be still! Peace, be still!"
They all shall sweetly obey thy will.
"Peace, peace, be still!"
May we find our way home during this storm and through all the storms that we find in life. Remember: Home is people who love you… And as this passage remind us: Home is Jesus.