Stilling The Storm Gospel Analysis
PENTECOST 3B Mark 4:35-41
SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, p. 76.
This Bible study is from THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This free 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations beginning in 2006 .
#90. Stilling The Storm
Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25
Context: this is the first story in a sequence of four stories about healing. This precise sequence is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and it seems that all four stories belong together.
These stories are:
a) the healing of the storm,
b) the healing of the demoniac,
c) the healing of Jairus’ daughter and
d) the healing of the woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years.
See pages 122-125 for a parallel sequence in Mark and Luke.
Context: Jesus was/is the Messiah. Overcoming disease and death were signs that Jesus was the Messiah, that the messianic reign of God has finally arrived. It was believed that when the Messiah came, “the blind would receive their sight, the lame would walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear, the dead would be raised up, and the poor would have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23). This was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 29:18 ("the deaf shall hear; the blind shall see") and Isaiah 35:5, 8 ("eyes of the blind opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame man shall leap like a rabbit, the tongue of a dumb man shall leap for joy.")
This miracle story for Sunday's gospel lesson has overtones of a parable. That is, in Mark’s gospel, in chapter 4, we hear several consecutive parables e.g. the parable of the sower, the sower explained, the growing grain, and the mustard seed. At the end of this sequence of parables, in Mark 4:33, 34, the Bible says that “With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.” THEN, immediately after those parables, we hear the miracle of the storm stilled, followed by the story of the demons cast out.
The story of the stilling of the storm is definitely a miracle story in which Jesus Christ exhibits his power over nature; but this miracle story is also a wonderful parable in which Jesus stills the storms within our inner hearts thereby giving us the “peace” and “stillness” of God. This miracle story has overtones of a parable in which God speaks to us that God has the power to give us peace and stillness in the midst of our stormy lives...the stormy lives within our mindsand emotions...the stormy lives within our families...the stormy world in which we live...the violent storms that still exist between ethnic groups, political groups, religious groups and nations.
Jesus has come to heal and calm the troubled waters of our hearts and minds, just as he came to calm the troubled waters and troubled souls two thousand years ago. During the time of Jesus, it was thought that demons caused the storms on the lake and also caused the storms in the “possessed man.” Jesus was able to control the demons within the stormy seas and he was also able to control the demons within the crazed man. The miracle story spoke deeply to the world in which people lived because demons were the cause of everything evil e.g. violent storms on the lake and violent storms in a disturbed man.
In the twenty-first century, technological world, we do not think of demons causing windstorms on lakes nor emotional storms in human beings. At the same time, in our technological world, we know that God needs to calm our inner psychological storms and also to calm our sociological storms of war, ethnic strife and violence. In today’s modern world, we still need to find the stillness and the calm that is described in these New Testament Biblical stories.
So both stories are just as relevant today as they were twenty centuries ago. We need Jesus to calm our troubled hearts and minds today, even as he did years ago.
Notice the similar progression of the main topics of the story in all three gospel parallels e.g. “leaving in boats, other side of the lake, great storm, Jesus asleep in the storm, Lord/teacher/master, don’t you care, he rebuked the winds, great calm, little faith, afraid, awe, marvel, even the wind and sea obey him.” In other words, there is not a specific and exact word-for-word parallel in the three Scriptures, but a parallel in the progression of the story and the progression of thought. All three stories describe the same incident but not with exactly parallel words. … If the Gospel of Mark was written earlier than Matthew and Luke, then perhaps Matthew and Luke copied from Mark but not word for word but idea for idea.
“O people of little faith.” When the storms of life become violent and we are afraid of dying, do we still trust God? It seems that this miracle story is an invitation for us to trust in God during the tough storms of life. Sometimes, we think Jesus, the Presence of God, is asleep in our boat and is not alert about the peril we are in. Sometimes, we think that God is sleeping on the job, when we are tossed about by the winds and waves of life.
The important question of the story: “Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?” That same question persists to us today. "Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?" Can he calm the wind and seas in our hearts and minds? Can he calm the storms between ethnic groups and warring nations?
The book of Job (38:1-11, the Old Testament text for the day) perhaps informs the story of Jesus’ calming the wind and the waves. In Job, God commanded the seas and thereby controlled nature. There are parallels between the Jonah sleeping in the boat while going to Nineveh and this miracle of Jesus sleeping on the boat while going to the other side.
The stilling of the storm is connected with the next story about the healing of the Gadarene demoniac. Find Gadara on the map.
-On that day, when evening had come, (after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of her fever in Peter’s home in Capernaum and after Jesus had healed many people as they were gathered about the door of Peter’s home that night.)
-He said to them, "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. Jesus and his disciple were going to cross the lake to the other side. Again, notice the detail in this picture. Leaving the crowds behind. The disciples took Jesus in the boat “just as he was.” What does “just as he was” mean? That he did not have time to dress properly for a trip in a boat? Notice the detail: "Other boats were with him."
-A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. Notice the detail. It was Simon Peter who was telling this story to John Mark and John Mark was writing it down (as fast as he could?)
Sudden windstorms suddenly explode on the Sea of Galilee. People who have visited the Sea of Galilee have seen those sudden storms first hand.
-But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, Again, there is so much detail: in the stern, asleep, on a cushion, and his disciples had to wake him up. There are numerous details. We remember Simon Peter was telling this story to John Mark before he, Peter, was crucified in Rome. In the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John, we are hearing reports from two eyewitnesses and both of them give us juicy little details.
As a story teller, was Simon Peter giving us this detail in order to create the illusion of historical authenticity or was he reporting to us when he saw? I believe he was reporting to us what he saw.
-"Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" This is a fundamental question that we human beings ask of God all the time: “God, we are in an enormous jam. Don’t you care that we are in this jam and are on the edge of being destroyed.” We as human beings often have feelings that God does not care for us and our little situation. There has been so much misery in human history and there still is. Simply read Victor Hugo's LES MISERABLE or Jung Chang's book, WILD SWANS, about three generations of women in China and you hear the lament that this world of ours has been filled with misery beyond human comprehension...and the insidious question and observation that God does not care.
-He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" These are the same words that Jesus spoke to the demons when Jesus was healing a man with demon possession. The word, “rebuked,” is a clue that Jesus was casting out a “storm demon” from the lake.
Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. We can see it in our minds. We can see the force of the wind quieting down until there was a dead calm. Yes, Simon Peter saw it all and told John Mark.
-He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" Highlight it. Underline it. Why are we human beings so constantly afraid when we are in the storms of life? Why do we human beings have so little faith in the storms of life? Little faith??? Jesus said that we have “no faith.” Yes, there are many times in the storms of life that we have 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?" When these disciples experienced a miraculous delivery, they were filled with awe. We remember those feelings of other people who had been healed by Jesus: they, too, were filled with awe.
Perhaps you have had such a healing in your life where your life has been miraculously saved and healed because God gave you a miracle. Then your heart is filled with praise and adoration for God’s goodness.
That was certainly true of me when I almost died six years ago. I thought I was a goner and was ready to meet “my Maker” but my time was not up yet. As I look back on those days, weeks and months, I know that my miraculous healing (through the powers of modern medicine) came from God. And I stand in awe and gratitude to this day.
PAINTING AND IMAGINATION: JESUS STILLS THE STORM
Notice Jesus asleep in the boat. This detail is a powerful detail from the story.
It may be wise to make powerpoints of these paintings and show them during the sermon. The paintings are immensely graphic and tell the story.
The following is a picture of a first century boat from an archeological discovery in 1986.
“In 1986 a boat (crude in today's terms) thought to be some 2,000 years old was found buried in the sand along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This boat was discovered by the brothers, Yuval and Moche Lufan, from Ginosar in the winter of 1986. Now housed in a refrigeration unit in Tiberias, this boat underwent a careful archeological restoration process in which it was thoroughly cleaned and soaked so as to preserve it for years to come.”
“By the construction techniques and two pottery vessels found near it, archeologists judged that the boat was from the Roman period. Carbon-14 tests confirmed that the boat had been constructed and used between 100 BCE and 70 CE.”
We discover that the remnants of a 2,000 year old fishing boat from the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee was 26 feet long and 7 feet wide and could carry 15 people. Fragments of other boats near this boat indicated that this was an area that may have been a shipyard.
The remnant of the boat was found during a prolonged drought and consequently the water in the lake was low.
What are some of the nasty stroms of life that you have experienced and how did Christ help you to find an inner calm? Did you ever think that Jesus was aspeep in your boat?
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