Despite his tremendous miracle of calming a tempest on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples still did not recognize the Son of Man – Mark 4:35-41.
After teaching the multitude near Capernaum, Jesus set out to cross the Sea of Galilee. But a violent storm descended suddenly, frightening the disciples. Storms were common enough on that body of water, and several of the men were fishermen familiar with its moods. Thus, their great terror indicated that this was an especially severe storm.
At the end of the story, dumbfounded, they will ask: “Who is this man?” What precipitated the storm was the statement by Jesus: “Let us go over to the other side”; that is, to the vicinity of Gerasenes – (Mark 5:1-20).
- (Mark 4:35-41) – “And he says to them on that day: Evening has come, and we should cross over to the other side. And having dismissed the crowd, they are taking him along as he was in the boat, and other boats were with him. And a great tempest of wind was coming to pass, and the waves were dashing over into the boat so that already it was being filled. And he was in the stern sleeping on the cushion. And they awakened him and were saying to him: Teacher! Is it no concern to you that we are perishing?’ And having awakened, he rebuked the wind and said to the sea: Be silent! Be still! And the wind abated, and great calm came to pass. And he said to them: Why are you fearful? Not yet do you have faith?’ And they feared a great fear and were saying to one another: ‘Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” – (Exodus 14:16-29, Psalm 89:9, 107:29, Nahum 1:4, Matthew 8:23-27, Luke 8:22-25).
The disciples addressed Jesus as “teacher,” indicating that they did not understand who he really was. He was viewed as little more than another “rabbi.” But in reaction to this storm, and being in great fear, they awakened Jesus. But he charged them with having no faith. Yet, ironically, they became even more fearful after he had calmed the storm (“They feared a great fear”).
A passage from Jonah is echoed in the story. When Jesus “rebuked” the storm and commanded the wind to “be silent,” he used the same language he used previously to rebuke demons – (“Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be quiet and come out of him”). And Jesus was sound asleep in the middle of the storm just as Jonah was in his day:
- (Jonah 1:4-17) – “But Yahweh sent out a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea so that the ship was like to be broken. Then the mariners were afraid and cried every man unto his god; and they cast forth the wares that were in the ship into the sea, to lighten it. But Jonah was gone down into the innermost parts of the ship; and he lay fast asleep.”
But his words and actions also reflect a passage from the eighty-ninth Psalm. The fact that Jesus was authorized to exercise the power of God over natural forces should have clarified to the disciples just who Jesus was. And as the “chosen one” of Yahweh, he and his disciples were perfectly safe despite the raging storm:
“I have solemnized a covenant for my chosen one. I have sworn to David my servant. To times everlasting will I establish your seed… O, Yahweh, God of hosts, who is mighty like you… You rule over the swelling of the sea; when its rolling waves lift themselves, you do bid them be still” – (Psalm 89:3-9).
In the ancient mind, the sea was associated with chaos. But no opposition to Jesus could succeed until his mission was finished, not even the forces of nature. This “opposition” arose after he had instructed the disciples to proceed to the other side of the lake. In the passage, the storm’s “reaction” to his determination to cross over the lake was virtually instantaneous.
Not only did the wind cease at his command, immediately, but the sea also became calm. This demonstrated the miraculous nature of the deed. Winds may suddenly cease, but a body of water with its surface stirred by a storm takes time to return to a peaceful state.
Next, Jesus questioned his disciples, “How is it that you have no faith.” Apparently, by this time, he expected them to have acquired some degree of faith, yet even this tremendous ‘nature miracle’ failed to produce real faith; instead, it raised the question: “Who is this man?”
As powerful as this miracle was, by itself, it did not answer the question of the disciples. Even though they formed his inner circle, they reacted like the crowds on the “outside” to whom Jesus spoke in parables. Nevertheless, even though they requested his help from fear and not faith, he responded by delivering them from the immediate danger.