Today we are returning to our study of Mark’s gospel and picking up at the end of chapter 4. Verses 35–41 record one of the most well-known episodes of Jesus’ life, namely, His stilling of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. In this study, we will focus on verses 35–40.
First, let us note some of the features of the story that indicate it comes from an eyewitness account. Mark includes several details that could be easily omitted and the point of the story not be lost. These details are best explained if he is relying on the testimony of someone who was actually present during the event. For example, Mark talks about other boats’ being there when this happened and says that Jesus was not only sleeping but that He “was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (v. 38). Strictly speaking, such details are unnecessary in order to convey what happened and its meaning, so their inclusion lends weight to the testimony that Mark relied on Peter’s preaching. Peter was there, so it would have been natural for him to recall such relatively insignificant details.
Second, the fear of the Twelve indicates the severity of the storm. Recall that at least four of the original disciples—Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John—were professional fishermen who had much experience fishing on the Sea of Galilee. The geographical location of the sea meant that harsh storms frequently occurred, and so these fishermen disciples would have been used to them. But Mark emphasizes how afraid the disciples were of the “great windstorm” that threatened to capsize their vessel and was filling it with water (vv. 37, 40). This was no ordinary thunderstorm, perhaps one could liken it to the “storm of the century,” and from a human perspective the loss of life was possible, if not almost certain.
Finally, note the disciples’ continuing failure to trust in Christ. We see this first in Mark 4:38, which records their doubts about our Lord’s concerns for their safety. Furthermore, Jesus rebukes them in verse 40 for their weak faith. After all the time the disciples had spent with Him, observing His miracles and seeing His care for the sick and demonically oppressed, they still had doubts about Christ. Lest we view the disciples too harshly, we must remember that we, too, do not have the faith we should in our Lord. We must therefore continue to seek His face so that He will strengthen our trust in Him.