Aloha Friday Message – June 19, 2015 – In the Still of the Night

1525AFC061915 – In the Still of the Night

Read it online here, please.

Mark 4:35-41 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 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?” 39 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. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 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?”

A happy Aloha Friday to all of you, Beloved! Today we will look into some of the little gems in this passage. What a wonderful story it is! It occurred on one of those days when Jesus had been teaching all day. He told the parable of the sower and explained it to his disciples. Then he told the parable of the lamp under a bushel basket. That was followed by a parable about how scattered seeds grow from the earth in accordance with God’s plan until it is time for the harvest. That was followed by the parable of the mustard seed. (Take a look at that post for a lesson on Seed Verses.)

After he had spent the day teaching, he proposed to the disciples that they should go to the other side. If we look at Mark 4:1, we see that he was teaching a very large crowd and had made his teaching center in the stern of a boat: Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.

As evening approached, Jesus asked to be taken to the other side of the sea – probably the Sea of Galilee. That’s the largest freshwater lake in Israel – about 33 miles around – and is about 21 miles long and 13 miles wide. It is also the lowest freshwater lake on earth in that it is in some places over 700 feet below sea level. It is also referred to in scripture as the Kinneret (see Numbers 34:11), the Lake of Genessaret (Luke 5:1), the Sea of Ginosar (in the Babylonian Talmud), Sea of Minya (Persian and Arabic name). In the Gospels it is called Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias, and Lake Tiberias (See John 6:1 for example).

We don’t know for sure the point of departure nor do we know what the destination was; however, you can see that it would be quite a trip given the size of the water they were crossing. In addition, the crossing would be at least partially at night as it was already evening when they left. The passage contains an interesting comment – they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. This signifies that he made no additional preparation for the journey. He was already in the little boat, so they just hauled anchor and left the crowd behind – although a few other boats did follow along. Jesus may have been sitting or perhaps even reclining a bit on the cushion in the stern as he taught. When he decided to leave, he stayed where he was and asked the owners or users of the boat to take him to the “other side” – perhaps Capernaum. The trip started out well enough, but soon there was trouble in the weather. A storm interrupted their journey.

Because of the surrounding geography, the Sea of Galilee is especially susceptible to storms. There are large temperature and humidity differences between the sea’s coast and the surrounding mountains some of which are up to 2000 feet above sea level. The cool, drier air in the heights collides with the moist, warm air at the level of the lake and generates a convection pressure which can generate terrific wind and rain – squalls – in a very short time. Everything can be A-OK one moment, and then in a jiffy a small craft out on the lake can be violently tossed about with a good chance of capsizing. The winds are compressed as they come through the valleys between the hills and when they break out across the surface of the water they can be surprisingly disorienting and very dangerous in mere moments.  The kinds of boats in use at that time were between 20 to 30 feet long and around 8 feet wide. Such small craft would be really dangerous in bad weather.

jesus-christ-calming-the-stormIt was that kind of a storm that blew up that evening – sudden, violent, tossing water into the boat so that it was already starting to sink. Jesus was so tired he had fallen asleep on a cushion in the stern of the small boat. He didn’t notice the erratic movements of the boat or the water splashing over the sides. He didn’t wake up in the storm; he only woke up when the disciples roused him and said to him “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” There were other boats around them, and they too were tossed about in this sudden squall. Once Jesus was awake, he took immediate action. He rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. Everyone who had been in that storm which came up so suddenly was just as suddenly dead calm in the water. No sign of the storm remained. In its place were only wonder and awe. Jesus looked out over the water and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” These are words of command.

(Click HERE to hear a Hymn about this. I sang this often at Corona Presbyterian in Sunday School.)

Jesus had used similar expressions of rebuke before. In Mark 1:25 we read how Jesus rebuked a demon: But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” There is a parallel of the story of the storm at sea in Matthew, and in Matthew 8:26 we read, And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. The same event in Luke 8:25 reads 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” In Mark 4:40 it reads like this: 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”  In this statement, the Greek for “still” is οὔπω (oupó) {oo’-po}. It is an adverb that expresses the negative “not yet.” In all three versions, the disciples are astonished that Jesus could have such authority over the weather. (The Gospel of John does not cover this event.)

In this truly significant account of Jesus’ life we draw three great lessons. First that Jesus is God, for only God can control the wind and the sea.

Proverbs 30:4Who has ascended to heaven and come down?     Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?     Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is the person’s name?     And what is the name of the person’s child?     Surely you know!

We also see that Jesus was confident and comfortable with his decision to cross the lake. He knew there would be a storm – he is of course omniscient – and yet he decided to cross knowing that there would be a storm; and he knew it could be calmed in the same way he knew that the death of Lazarus would lead to giving God glory. He was confident he would be at peace because he knew his Father was with him:

Proverbs 3:24 If you sit down, you will not be afraid;     when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 4:8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;     for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.

The third truth we see in this story is that Jesus was also completely human. He was exhausted and needed rest. We don’t often think of Jesus’ humanity and the ordinary events of daily life. He went to parties, he sang, he slept, ate, dreamed, laughed, wept, bathed, used a latrine, and enjoyed his friends. All of these (and thousands more) are things we do because we are human. In addition, Jesus often withdrew from the press of the crowds to take some “down-time.” He knew, as a human, that it is unhealthy to be working ceaselessly without a change of pace. It is his humanity that made his Passion possible because, as a human, he died and was buried.

We need to remember Jesus’ divinity and humanity when we hear this account of Calming the Storm at Sea. When the storm broke, even seasoned fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John knew it was dangerous. After Jesus rebuked the storm with divine words of command, everything went perfectly calm, and they reflected on the majestic power of God in the still of the night. When Jesus calms the storms in our lives, we should also take time to meditate and give glory, thanks, and praise to God who alone give light to our days.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages)


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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