raging in fear – a reflection on Mark 4:35-41

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Gospels / Lectionary / Year B

The following is a reflection on Mark 4:35-41, the Gospel Lesson for Proper 7B, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.


A storm blowing out to sea in Curacao. Photo by Rick Morley.

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

Have you ever felt like this? Have you ever felt like you were sinking in a raging sea, and no matter how hard you prayed, and how intently you looked for Jesus, Jesus just didn’t seem to be listening?

Did you ever feel like you would hit the bottom of the sea before Jesus ever got around to doing anything about it?

Have you ever asked out loud: Why? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? O God, do you even care?

…Yeah, me too…

So, I think that this story from Mark 4, of Jesus calming the sea, is an interesting one. And while I don’t waste any time questioning the historicity of the Gospel accounts, I want to say up front that I think that there is more going on here than Mark just recording a stormy evening in the life of Jesus.

I think that this is Mark speaking directly to the Church, to the early church and to us: There will be times when you feel like your boat is being swamped. And, when that happens, do not be afraid. Jesus does care. Jesus is there. Jesus will calm the storm.

Of course, Mark is a wartime Gospel. Written either just before, or just after, the destruction of Jerusalem—God’s people had great reason to think that they were sinking. Their whole world was crashing in on them. People were dying. Everything that they had held holy was being thrown down.

And here we have Jesus speaking to the People of God, telling them: Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?

It can’t be said enough: God never, ever, ever promises that nothing bad will ever happen. God never promises smooth sailing and blue skies every day. If you think that God promises this, you haven’t read your Bible lately.

What God does promise is that when the world comes crashing down, God is right there with us. Jesus is there with us, in the sinking boat.

This is an important part of the story: Jesus isn’t elsewhere. He isn’t in some cush-y palace somewhere eating olives and hummus.

He is in the boat with the disciples. Sinking.

And then he calms the storm.

So, maybe the world is crashing in on you today. Maybe it was yesterday. And then again, maybe it will be tomorrow.

But, whenever it does—and it’s not a matter of “if”, but “when”—whatever you think, and whatever your prayer, know that you haven’t been abandoned. God isn’t on a lunch break. God isn’t out for you.

God is with you. And all you need is enough faith to get you through to the moment when Jesus speaks, “Peace. Be still.”


The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella


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