Why Jesus Rebukes His Disciples on the Stormy Sea – A Commentary on Mark 4:35-41

Jesus rebukes the disciples

It’s a well-known story. Jesus and his disciples are crossing over to the other side of the lake. Jesus falls asleep in the boat. A furious storm breaks out over the sea. The boat fills with water and Jesus remains asleep. Panicked, the disciples cry out to Jesus. He wakes and calms the storm.

After Jesus quiets the wind and the waves, he turns to his disciples and says “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

So why this rebuke from Jesus? Why does he criticize the disciples? What, precisely, is Jesus bothered with?

I’m finding this passage absolutely fascinating because I think there is something really subtle going on that I have just noticed for the first time.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-40)

At a surface level, in the passage, Jesus is correcting his disciples for not trusting in him, for not having faith. But Mark 4:37 tells us that the boat was nearly swamped. So is Jesus telling them that they need to wait even longer—until the boat is full to the brim with water? Do they need to wait to wake Jesus until they’re all fully underwater and flailing around in the sea? After all, at that point Jesus would have been plunged into the lake also.

The answer to those questions is: I don’t think so. I don’t think this passage is about the storm water rising. It’s not a test of faith for the disciples of whether Jesus can save them.

But rather it’s about the fact that when the disciples come to Jesus they say, “Teacher, don’t you care for us?” (Mark 4:38). That is how they wake him. That is how they call for his help. The question of faith is not whether Jesus CAN save them, it’s whether he CARES enough to consider it.

The disciples come to Jesus with this assumption that because they’re facing a challenge, and a pretty significant one (drowning), that it means Jesus doesn’t care about them.

Let me say that again, the disciples assume that just because they are facing a significant threat to their lives, that means that Jesus doesn’t love them. It’s this idea that Jesus scolds them for. The disciples need to learn to trust that the presence of hardship doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t care for them.

Oh how I am reminded with this story to reflect that when I call out to Jesus in hardship, am I approaching him from the assumption that he is abandoning me? Am I falling into the same foolish paradigm that the disciples did on that day on the water? When I call out to Him may I do so just knowing that He cares, that He loves me regardless of whatever happens to our ship.

To Live is Christ and To Die is Gain: Exploring Suffering in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

to live is Christ and to die is gain

Paul’s statement that ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain’ is one of the boldest sentences in Scripture.

As Christians, it’s a passage that we often quote and that we readily intellectually assent to; however, most of us—if honest—sense that we are not really living it the way that Paul was. Our lives (time, money, passion) are not wholly given over to serving; and we do not face death fearlessly, longing for union with God.

I’ve wanted to really understand these words. And as someone who now has an illness, I feel it’s imperative.

This statement of Paul is found in the book of Philippians, which though a short letter, has some of the most recognized and poetic passages in the Bible. And much to my surprise, when I took a deeper look, I found that this book is all about suffering.

So why does Paul write an entire letter addressing suffering?

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All is ‘Hevel’: Finding Meaning in Ecclesiastes (Koheleth)

Ecclesiastes - hevel - vapor

Many great thinkers have reported benefiting considerably from the book of Ecclesiastes (or ‘Koheleth,’ as it’s known in Hebrew). The word ‘Koheleth’ directly translates as the assembler of the people and true to its title, the book states, for these people, the author’s conclusions of his long and fully-lived life.

Ecclesiastes is both an incredibly easy book to synthesize (its leading refrain—that all is ‘hevel’ or vapor/meaningless—is repeated throughout) and a great challenge to explain (it’s nihilism is found essentially nowhere else in the Bible).

Personally, I’ve not benefited much from the wisdom literature of the Scriptures, but I think that is because it is so challenging to understand. Yet, on my most recent read-through of Ecclesiastes it made sense like never before. I hope, perhaps, I am learning what Solomon learned without the painful end that he experienced.

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Forgiven But Still Crippled: A Commentary on Luke 5:20-24

Forgiven Yet Still Crippled: Luke Chapter 5 Commentary

I just noticed something fascinating about the story in Luke chapter 5 (see text at bottom of article) where Jesus heals the paralyzed man who is lowered down into the busy room through the roof.

In many of the miracles that Jesus’ performs, he enacts physical and spiritual healing at the same time. Or occasionally he grants physical healing first, hoping to prompt a subsequent spiritual awakening by the recipient, such as in the story of the blind man healed at the Pool of Bethesda in John chapter 5.

But this story is different.

Here, Jesus forgives the man first. And it’s only after that that Jesus then heals the man’s legs.

What this text subtly indicates is actually quite fascinating: our spiritual healing is not connected with our physical health.

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Jesus the Iconoclast: Understanding the Reading of the Isaiah Scroll (Luke 4:16-30)

Jesus as the great iconoclast seems to be a recurring theme recently in passages I have read.

I’ve always been perplexed by the story in Luke’s gospel where Jesus reads from the Isaiah scroll and the members of the synagogue then attempt to throw him off a cliff for it.

Interestingly, as I was reading through Luke and stopping to focus on this story, I concurrently came to a chapter in Kenneth Bailey’s brilliant book, ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’, that deals with this confusing portion of text.

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