Jesus Stills A Storm

Mark 4:35-41

Teaching t10950


Tonight we’re going to look at one of Jesus’ miracles that is recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke – Jesus stilling a violent storm. We will focus on Mark’s account in Mk.4.

After teaching on the north side of the sea of Galilee – a fresh-water lake 14 by 8 miles (MAP), Jesus asked His disciples to take Him to the other side (read 4:35,36). Several of His disciples were fishermen, so this was no problem for them.

Read 4:37. Sudden, violent night-time storms like this one are known to occur on the Sea of Galilee. Because it is ringed by high hills (PICTURE), it is normally very calm. But cool air sometimes rushes through the ravines and collides with the warm lake air to produce quickly-developing squalls.

Read 4:38,39. The storm did not gradually dissipate; it went from a raging wind and high waves to total calm the instant that Jesus rebuked it and uttered the command: “Hush! Be still!” He uttered this command, and the storm immediately subsided.

Read 4:40. We will come back to this verse soon.

Read 4:41. The disciples’ fear of the storm has been replaced a great awe (different word from 4:40 – phobos) of Jesus. Jesus had already demonstrated His authority by healing the sick and delivering people from demons. But His stilling of the storm demonstrates even greater authority – He is God, the God that Ps.107 describes in an eerily similar passage (read Ps.107:26-29).

By the way, this is not a legendary, embellished story that developed much later (like Paul Bunyan). The Gospel of Mark was written too early for this (~ 60 AD), and Mark is recording Peter’s eye-witness account.

But Jesus is the great Multi-tasker. He uses this event not only to reveal His authority, but also to teach His disciples (and us) four key lessons about following Him (taught throughout the Bible)...

#1: Following Jesus does not mean immunity from “storms”

The first lesson we learn is that following Jesus does not mean immunity from “storms.” Jesus explicitly told them to go to the other side of the lake. It was because they were following his leadership that they got into this storm! And it was because they followed his leadership after this storm that they ran into another terrible “storm”—a confrontation with a demoniac. So whatever is involved in following Jesus in this life, it is not a “storm-free” existence.

The time will come (when Jesus returns) when there will be no more storms. Jesus will eradicate all evil and bring lasting peace to humanity and restore nature itself to perfect submission to him and his followers. But until then, Jesus is headed into an evil, abnormal, broken world to rescue people that He loves. And until then, following him means that we will have storms break suddenly upon us. Not only are we not exempt from the same storms that everyone faces (EXAMPLES). We will also have additional storms because we are following Him to help lost and needy people (EXAMPLES).

Unfortunately, some versions of Christianity teach that if you are following Jesus, there will be no storms in your life (HEALER-DEALERS), and/or that He will quickly calm every storm. Such teaching is false, and because it is false it is harmful to Jesus’ reputation and to those who believe it. The good news about following Jesus is not that there will be no storms; the good news is when the storms come, Jesus is in your boat!

#2: Storms expose our “little faith” in Jesus

The second lesson is that storms expose the weakness of our faith in Jesus. After He calmed this storm, Jesus asked them: “Do you still have no faith?” This may sound like Jesus is saying they are totally devoid of faith, but that’s not what He means. In Matthew’s account (Matt.8:26), He says: “You men of little faith” (literally: “You little faiths.” In Luke’s account, He asks: “Where is your faith?” So the issue is not that they have no faith at all, but that their faith was deficient. Their reaction during the storm exposed the weakness of their faith in Jesus.

What did Jesus see that revealed the littleness of their faith? Mark says that they were very afraid (Mk.4:40). The word here is deilos, which means “filled with dread” or “cowardly.” This is different than the normal emotion of fear that arises in danger (which is not the opposite of faith, but rather its context). This is letting fear seize you and take control of you so that you panic. In their case, this fear manifested itself by their belief that Jesus didn’t care whether they perished (4:38).

Can you relate to the disciples? I sure can! Storms far less threatening than theirs can expose me as a “little faith.” Just a few weeks ago, a storm hit me through a family crisis. Suddenly, I was besieged by crippling dread. My heart sank, my thoughts spun out of control, and I could hardly function. I felt like the disciples—like I was all alone before an overwhelming storm. I prayed, but my prayer was almost an accusation: “This is terrible—where are You?” My faith was exposed as “little”—yet Jesus taught me another lesson that He also taught His disciples...

#3: Jesus responds to our “little faith” in Him

Re-read 4:38. They had “little faith”—yet they called out to Him. Luke says they said: “Save us, Lord, for we are perishing!” And Jesus didn’t say: “Too bad your faith is so weak—come back when it’s stronger.” He graciously responded to their “little faith” by helping them (4:39).

This same lesson is even clearer in an encounter between Jesus and a man with a demon-possessed son (recount Mk.9:20-23). Jesus sounds cruel as He exposes this man’s “little faith.” The man freely admits that he has “little faith” and humbly asks Jesus to help him with his unbelief (read 9:24). Jesus does not rebuff him for his “little faith.” Rather, He graciously responds by delivering his son.

This is a critically important lesson. When we need help from Jesus, we often think that only strong faith will help us. But the truth is exactly the reverse: the object of your faith (Jesus) is far more important than the strength of your faith.

This is true in many “non-spiritual” areas of life. You can have very strong faith that some quack therapist can heal you of your appendicitis, and the placebo effect may alleviate your symptoms temporarily—but you will not be healed. On the other hand, you can submit yourself as a “little faith” to a competent surgeon, your hand shaking as you sign the permission papers and feeling panic as they wheel you into the O. R.—but you will be healed just as fully as one who had strong faith. It’s not the strength of your faith that heals you; it is the competence of the surgeon.

This lesson is crucial in becoming a Christian. Everyone knows that in order to become a Christian, you must put your faith in Jesus (quote Jn.3:16). “But,” you may say, “I have so little faith and so many doubts about this—certainly far less faith than these Christians who are urging me to believe in Jesus. I must wait until I have much stronger faith before I could become a Christian.” Don’t you see that you are making the strength of your faith more important than its Object? Bring the “little faith” that you have to Jesus and ask to come into your heart! He will graciously respond to your “little faith”—just as he did with me (MY RESPONSE TO REV.3:20: “If You exist, I am asking You to come into my heart...”).

It is also important in following Jesus after you receive Him. You will never get to the point where you have perfect faith—you will almost always have fears and doubts when storms hit you. Don’t beat yourself up for this, or listen to Satan’s accusation that this disqualifies you from Jesus’ help. Just go to Jesus with the faith that you have. He will not reject you because of your little faith, and He will help you.

Sometimes He will instantly deliver you from your storm, as in this passage. More often, He will provide you with strength to get through the storm—and then send it away later. Sometimes He will not take the storm away until you die—but He will give you the strength to flourish in it (RON K.). Leave the way of His deliverance to Him; come to Him and cast yourself upon Him.

#4: Jesus challenges us to overcome fear with faith

There is one more lesson in this passage. It may sound contradictory to the previous lesson, but it is actually complementary. Jesus graciously responded to their “little faith”—but afterward He asked them a searching question: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He challenged them to overcome their fears with faith in Him. Jesus issues this same challenge to you and me. How can we do this? This goes beyond this passage, but there are four key biblical answers to this question.

Admit your fears. John Stott said, “Fear is like fungus; it grows in the darkness but shrinks in the light.” Many Christians are crippled by their fears become they don’t admit them (MACHO; DENIAL). Repressed fears don’t go away; they collect in your soul and come out sideways in anger, depression, etc. This is what the Bible calls “supplication,” and this is why so many of the Psalms are supplication Psalms. The psalmists model admitting their fears to God, and to other believers. Are you currently crippled by some fear? Tell God and at least one Christian friend! Sometimes this step alone cuts the power of your fear.

Focus on relevant biblical promises. There are LOTS of promises in the Bible related to God helping us when we are afraid (366 “Do not be afraid,” with most of them connected to “I am with you.” Here is one promise that has greatly helped with my fears since I was a young Christian just starting to teach the Bible (quote Ps.3:3-6 – 1972; CAMBODIA; XSI; FAMILY CRISIS). After admitting your fears to God, say: “But You say... and I choose to believe this promise and thank You for it.” Do you have such promises? Do you focus on them? If you don’t know any relevant promises, ask a Christian friend!

Remember previous examples of God’s faithfulness. This is one of the great benefits of walking with God over a period of years – God’s track-record of faithfulness increases. Sometimes you can remember when He did this in the same area of your current fear (ME WITH FAMILY CRISES). Sometimes it was in a different area, but it still demonstrates God’s faithfulness (“SPIRITUAL GEOMETRY” – David with lions and bears >> Goliath). The disciples should have done this, because Jesus had already proved Himself authoritative over other dangers (e.g., SICKNESS; DEMONS). If you can’t remember such a time, ask a Christian friend if they have one they can relate to you.

Step out in faith to do God’s will in spite of your fear. This is what 1Pet. 4:19 emphasizes in a chapter all about fear related to persecution. Don’t wait until you feel freed from fear to act. Act and you will experience (sometimes immediate; sometimes later) freedom from fear. Conversely, fear is like a BOA-CONSTRICTOR – the more you submit to it, the more power it exerts over you.

Sometimes, this step is letting go of something you know is outside God’s will (e.g., breaking up a sexually immoral relationship). Sometimes, this step is choosing to not act self-protectively (e.g., lying to cover your failure; avoiding confronting someone). Sometimes, this step is continuing to do what you feel afraid to keep doing (e.g., Daniel’s prayer times; me resisting parents’ pressure to back off a ministry lifestyle). Sometimes, it is choosing to serve others even though you still feel afraid (e.g., me in spring 1973).

Ajith Fernando summarizes these steps: “Fear is the normal reaction of humans to danger... It becomes sin when it paralyzes us and prevents us from launching out in obedience to God. The Christian response to fear is to address it with our belief in the sovereignty of God... We (then) find out what God’s will is concerning the fear-causing situation, and we concentrate on doing that will, believing that God will see us through.”


Summarize four lessons >> Q & A

The disciples’ reaction in 4:41 makes no sense otherwise. If the storm subsided later and gradually, they would not have connected this to Jesus’ command. This is why the NLT translates: “Suddenly the wind stopped.”

“The Markan account of the subduing of the wind and the sea bears the marks of the personal reminiscence of one who had experienced the event ... the unnecessary reference to the other boats which were present... the precise location of Jesus’ position (‘in the stern, asleep on the cushion’)... combine to suggest an eye-witness report.” William Lane, The Gospel of Mark, p. 175.

Ajith Fernando, Deuteronomy (Crossway Books), p. 64.