Thursday, April 4, 2013

Notes on Mark: The Storm

MARK 4:35-41
A few basics to put us in the scene. I like the detail of Jesus being asleep upon a pillow. It definitely is eye witness information when it is at that level.
The Lake of Galilee was notorious for its storms. They came literally out of the blue with shattering and terrifying suddenness. A writer describes them like this: " It is not unusual to see terrible squalls hurl themselves, even when the sky is perfectly clear, upon these waters which are ordinarily so calm. The numerous ravines which to the north-east and east debauch upon the upper part of the lake operate as to many dangerous defiles in which the winds from the heights of Hauran, the plateaus of Trachonitis, and the summit of Mount Hermon are caught and compressed in such a way than, rushing with tremendous force through a narrow space and then being suddenly released, they agitate the little Lake of Gennesaret in the most frightful fashion." The voyager across the lake was always liable to encounter just such sudden storms as this.

Jesus was in the boat in the position in which any distinguished guest would be conveyed. We are told that, "In these boats ... the place for any distinguished stranger is on the little seat placed at the stern, where a carpet and cushion are arranged. The helmsman stands a little farther forward on the deck, though near the stern, in order to have a better look-out ahead."

It is interesting to note that the words Jesus addressed to the wind and the waves are exactly the same as he addressed to the demon-possessed man in Mark 1:25. Just as an evil demon possessed that man, so the destructive power of the storm was, so people in Palestine believed in those days, the evil power of the demons at work in the realm of nature.
The Gospel of Mark(The Daily Bible Series, rev. ed.)
Symbolically, even if we don't believe that the evil power of demons is at work in nature, Scripture is telling us something along those lines about Jesus' power by having him calm the sea. Sometimes it seems as if we are about to be overwhelmed by troubles as vast and unpredictable as the ocean and then we must turn to Jesus to calm our storm.
Besides being vast and powerful, the sea is also unpredictable. When a storm rises, even a short distance can seem like miles. Throughout scripture, the surging power of the sea has been used to represent the forces of chaos and darkness in the world -- images we read of in the telling of the great flood (Genesis 7:17-24) and the mythic sea creature, Leviathan (Psalm 74:13-14; Isaiah 27:1).
Mark: A Devotional Commentary
(The Word Among Us)
And a reflection to remind us that Scripture speaks to you and me today.
Mark narrates this story not only to recount the memorable event of the storm, but also to reflect the experience of the early Christians. ... How often have [Jesus'] disciples through the ages felt that way in the midst of "storms" of persecution, natural disasters, or personal troubles? But Jesus' authority is without limit and though he allows trials in the end nothing can truly harm those who trust in him. His reproach in verse 40 is an invitation for all Christians to awaken their faith in his presence and in his absolute authority over the cosmos.... Indeed, the most repeated command in Scripture is "Do not fear!" Why? Because to refuse to give in to fear disables the enemy's strategy, which is to dissuade Jesus' followers from their mission. When we have no fear, the enemy trembles in fear.

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