Calming the Storm: A Prequel

The story of Jesus calming the storm (Mark 4:36-41) is a pretty well known one. Crossing the Sea of Galilee after a long day preaching to the crowds, Jesus falls asleep in the stern of the boat. As they travel across the sea, a storm comes up and the disciples fear they will drown. Frightened, they awaken Jesus who stands up and commands the wind and sea to be quiet and the storm is stilled. The astonished disciples ask "Who is this man who commands the wind and seas and they obey?"

A familiar story that at first glance seems to be another account of the miraculous power of Jesus.  What you may not be familiar with is the prequel to this story. As Jesus and the disciples approach the boat Thomas asks Jesus "where do you want to go Teacher?" And Jesus, settling into the stern of the boat replies, "oh, I don't care. Where do all of you want to go?"

Thus begins a virtual whirlwind of thoughts, opinions and commentary by the disciples. Peter begins with "I think we should stay right where we are. There's  no telling how much danger might be lurking out there."

John responds with "we could go to Magdala. Everyone loves us there. Surely it can't be dangerous there. But I don't want to make waves. Wherever everyone else wants to go I'm ok with that."

Judas gets a worried look and states "we shouldn't go anywhere without life jackets!" To which Thaddeus adds we better patch up those holes before we go too. A boat should be tight letting nothing in .. Or out for that matter."

Jesus begins to nod off just as Bartholomew shares that he has seen a vision of a peaceful beach where the fishing is good and everything is calm. "I'm not sure of course," he says, "but I'm pretty sure. It's to the east a bit. At least I think it is."

"No, No, no." Shouts Thomas. You're always talking about these visions. There's no way of knowing for sure. Let's go to Hippas. I hear all kinds of deep thinking comes from there and I want to see for myself what these great thinkers look like.

James, son of Zebedee joins in with a grunt of dismissal. "None of you know what you are talking about. I know where to go. I know the people in all these places. I know the winds and fishing. It really should be up to me. And if you would all just stop talking I could figure it out."

By now, Jesus is fast asleep as Andrew shouts that they should row against the wind as there is better fishing over there and surely they are strong enough to fight the wind. Then James, the son of Alpheus speaks up saying "I think we should go east. We always go west. Let's try something different." Philip just wanted to be heard and kept interjecting quite loudly that no one ever listened to him. Matthew stated that he was going to Philoteria, "... come hell or high water."  Simon thought they were wasting their time talking and just needed to start rowing or they would never get anywhere at all.

And so the disciples cast off with Jesus sound asleep in the stern of the boat and no decision about what direction they should go. And well, you know the rest, a great storm ensued.

When Jesus awakens to calm the storm we are given a glimpse into the power and presence of God demonstrated by Jesus.  But on a metaphysical level the story invites us to reflect on how being awake to the presence of God within us, right here in our very own vessel of life, helps us to quiet the stormy seas of life, to calm the whirling of thoughts that swirl through our minds.

© 2015 Rev. Eileen Patra, CSE, LUT