2009 - Vol. 32
Stilling of the Storm at Sea:
of the Wind
untroubled sleep of Jesus and his sovereign authority over wind and wave
are a powerful invitation to recognize in him the one who can do all things.
Latourelle, SJ, The Miracles of Jesus and the Theology of Miracles
Both human and divine
At Jesus’ initiative the apostles set out across the Sea of Galilee
to the eastern shore, six or seven miles distant, as the sun was setting
behind the Galilean hills (Mark 4:35). Tired after a long day of preaching
and teaching, Jesus slept soundly in the stern of the boat, oblivious to
the rising squall. This is the sole instance recorded in the gospels of
Jesus sleeping, an image that vividly illustrates his humanness, as well
as the hiddenness of his divine nature, which is a dominant theme in Mark’s
Experienced fishermen that they were, Jesus’ disciples were badly frightened
by the violence of the storm. Following their master had gotten them into
this life-threatening situation, and a reproachful tone is heard in their
anxious cry as they woke him:, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
(Mark 4:38). Melo, the Greek verb used in this complaint, can also be translated
“Does it not matter to you?” The same verb is found in Martha’s question,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by
myself?” (Luke 10:40). In both instances, Jesus’ response was the same:
to calm the turbulence of troubled hearts and the storms that raged around
The waves are
With a mere word of command—“Be still!” (Mark 4:39)—Jesus subdued the
wind and the sea, showing his power over natural elements. Just as God
brought the waters into being (Genesis 1:6-10), tamed roaring waves (Psalm
65:7), and parted the Red Sea before Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 14:21-22;
Psalm 77:16, 19-20), Jesus exercised authority and showed mastery over
the storm-tossed waters of the Sea of Galilee. “The waves are his creatures
and behave as such by offering him the fealty of obedience,” notes Scripture
commentator Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word).
In ancient times, the wind and sea were often seen as symbols of chaos.
The way Jesus rebuked the elements may also imply that there was an evil
force behind the storm, for he calmed the waves with the same command that
he used to silence unclean spirits (Mark 1:25; Luke 4:35). It is noteworthy
that this miraculous event occurred while Jesus was crossing the lake to
pagan territory—the country of the Gerasenes—where he was extending his
ministry to gentiles and was soon to confront the unclean spirit “Legion”
and heal the man possessed by a demon (Mark 5:1-13). In each of the synoptic
gospels, the report of the stilling the storm leads into a sequence recounting
Jesus’ authority and power in exorcising evil spirits, curing the ill,
and raising the dead (Matthew 8:28–9:31; Mark 5:1-42; Luke 8:26-56). René
Latourelle notes that “Jesus is victorious over death, sickness, sin, and
the forces of nature, simply because in his very being he is God-among-us.
It is not more difficult for him to control the wind and the sea than to
prevail over sin and death” (The Miracles of Jesus and the Theology of
Who Jesus really
When the terrified disciples woke Jesus, was it only to reproach him
with a cry of desperation because they thought they were doomed? Even if
their cry expressed an expectant faith that he could do something to save
them, their understanding and faith were still deficient: For they did
not yet realize that their teacher was the Son of God and that therefore
they were safe all along. Finally, the disciples’ fear of the storm turned
into awe at Jesus’ tremendous deed, and they wondered, “Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). Jesus’ display of
power awakened them to the mystery of his transcendence and identity.
The question of who Jesus really is is a recurring theme in the gospels
(Luke 5:21; 7:49; 8:25). It is also a question each of us must answer in
the depths of our own heart, especially when we are faced with the need
of a savior in the storms of life.
Jeanne Kun is a noted author
and a senior womens' leader in the Word
of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
in Power: The Miracles of Jesus, The Word Among Us Press, Copyright
© 2006. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
at Sea by Rembrandt
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across
to the other side." 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in
the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great
storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat
was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"
39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!"
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why
are you afraid? Have you no faith?" 41 And they were filled with awe, and
said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
In the Spotlight:
Wisdom from the
He who was sleeping was awakened and cast the
sea into a sleep. He reveals the wakefulness of his divinity that never
sleeps by the wakefulness of the sea that was now sleeping. He rebuked
the wind and it became still. What is this power, or what is this goodness
of Jesus? See, he subjected by force that which was not his. Our Lord showed
that he was the Son of the Creator by means of the wind of the sea and
by the spirits and demons that he silenced.
Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Tatian’s Diatessaron
We are also sailing on a voyage, not from one
land to another but from earth to heaven. Let us prepare our power of reasoning
as a pilot able to conduct us on high, and let us gather a crew obedient
to it. Let us prepare a strong ship, the kind that the buffeting and discouragements
of this life will not submerge, or the wind of false pretense raise up,
but will be sleek and swift. If we prepare the ship, pilot and the crew
in this way, we will sail with a favoring wind and draw to ourselves the
Son of God, the true Pilot. He will not permit our ship to be overwhelmed,
even if countless winds blow. He will rebuke the winds and the sea and
will bring about a great calm in place of the tempest.
John Chrysostom, Commentary on St. John