To the Other Side! Mark 4:35-41

Jesus’ ministry begins as he is walking along the Sea of Galilee. Surrounded by hills and at a depth of 680 feet (207 meters) below sea level, the Sea of Galilee was a funnel for surprisingly sudden and dramatic storms. The sea itself was shaped like a wind tunnel at twelve and one-half miles long and anywhere from four to seven and one-half miles wide.

There are references to Jesus’ walking beside, crossing, or approaching the sea in each of the first eight chapters of this Gospel, and Jesus mentions it in his teaching in 9:42 and 11:23. In 3:9 he has asked the disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the risk that the crowd pressing upon him for healing and exorcism might crush him. Then in 4:1 there is indeed such a very large crowd that he gets into a boat on the sea and teaches from there while the crowd listens from the land. He is using the boat as a pulpit

1 Jesus was/is the Messiah . Overcoming disease and death were signs that Jesus was the Messiah, that the messianic reign of God has finally arrived. It was believed that when the Messiah came, “the blind would receive their sight, the lame would walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf would hear, the dead would be raised up, and the poor would have good news preached to them.” (Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:18-23). This was a fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 29:18 ("the deaf shall hear; the blind shall see") and Isaiah 35:5, 8 ("eyes of the blind opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, the lame man shall leap like a rabbit, the tongue of a dumb man shall leap for joy.")

This incident falls within the later Galilean ministry of Jesus. It is part of a set of stories which demonstrate Jesus’ victory over powers hostile to God, 4:35-5:43. In fact, it serves as part of a very nice package of stories. We see Jesus victorious over the powers of the deep (possibly nature, although more likely Satan), demon possession, sickness and death. In these stories we are confronted with Jesus’ word of power over dark forces, a word that interplays with the human response of faith.

2 Faith and Fear. Going into Gentile Land

The focus here seems rather to be on the very reception of Jesus’ message, how it is heard, how it is heeded or taken to heart, how it never takes root in some while in others it blooms and bears fruit beyond measure .

As they are crossing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, they are also crossing other boundaries

You have to admire these disciples for even listening to Jesus; but you also have to think they knew they would be lucky to make it across the lake without trouble. They knew what they were heading into and they went anyway. This was a bold response to a Christ-centered command. Once again, we find the disciples willing to follow their Lord to a place where most of us would never go

At issue also are faith (4:40) and fear (4:41). Six times in Mark, the disciples are said to be seized by the "fear" that blends terror and awe (phobos, or the verb phobeomai). Two are in the stories of the storms at sea (4:41; 6:50). Two others accompany passion predictions (9:32; 10:32). The others are at the Transfiguration (9:6) and the empty tomb (16:8). All of these moments place us unequivocally in the presence of God. They are epiphanies!

Jesus crosses many social and spiritual boundaries. He eats with unsuitable people, breaks Sabbath laws, associates with the unclean and heals them at the wrong times, and communicates with unclean spirits. Crossing to the other side with Jesus may be a risky, unpredictable proposition, and in this passage, the wind and the sea create a visual manifestation of the dangers of being in the boat with him.

Context: this is the first story in a sequence of four stories about healing. This precise sequence is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and it seems that all four stories belong together.

These stories are:

a) the healing of the storm,b) the healing of the demoniac,c) the healing of Jairus’ daughter andd) the healing of the woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years. (In 4:35-5:43 Jesus teaches with miracles — stilling the storm (4:35-41); the demonic legion (5:1-20); raising Jairus’ daughter and healing the woman with a flow of blood (5:21-43


The drama of this story hinges on four questions, with a concluding exclamation:

  1. Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?
  2. Why are you so afraid?
  3. Do you still have no faith?
  4. Who is this?

Even the wind and sea obey him

When evening comes Jesus and the disciples leave the shore in this same boat and set out to, of all places, Gentile lands. There, Jesus will surprisingly heal an unclean, unreligious, demon-possessed foreigner and send him to proclaim the Gospel to even more Gentiles (Mark 5:19-20). The movement of Jesus and his message across major geographic, cultural, and religious boundaries

The trip across the lake represents the Gentile mission for Mark. The storm at sea represents the storms in the early church as they sought to carry out Jesus’ command "to go to the other side" or "to make disciples of all nations." It may be noted that the area where the congregation is sitting is properly called the "nave," from the Latin "navis" = ship. ("Navy" comes from the same root.)

An additional focal point of this text is Jesus’ authority over the created world. This miracle story echoes the story of Jonah where Jonah is aroused and called upon to pray that his ship might be saved (Jonah 1:6). The parallel between the two stories is then sharply broken in order to present Jesus as greater than a prophet (and also as one who follows God instead of fleeing). Instead of praying, Jesus himself rebukes the storm and commands the wind and the waves to be silent and muzzled. A calm then emerges that demonstrates Jesus’ control over the chaotic elements which threaten the disciples. Both Jesus’ authority and willingness to take action raise questions about who Jesus is and how we are to put our trust in

v35-37. 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

This is a story Simon Peter told Mark

Jesus has been preaching beside the sea of Galilee and rounds up his teaching with personal instruction to the disciples. (after Peter’s mother-in-law was healed of her fever in Peter’s home in Capernaum and after Jesus had healed many people as they were gathered about the door of Peter’s home that night .)

The boat separates and protects Jesus from the crowd and becomes his rostrum for teaching.

Both stormy crossing are commanded by Jesus. Crossing to the other side is not an option for those who want to obey/follow Jesus. The only safe way to "cross over to the other side" is to trust Jesus to calm the storms that will arise because of the missionary effort to "Gentiles".

Following his usual practice of moving on to continue his gospel ministry, the team sets sail for the Eastern shore of the lake. Evening sailing was usually much safer, certainly than the afternoons when the wind often increased. On this occasion a storm hit and the boat was about to be swamped.

. Again, notice the detail in this picture. Leaving the crowds behind. The disciples took Jesus in the boat “just as he was.” What does “just as he was” mean? That he did not have time to dress properly for a trip in a boat? Notice the detail: "Other boats were with him ."

v38-39. 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.

Does 3 things

– rebuke wind

– silences sea

– And, he challenges his followers to deepen their faith.

The fact that at least four of Jesus’ disciples were professional fishermen heightens the severity of the storm

During the time of Jesus, it was thought that demons caused the storms on the lake and also caused the storms in the “possessed man.” Jesus was able to control the demons within the stormy seas and he was also able to control the demons within the crazed man. The miracle story spoke deeply to the world in which people lived because demons were the cause of everything evil e.g. violent storms on the lake and violent storms in a disturbed man.

They woke Jesus and virtually accused him of not caring about their fate. Jesus responds by stilling the storm. He actually "rebukes" the storm, commanding it to be silent. This is exactly the way he treats the demonic powers. Powers have threatened Jesus and his disciples, and Jesus responds by muzzling them with a word of authority .

The word rebuke is used when Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit in 1:25 (also 3:12 and 9:25). And the unclean spirit in 1:25 is also told to be muzzled. In 1:27, the crowd marvels that even the unclean spirits obey this one who teaches with authority, and here the disciples marvel that even the wind and the sea obey their teacher. "What is this?" the crowd asks (1:27). "Who is this?" ask the disciples here who now understand that it is not just a question of some power at work in him but of something about who he actually is.

The resemblance to exorcism underscores the extent of the threat and also suggests that Jesus’ effective rebuke of the wind and the sea is another instance of his power over all evil. His teaching of the kingdom word is authoritative because the kingdom is also most powerfully at hand in him.

Jesus’ rebuking has an eschatological character, not just pacifying the environment for now, but promising and bringing in a future where neither chaos nor even death can separate us from God’s love. T hat recognition will take us to another chaos moment, the "showing up" of God in the terror of Jesus’ cross — where Jesus does not explain our suffering, but participates in it, even takes it on himself, and only in that way providing us at last a secure "port in the storm."

2 possibilities of fear – 1 One is afraid because one lacks courage. Cowardly or timid. Jesus indicates that there is something defective about the disciples — they are fearful, cowardly, timid, and 2. lacking in faith.

The "fear" depicted by "phobos" and related words generally comes as a result of external circumstance s. One is concerned about impending pain, danger, evil, etc., or possibly by the illusion of such circumstances and so is fearful. The word group can have a more positive meaning of "reverence" or "awe" when one is in the presence of a deity — but still the emotion comes from that which is external to the person.

The disciples’ eyes are centered on the externals — first the storm at sea and then what they had seen Jesus do. Both produce fear within. How often do we — both as individuals or congregations — look at the externals and become fearful or discouraged, e.g., our community is declining in population. Should we not also look within to see whether or not our fear stems from our own cowardice or timidity — our inability to believe or trust God ?

Up to this point in Mark, the only characters who have exhibited faith are those who carried the paralytic (2:5). The disciples have not been described as people having faith. Part of the sad irony in their lack of faith is the fact that just before our text, we are told that Jesus explained everything in private to his disciples. They had special catechetical classes — and they still don’t get it! In fact, the disciples are never described in Mark as having faith ("pistis")!

In spite of the disciples lack of faith, the miracle still happens for them.

Jesus doesn’t size up the storm against his own stature; he sizes it up against God’s stature. A friend of mine once preached to some of my friends in the jail; “Don’t tell God how big your problems are; tell your problems how big God is!”

This is a fundamental question that we human beings ask of God all the time: “God, we are in an enormous jam. Don’t you care that we are in this jam and are on the edge of being destroyed.” We as human beings often have feelings that God does not care for us and our little situation.

Notice that their understanding of Jesus’ sleeping is that he doesn’t care if they drown. But Jesus isn’t asleep because he doesn’t care . He is asleep because he trusts in God’s caring.

If circumstances are good then God is good and cares for us. But when circumstances change for the worse? And so Jesus’ questions to them – and us – "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" – reveal a deeper truth: Deep down our trust in God’s caring is really quite shallow

Silencing – Faith in Christ silences our adversary. A threat is only a threat if it can take away something that you value, but the Christ-centered person has only one value; to love like Jesus. The adversary can’t touch us when we are centered in Christ. The obedient Christian abides in God’s love.

Jesus’ miracle is not merely for one boat but there are many boats on the boiling sea. He doesn’t calm the crews, he doesn’t calm the Captains, he rebukes the source and the source ceases to harass the followers of Jesus.

The dangers of perishing are real, but taking up the cross of Jesus turns out to be the safest, most life-affirming option. It is the option of faith.

v40-41. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Jesus doesn’t encourage our faith; he demands it. It’s not an option! It’s fundamental. It is as though Jesus is telling us; “Absolute faith is the only acceptable response to God

If we don’t “get faith,” we can’t “get God.”

Jesus rebukes his follower’s faithlessness as much as he rebukes the adversarial sea . Will our lives be marked by such a faithful response, so deep we do not fear “going over to the other side,” “sizing up and silencing the adversary,” or even extending Christ’s calm to an ocean of storm-tossed boats.

Note – “no faith” Little faith??? Jesus said that we have “no faith.” Yes, there are many times in the storms of life that we have no faith.

Why are we human beings so constantly afraid when we are in the storms of life? Why do we human beings have so little faith in the storms of life?

Having rebuked the wind, Jesus rebukes the disciples with two questions (Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”) which they answer themselves in their exclamation, "who is this?"

They have not yet worked out who Jesus is and as consequence, are afraid and without faith. Although the crowds hear only mysteries (parables), the disciples have the secrets of the kingdom carefully explained to them. Yet, at this stage, they have yet to understand that Jesus "is the Christ, the Son of God". They do not understand that Jesus is ushering in the kingdom of God with power and authority and that no force can stand against this heavenly man and his mission.

It is not inappropriate to fear the Lord. If we have the slightest idea of his glory, it is appropriate but also, in a sense, irrelevant. What seems to matter is what we do in spite of or because of that awe.

Leaving the crowd behind and following Jesus does not guarantee us, as individuals or as a church, a storm-free life, and we, like the disciples and the Psalmists, may sometimes find ourselves crying out, "Wake up! Do you not care?" Even when we make it through the storms, following Jesus may well take us straight into encounters with the worst pain and suffering of the world, the places where Jesus’ powerful touch is most needed.

Even for us, who know the end of the story, which the disciples in their storms do not, crossing to the other side at Jesus’ command may try our faith, but it also puts us in a position to experience the stilling of our storms, the restoration of the broken and the marginalized, and the transformation of death to life.

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life?

"Tho the tempest rage and the wild winds blow,

Not an angry wave shall our bark over-flow."

In early Christian art it was not unusual to depict the church as a boat driven hard in a perilous sea, and Jesus in the midst, surrounded by a drenched crew. Some of the crew are depicted filled with fear as they watch the waves plunge into their boat, while others are at peace as they look to Jesus – "steadfast and sure while the billows roll."

The church is indeed like a boat tossed against the winds of strife. The storm that came against Jesus had the overtones of the dark domain. The storm represented powers opposed to God’s new initiative in Jesus. Jesus was calling out a people to be with him, and the darkness sought to engulf his plan. The church today is constantly affronted by the power of the secular city. The waves come from the front, denouncing the Christian ethic, denouncing the historicity of our faith, eradicating our influence within society. The waves come from behind, seeking to "conform" us to the world, sneaking entertainment concepts into worship, leading us to believe that marketing, selling, that the adoption of secular management criteria, are our only hope for future survival. Thus, like the disciples of old, we are filled with fear, and this because we have little faith.

For most of our congregations, we don’t have to go anywhere to "get to the other side." The "Gentiles" have moved into our neighborhoods — but what a storm it usually creates when a congregation makes an intentional effort to reach out to the unchurched — to the people who are "different "

Often, the alternative to risking the dangerous, stormy crossing, is to stay tied up on the shore. Unfortunately, that is the picture of many churches — a peaceful, restful club house on the shore rather than a boat following Jesus’ command to take the fearful risk to cross the lake. We are often more willing to be safe than to answer Jesus’ call to go to the other side.

A quote that is in my notes from many years ago ties in with this image: "The church is ‘not a luxury liner, granting passage and comfort to all who qualify and clamber aboard’ but rather ‘like a rescuing lifeboat, sometimes listing, or even leaking, but always guided by the captain, Jesus, at the helm.’" (Bishop Lyle G. Miller in opening worship at the Sierra Pacific Synod assembly, 1991, quoted in "The Lutheran," June 19, 1991, page 38)

In similar terms, as individuals, we find ourselves as if a boat tossed against the "storms of life." Yet worse, our faith is constantly submerged in doubts and questions, our discipleship debilitated by fear.

The answer to our problem is simple. If our anchor is "fastened to the Rock which cannot move" then we "can defy the blast, through strength divine. " Will Christianity survive the affront of secularization and the test of marketed religion, or as it is often called today, "sanctified pragmatics"? Will the individual believer be able to survive the "billows roll"? The answer, of course, is yes, for "we have an anchor that keeps the soul."


The real miracle of this story is NOT Jesus calming the storm. The real miracle is Jesus’ calm while the storm is raging. His calm is not simply the suppression of fear. His calm arises from within his faith; from within his trust in God’s caring – no matter what the actual circumstances.

Thus, the moral of this story is NOT: run to Jesus when you are in a crisis and he will make the storm go away. Rather the moral is: run to Jesus when you are in crisis and learn from him the source of his calm .

“O people of little faith.” When the storms of life become violent and we are afraid of dying, do we still trust God? It seems that this miracle story is an invitation for us to trust in God during the tough storms of life. Sometimes, we think Jesus, the Presence of God, is asleep in our boat and is not alert about the peril we are in. Sometimes, we think that God is sleeping on the job, when we are tossed about by the winds and waves of life.

The important question of the story: “Who is this that even the wind and sea obey him?” That same question persists to us today. "Who is this Jesus of Nazareth?" Can he calm the wind and seas in our hearts and minds? Can he calm the storms between ethnic groups and warring nations?

The story of the stilling of the storm is definitely a miracle story in which Jesus Christ exhibits his power over nature; but this miracle story is also a wonderful parable in which Jesus stills the storms within our inner hearts thereby giving us the “peace” and “stillness” of God. This miracle story has overtones of a parable in which God speaks to us that God has the power to give us peace and stillness in the midst of our stormy lives…the stormy lives within our mindsand emotions…the stormy lives within our families…the stormy world in which we live…the violent storms that still exist between ethnic groups, political groups, religious groups and nations.

Do we ever accuse God of not caring for us? What does it do to our faith and trust when we think that God no longer cares? How does God show that he cares for us? Must God always perform miracles — remove us from dangerous storms for us to believe that God cares for us?

The coming of God’s reign was a way of talking about an overcoming of powers that oppressed people, whether as individuals or as communities. It would be good news for the poor and hungry. Its goal was not a state of individual bliss, but a community of justice and peace.

Can the mighty wind and waves that the disciples encounter on this voyage be understood as representative of challenges the church faces when it is called to expand the scope of its ministry?

We may feel as though our small boat will be torn apart as we try to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that cross divides of geography, culture, and religion. We can find assurance in our faith that Jesus does indeed “care that we are perishing” and that Jesus does go with us even in our small and scarcely seaworthy boats.

"On the human level, we often act like the disciples. We expect others to share our panic or distress. If they seem detached from the situation, we accuse them of not caring about our suffering. Panic reactions can divide us from others who might help just as they can cause us to doubt God’s love for us"

Stress management experts say that only two percent of our "worrying time" is spent on things that might actually be helped by worrying. The figures below illustrate how the other 98 percent of this time is spent:

40% on things that never happen

35% on things that can’t be changed

15% on things that turn out better than expected

8% on useless, petty worries

With Jesus, it is always about the other side.

In Matthew 14:22, he tells the disciples to go over “to the other side” of the lake and meets them halfway across walking on the water. He sends them constantly to the pagan nations “on the other side” [Matt 8:28; Mark 5:1, John 6:1]. Why can’t Jesus just get comfortable on “this side, the side we are already on, my side?”

Not only does he send his followers to the “other side”; but he sends them at evening. Every fisherman knows that a lake given to storms will always face the worst weather when evening comes. To their credit, these reluctant followers still trudge their way to the boats and resignedly push out for the other side despite the propensity for a storm. Jesus is not only difficult, he is also persistent, there will be no rest tonight.

Faith is all about going there especially when I know the odds are against me. It is about going to the other side when I know that a storm is more than unavoidable; it’s a given. Faith is knowing the odds are against me and going anyway. Do I go?

We must remember that even though the odds are against the disciples, Jesus is in the boat with them. He’s in the boat with us too. We never go to the “other side” alone. So, let’s go

Why would he put them at risk?”

There are two possible answers to this question and the truth is probably found in a blend of them both:

1. They weren’t really at risk;

The only danger to truly fear is separation from God and we cannot be separated from God if we are obedient to his commands:

Psalm 86:11-13

[Ps 86:11] Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

[12] I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever. [13] For Your loving kindness toward me is great, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (NAS)

Romans 8:31

[Ro 8:31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (NAS)

Hebrews 13:6

[Heb 13:6] …so that we confidently say,


Romans 8:37-39

[Ro 8:37] But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. [38] For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, [39] nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NAS)

If Jesus sends us into the storm (or, when he sends us into the storm) we can be assured that he goes with us. We can go forward in his confidence.

2. Jesus sends us into the storm for our growth.

My tendency is to believe that Jesus was fully aware of the storm ahead and with clarity of purpose headed out to sea. Whether or not you believe this was an intentional decision set up by Jesus or a “teachable moment” that he used; the lesson is clear: Jesus can use any situation to increase our faith.

Our Lord’s commands are never empty and, in particular, the storms we go through with Jesus will bring us incredible growth. Rather than fear the storms; we need to train our hearts to see them as opportunities. There is no empty storm with Jesus!

Do we make these fatal faith flaws?

1. Do we presume Jesus is unaware of our trials?

2. Do we grit our teeth and blame God when our seas become stormy?

3. Do we presume that just because we experienced storms in our life “pre-Jesus” that those experiences should cease because we have “found Jesus?”

The response to these questions should be; “no, No, and NO!”

We are a new creation when Jesus enters our life. God is neither dormant nor distant and we have a living advocate who goes with us to confront our fears. We still face storms, we just do not face them either alone or without purpose.

We too need to pray for a similar attitude of confidence. Obedience to Christ will increase the storms in our life; but it will also increase the confidence in our heart.

But what would Mark’s church have heard in such stories, and what can they be saying to us? As best we can discern, Mark’s church was living in the shadow of the traumatic war of the Jews against Rome that ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. If Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry were to be "good news" for the church, it would have to proclaim that message in the midst of the storms through which they were living (and in which many were dying). It would have to shine a light of hope in the nighttime of the life of the church, and not only proclaim the coming "day" of Christ’s longed-for return in power. This story affirms that still in that nighttime, when the long and perilous journey is in process, the cosmic authority of the crucified and risen Christ is with us. God is with us, and we are not alone.

The message for us is the same. Even when the seas threaten to engulf us and human imperial posturing threatens our home and the heart of our identity, the Risen One is always in the boat with us. Christ’s words, "Peace! Be still!" still promise to carry us safely through the night.

This theme can also lead to the idea that sometimes the storms in our lives are beyond our control. The chaos in our lives may be caused by people or situations or evil powers which we can do nothing about. Sometimes it is not our fault. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. Sometimes even the world of faithful Christians comes crashing down. (Job might be brought in as an illustration that sometimes good people suffer unjustly.)

A word of hope in this text (and Job and the Psalm) is that God has the power to control the chaos. God may not always do it according to our schedule. Sometimes God may appear to be sleeping in the boat while our world is falling apart, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have the power to calm the storm.

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