There are very few experiences as awe-inspiring, or to be more brutal, terrifying as a hurricane. Even the mighty United States has reeled under a number of relatively minor hits. In Mark 4 we see experienced fisherman clearly scared by the conditions their boat was in; we may therefore intuit that this was a storm of significant violence. We see that the Lord Jesus Christ was able to still this storm in a manner that the bible takes a great pain to show is supernatural. In this brief paper I aim to précis the work of some of the commentators on this passage and also draw some conclusions that are, I hope, of relevance to us today.
Whenever a great misery afflicts us it is natural to ask why? Four of the commentators see in this tempest a naturally occurring phenomenon. They point out that the Sea of Galilee is in a basin some 600 ft deep with a narrow gorge to the west from which the winds arise. Robertson points out that Luke uses 'came down' to describe the descending of the storm and feels this pictures a descent of the storm from Mt Hermon. Certainly storms are a regularly occurring feature upon the Sea even to today.
However, for me, the sheer normalcy of these storms and their regular occurrence suggest that it is not one of those storms that the narrative is referring to. We need to remember that at least a third of the disciples were professional fisherman and at least two of them were second generation professional fisherman. In general such fisherman would clearly know how to predict a storm of this form coming and also how to get out of the way. We should also assume that any boat they would take out on to the Sea would have been Sea worthy; these were people who knew what they were doing.
Adam Clarke offers a different explanation for this particular storm; that it was satanically inspired. Within the boat were the Christ and His most ardent followers. The boat was relatively vulnerable; it represented an ideal opportunity to mount an attack. We also know that on at least one previous occasion Satan was allowed to use a great wind to attack the righteous. Whatever the motivation, we know that this storm was serious enough to scare even the most experienced of Sea farers.
There within the turmoil lay the Savior asleep, His head resting upon a pillow in the stern of the boat. JFB particularly stresses the rudeness with which He is awoken. "Master, carest thou not ..." Robertson goes so far as to say that the disciples were rebuking the Lord.
It is interesting to note the sequence of events from this point. The Lord clearly was going to address the disciples behavior, but first He addressed their needs and concerns. He issues the rebuke to the wind and commands the sea to be still; both happen immediately. TFG points out that the instant stilling of the sea confirms the miraculous nature of the event. Winds can still suddenly. Anyone that has witnessed the eye of a hurricane moving overhead will tell you that the great winds cease almost instantly. However; had this been such a phenomena the sea would have continued rolling. Robertson points out that all three Gospels that record this event point to the sudden calm after His words; therefore this is clearly miraculous.
Many of the commentators use this miracle to show the divine nature of the Lord. TSK points out that the ability to command the sea is an attribute ascribed to God. Spurgeon with characteristic forthrightness simply states "Who but God could speak thus? Where are the senses of those who cannot see His Godhead?" Albert Barnes graphically portrays the Lord standing in the midst of a howling tempest on a heaving sea in the darkness of night still them all through His own power.
Clarke also refers to the majesty and authority of His actions however he also goes on to suggest that this is a picture of "... that protection and deliverance which Christ will give to his followers, however violently they may be persecuted by earth or hell." For me today this is a very real picture.
I have returned from a church service 6 days after a violent storm swept through our state. That church had a lot of bruised and battered people in it. Some were angry, some overwhelmed and yet some joyful and rejoicing. We all have the same Savior; I firmly believe He cares for us equally. To a large extent we have all been through the same thing. Yet some of us have faith to see the Lord at work in the storm; others are still shaking Him to try to wake Him up.
For me personally I had peace during this hurricane but we each have our own 'storms' that scare us, that we want over, and that we think the Lord should be helping with. We each reach that point where we want to say "Lord wake up! Why are you letting this happen?" It is both wonderful and sad to think that as we look up and ask why He is letting us be so scared, He is looking down wondering how we have so little faith! As we go forward into our own personal storms may we remember that our God is ever present and ever able; but sometimes He wants us to learn from an experience, and He has to let the experience continue until we have finished learning.