And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? — Mark 4:40
Several years ago, I had the privilege of going to Israel and seeing the places where Jesus ministered while He was here on earth. The day our group visited the Sea of Galilee was bright and sunny, and during our boat ride, as we recounted the story of Jesus calming the sea, the lake was calm and the surrounding hills were beautiful. We could only imagine what the sea would be like during a raging storm — one so violent that it would shake the faith of Jesus’ chosen disciples.
The Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest freshwater lake and, at 686 feet below sea level, it is the second lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea). Because of the lake’s low-lying position in the Jordan Great Rift Valley, and the fact that it is surrounded by hills, it is susceptible to sudden violent storms. The difference in elevation between the sea and surrounding land produces sizeable temperature and pressure changes. When the contrasting air masses converge, a storm can develop quickly and without warning. Small boats caught out on the sea when one of these storms arises are in immediate danger.
In our text, Jesus and His disciples experienced such a storm. Even though the disciples were experienced fishermen and had no doubt been through many previous storms on this unpredictable sea, this particular storm terrified them and they feared for their lives. While they battled the storm and tried to stay afloat, Jesus was asleep in the rear of the boat. It must have seemed absurd to the disciples that Jesus could sleep through such a fierce storm, and they interpreted His slumber as showing indifference to their welfare. Fearing for their lives, the disciples cried out, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” Jesus awakened, immediately rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was instant calm. When Jesus asked the disciples why they were so afraid and faithless, He was not chastising them for normal human feelings. He was reprimanding them for a lack of faith in His ability to save them, and also because they felt He was not concerned about their needs.
At times, we may doubt God’s ability to deliver us from the storms of life, or we may mistakenly assume that because God is with us, the storms will pass us by. When trials come our way and it seems we are sinking, we may wonder why God appears to be “asleep” while we are in such dangerous peril. When we call on God for His help and deliverance, we must trust His ability and also His timing. We can determine in our hearts that regardless of what we are going through, we will never question the loving concern of Jesus or doubt His ability to help us in our times of need.
In today’s text, Jesus gave two more parables to the multitude gathered by the seashore. The first parable, related only in the Book of Mark, is about the growing seed. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a man planting seed. During the course of time, even though the planter does not understand how, the seed begins to grow and eventually develops into a full crop that is ready to be harvested. In Jesus’ previous parables, He had said that the seed is the Word of God. The sowers of the seed are those who spread the Gospel message. Jesus made it clear that the sower is not responsible for the growth of the seed. Once the seed is sown, it is God who causes the seed to take root and grow. However, it takes a period of time for the seed to yield a crop.
Jesus knew that His kingdom would grow and develop, but His followers would not control or necessarily understand how it happened. Their responsibility was only to plant the seed. Good seed on good soil was certain, in time, to bring a harvest.
In the second parable, Jesus likened the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, which is extremely small. When just one mustard seed, smaller than the head of a pin, is planted in the ground, it can grow into a six to ten-foot tree with branches big enough for birds to nest in. Within their culture, the Jewish people were familiar with looking at the beginning and ending of a matter without focusing on the process. Therefore, with this parable, Jesus encouraged His followers by illustrating that though their efforts to spread the Gospel seemed small and insignificant, the Kingdom of God would continue to grow and spread throughout the entire world.
When Mark said “with many such parables,” he indicated that this Gospel contained selected parables, not a complete recounting of every parable Jesus gave. Jesus was the Master Teacher, and He taught His audience in ways that they could best understand. Those who paid close attention could consider what He said and discover His meaning. Often, He explained and amplified His teachings to His disciples when they were alone.
Verse 35 says, “the same day,” referring to the busy day Jesus had spent by teaching publicly and giving explanations to His disciples. By evening, He felt the need to depart for the less-populated eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, a distance of about six miles. This account of stilling the storm is Mark’s first record of a miracle Jesus performed over nature. It left the disciples exclaiming, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The opposition to the Son of God
B. The consequences of the opposition to the Son of God
2. The institution of a new program by the Son of God
d. The parable of the harvest (4:26-29)
e. The parable of the mustard seed (4:30-34)
IV. The authentication of the Son of God
A. His power over nature (4:35-41)
In the good times and in the hard times, remember that Jesus cares, and He will give us the victory in every situation as we put our total trust in Him.