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12OT B ~ Mk.4:35-41~ "A Violent Squall" ~ Rev. Richard Eslinger


Ever since Jesus had invited these fishermen to “follow me” their fishing had been with Jesus and on solid ground. Jesus had used Capernaum as the hub location and had led the Twelve out along Galilean roads and lanes. They had heard Jesus teach about the kingdom of God, perform astonishing healings of the sick, and had marveled at his power to cast out unclean sprits. You’d probably be accurate to say that these fisherfolk walked more miles during this first Galilean mission than they had logged in an entire year. Blistered feet, aching leg muscles, they were getting acclimated to being more “land farers” than “seafarers.” It must have come as a relief when they heard Jesus now declare, “Let us cross over to the other side.” And to get to the other side, they would need to get in a boat. They couldn’t wait!


So, they get in the boat, leave the crowds behind, and begin their voyage over to the other side of the Sea. Right away, they are back in their proper environment; they are fishermen, for heaven’ sake. They are back in control for the first time since they were called to follow Jesus. We can imagine how they enjoyed cloaking themselves in their long-familiar nautical savvy.


Peter may had been heard to say something to Andrew like “Let the boat veer off a bit to the port” or “Let’s take up the slack in that sail.” There is a sense of happy return here for the disciples who had left their nets to follow Jesus. Maybe not any time to pick up those dried-out nets, but now more than enough time to return to the vocation they loved and to use all the skills they had acquired. And to make things even better, Jesus had gone to the stern of the boat and was asleep on a cushion. They were taking Jesus with them in this familiar sea crossing. And he

was asleep in the stern of their boat! Some parents this morning (or “evening” if preached at the Saturday vigil Mass) may recall how deeply moving it was when they were driving on a road trip and glanced back and saw their child peacefully asleep in the back seat. Mom and Dad saw the wonderful and calm sight and turned to each other with smiles. Somehow, everything in heaven and on earth seemed good and at peace in such moments. What could be more satisfying then for the disciples to get in a boat, to be in charge of the voyage, and to gaze upon Jesus asleep in the stern of their boat. It’s dusk on the Sea and all is well.


It shouldn’t be a surprise, though, that St. Mark now hands us a dire “Chapter Two” in this story. You know, the one titled “Wind and the Waves.” We knew it all along that the warm, happy beginning of this story would not last. Life and the disasters of the world have ways to bring our times of enjoyment and peace to a sudden end. I mean, we are going along, enjoying our work, our relationships, and our life together in the church and we feel it’s going to last. But then we go in for our regular medical exam, take the tests, and wait a spell on that hard little

examining table. There is a knock at the door, it opens, and you can see from the look on your doctor’s face that it is “Chapter Two” time. Other such sudden shifts include surprises in our workplace or at school. For the disciples, this violent storm suddenly comes upon them, and they are terrified. The boat begins to take on water and sink. “This should not be happening, they think.” And now, the awareness that Jesus is asleep in the stern of the boat now longer induces warm feelings of satisfaction. Their thoughts change in an instant, and now they wonder

why Jesus is casually letting them die.


But if they had the insight that St. Mark possessed as he wrote his Gospel, the fact that they have solidly run into “Chapter Two” should not have been such a surprise. Surely, they knew that this journey by their Lord was not a pleasure cruise. No. In fact, Jesus had directed them to take the boat from the Jewish side of Lake Galilee over to the area of the godless pagans, those unclean people called “the Greeks.” The Sea of Galilee represented much more than a lovely lake to fish and to enjoy. It served as the boundary between holiness and impurity; between the God-fearing and the godless. So it’s no wonder that the forces of chaos would rise up and try to engulf this attempt by Jesus to bring all things

together, to knit a new humanity out of the two peoples. “Chapter Two” is necessary for the world’s evil and despotic powers. They cannot abide a new heaven and a new earth! We are now firmly within this scene of chaos and life-threatening power. We should have expected it and not been so surprised.


The disciples now look back to Jesus, still asleep on a cushion in the stern. Before the violent storm, they were happy to let him slumber, especially after all his work of proclaiming the reign of God and teaching them about the mysteries of God’s kingdom. Now, with the boat becoming heavier by the minute and with the waves breaking over the gunnels, they turn to awaken Jesus and exclaim, Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.” They wake him up perhaps to receive some empathy before their last rites. One biblical commentator adds that they delayed their appeal to Jesus because they assumed that Jesus had such a confidence in their capability to handle such crises that they’d be embarrassed and still try to do it on their own.


Something like a family member or friend who shares that they are not going to tell the doctor about a new and disturbing symptom, for that would be an admission that they are not capable of handling everything life can throw! There may be something else gong on here, too. In our unsettled age, a certain “empathy” is expected of us. A number of these concerns may even be embedded in our Prayers of the People. But once we have demonstrated this ability to be “concerned,” that’s about it. I mean, do we really expect God to do anything about our world’s wars and injustice? We join with the Twelve in the boat. “Jesus,” we ask, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”


Jesus awakens and rises. He says to the wind and the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” Basically, he announces to these forces of chaos and threat, “Shut Up!” This Markan scholar reflects that Jesus doesn’t engage the storm’s power as a meteorologist. “He treats the wind and the waves as demonic forces.” 1 He “muzzles” the wind and quiets down the sea. Suddenly, they are standing

in their soggy boat with the water as calm and tranquil as an Indiana farm pond on a hot and windless summer day.


The “concern” of the Disciples is now off the table. Jesus shifts to a much deeper issue with his followers, that of real faith and deep understanding. He asks them “Why are you terrified?” Then he adds an even more painful question: “Do you not yet have faith?” The answer is as plain as the noses on their faces. They have not discerned the deep meaning of this Sea crossing. They have not discerned the mystery of their being in the presence of the Son of God. Their faith is a little piece of the pie, but the larger piece is an acceptance of the world’s notions of wisdom and power. They may be following Jesus, but they remain convinced of the ultimate wisdom of the world and its devotion to death.


Jesus has awakened and arises, but they will not comprehend that “resurrection” until much later in the Gospel. For now, they become filled with great fear and awe. They say to one another, “Who is this whom even wind and sea obey?” Here, at the end of this Sea crossing, St. Mark turns to us, as we hear of the fear and lack of understanding of the Twelve. Is our question “Do we have the same fear-filled question to Jesus?” Or do we turn to those soggy disciples and ask, “Why are you so terrified? Do you still have no faith?” And we might dare to add, “Here, friends, let us show you the way.”


Amen.


1 David Schnasa Jacodsen, Mark (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2014), 74.

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