Mark 4:35-41 | 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Waking the Captain
Does Mark really say that Jesus sent His disciples into a storm, the thing fisherman would fear the most, and then fell asleep, leaving them to cope on their own?
Jesus told the disciples, “Let us cross to the other side” (v. 35). The day was closing out, and Jesus beckoned to His friends, “Come on. Let’s go.” The disciples might have glanced up to make sure He was serious, but they had faith in Him. If Jesus said it was ok to cross in the dark, they figured it was ok. Maybe it was even more reassuring that Jesus fell asleep. If I’d been in that boat, I’d have been nervous when the captain crashed out as the night turned black. But I can also see how the disciples could have thought, “Hey, look at that. Jesus is asleep. If he’s really not worried, we should follow His example.”
And there we have it. Following Jesus will not necessarily make our lives easier. Not by a long shot. He might even, and probably will, lead us right into a storm. And then appear to fall asleep. We won’t see Him. We won’t feel Him. But, and this is key, He’ll still be there, just as He was still in the boat.
When they woke Him, Jesus rebuked the disciples, “Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?” (v.40) But I don’t think waking Him up was the problem. They did just what Jesus wants us to do in a storm: ask Him for help. What He had issues with was the wording, “Teacher, do you not care…” (v. 38). Of course, He cares! That mere wind and rain could make them think He didn’t care, now that rankled.
Jesus wants us to go to Him. But when we do, He wants us to have the same faith as he woman who believed if she touched His cloak she would be healed (Mark 5:21-34). The disciples on the other hand, thought if they followed Jesus, life would fall neatly into place, just how they wanted. When it didn’t, rather than examining the depth of their faith, they questioned His motives. That’s what Jesus rebuked. It’s easy to believe when things are good. But in a storm, the default is to question, to ask “why me?” To feel sorry for ourselves, and that’s what Jesus questioned.
I don’t know if Jesus knew there was going to a storm that particular night. But He knew the disciples would face storms. Similarly, I don’t know if Jesus tests us to prove our mettle. But He does know we will face tests. Sometimes they are big tests that toss our boats or flood our houses or make us question the fairness of the world. But, sometimes they are little tests, which are just as difficult to navigate.
We should wake Jesus up even in the smaller storms. But if we do, it shouldn’t be to ask Him if He cares or to tell Him how to fix things. It should be because we have an unshakeable faith He will take care of us in the way He knows best.