“That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 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?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
— Mark 4:35-41
Everyone seems to have questions for God when trouble comes. Usually, we ask, “Why?” Sometimes we ask, “How?” Sometimes people tell us trouble has come because of something we’ve done. Others tell us they come to “toughen us up.” If that was the case in this story from the Gospel of Mark, the disciples got tough real fast.
In this short narrative, four questions are asked. The first question was asked of Jesus by the disciples: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” The dozen men, some seasoned fishermen, were terrified that they were going to drown in a storm with Jesus, the Messiah, on board. “Don’t you care?” is a loaded question. It implies that there is great doubt that the recipient cares. It’s almost accusative. An alternative would be “You don’t care!”
The second question comes from Jesus: “Why are you so afraid?” The question is almost rhetorical. Had the disciples really been following the Lord of the Universe, fear should have been the last thing on their minds.
A third question quickly follows: “Do you still have no faith?” Jesus knew that the disciples were having a tough time catching the reality of His coming. When He called them, they followed. When He taught, they tried to listen. When they were in His presence, they knew that somehow they were seeing the face of God. But the reality of His true nature still escaped them.
The fourth question was mind-blowing: “Who is this?” the disciples asked. Suddenly they got it. At least, they “sort of” got it. This was not only a man who had seen God. They were following a man who WAS God. Even the wind and waves obey Him. Instantly.
A pastor friend of mine recently pointed out something very profound about the order of questions in Mark 4:35-41. Here it is: usually when we’re faced with a trial, we start with the wrong question. We ask God, “Don’t you care?” instead of asking “Who is this?” Every grounded Christian must deal with trouble by remembering who God is. Is He loving? Is He patient? Is He caring? Does he punish His children?
Who is God?
Instead of relying on our knowledge of God, we usually start by either questioning God’s goodness or His concern for us. Even more, my friend reversed the order of questioning in Mark 4 to show exactly how backward the disciples had things. For example: the second question deals with faith. Once you remember who God is, the next question is: do you believe in Him? And if so, the third issue is why we would fear if we know who God is and believe in Him. Finally, we have our answer to whether or not He cares.
There are so many other layers to this story, such as a fulfilled prophecy from Psalm 107 and a parallel to Jonah 1. These short verses are truly awesome.