Saturday of Week 3 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 4:35-41

After the passage on the parables, Mark continues by narrating four miracle stories, two of them put together in an “inclusion”.  There are two messages in today’s story of the calming of the storm at sea.

The first is that the calming of the sea indicates the true identity of Jesus; he has the power of God himself.  This question of Jesus’ identity is a major theme of Mark’s gospel.

He speaks to the sea as if it were a living thing, an instrument of the devil, an evil thing. No wonder that the disciples are filled with awe.  Their question contains its own answer: “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”, as is clear from passages in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms:

  • You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves (Ps 65:8)
  • You rule over the surging of the sea; you still the swelling of its waves (Ps 89:10)
  • More powerful than the roar of many waters, more powerful than the breakers of the sea (Ps 93-34)
  • He hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled (Ps 107:29)

The second message lies in the symbolism underlying the whole story. It is a story of the early Church.  The boat represents a church community (our Church is a community of churches). The surrounding sea is the world.  Jesus gets into the boat “just as he was”, that is, a man looking no different from his disciples.  There were other boats too.  That is, other church communities.  Then a violent storm arises and waves threaten to swamp the boat and sink it.  This is just what was happening to so many little communities surrounded by hostile elements bent on wiping out the Christian faith.

Where was Jesus during all this?  Asleep!  Not in the least worried.  The disciples scold him: “Teacher (not yet Lord), do you not care that we are all going to be drowned?”  How often that complaint must have risen from those tiny, battered communities wondering where their Lord was in all their troubles!  Jesus wakes up and tells the wind to be still.  And calm returns.

Now they are scolded: “Why were you afraid?  Do you not yet have faith?”  That is, trust in Jesus’ caring for them.  Of course, the real calm is not so much in the sea as in their hearts when they realise that Jesus is not far away, he is not asleep or absent but is with them all the time.

Let us pray for that inner peace that comes from knowing Jesus is always very close to us, no matter what may be going on in our lives.

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