After days of healing, and now a long day of teaching by the seaside, Jesus and his friends sail off, leaving the crowd behind. Jesus is beat. He goes to sleep while the accomplished fishermen sail the boat. There is a storm. They wake him up. He stills the wind and waves.

So far so good. It all makes sense.

But then Jesus gets on their case:

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? (Mark 4:40, NRSV)

Wasn’t it perfectly reasonable for the disciples to be afraid? Their boat was being swamped. They could all die.

Wasn’t it perfectly reasonable for the disciples to wake Jesus up? Maybe he could help. Even if he were an incompetent sailer, they could teach him to bail water or hold a rope — something. How could he just lay there sleeping?

But then maybe their response wasn’t so reasonable. They were the first to scold, waking Jesus up with reproof:

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? (Mark 4:38, NRSV)

Why do they expect him to be aware of their danger? He was, after all, asleep.

You see their fear and lack of trust in their accusation. They think he doesn’t care.

Still: Jesus seems to really scold them.

He scolds them for being afraid.
He scolds them for lack of faith.
At a glance it seems kind of mean. When my children are afraid, my job is to comfort them, to assure them, to help them get past it — help them trust that all will be well.

Jesus’ response implies that they have missed a lesson he’s been trying to teach them. The lesson is about faith. And the lesson is about faith’s potential power over fear.

The lesson about faith was not taught during the boat trip in Mark 4:35-41. The lesson about faith was taught from Mark 1:1 to Mark 4:34.

Jesus had put his critics to shame and answered his followers’ curiosity with wisdom.

More to the point, the disciples had seen that Jesus could heal demon possession, fever, leprosy, paralysis, a withered limb, and countless unnamed other ailments. Nothing was too much for Jesus.

Jesus had been teaching his disciples to trust him — to trust that he was capable of solving life’s hardest problems. Sure there was a storm on — but Jesus was asleep in the boat.

If Jesus himself could sleep through this storm, all would be well. How could they miss that?

He wanted them to have faith based on what they had seen and experienced of Jesus: If Jesus was with them, they could trust that all would be well.

Jesus was right there.

They could trust.
All would be well.
They had no need to fear.

Used with Permission – Gary Neal Hansen, Ph.D Website & Blog:

Book: Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers (InterVarsity Press, 2012)