Jesus calms the storm in Mark 4

The lectionary reading for Trinity 3 in Year B is Mark 4.35-41, the account of Jesus calming the storm. It is a fabulous story both full of little eye-witness details, and yet at the same time impossible to read without feeling its symbolic significance. Unlike Matthew, Mark does not bridge the literal story to its symbolic reading, but the story is so vivid he can leave that to us!

Like many other stories in this section of the gospel, Mark’s version is longer and more details than either Matthew’s or Luke’s. The account in Matthew 8.24–27 is part of a carefully structured ‘ministry’ section of three sets of three incidents; Jesus’ teaching parables about the kingdom do not appear until Matthew’s third ‘teaching’ section in chapter 13. Luke follows Mark slightly more closely, in having this episode in Luke 8.22–25 following on from the parabolic teaching, but with the episode about Jesus’ true family intervening rather than earlier as it is in Mark (and later in Matthew).

It is worth noting from the outside the range of details that Mark includes, which the other two accounts omit.

It is the same day as his parabolic teaching about the kingdom.
They set out in the evening.
Jesus suggests they go ‘across to the other side’ (which Luke includes, but not Matthew).
They left the crowd behind.
The disciples took Jesus ‘just as he was’.
There were other boats with the boat the disciples were in.
The waves were breaking over the side of the boat (mentioned in Matthew but not Luke).
Jesus was asleep in the stern and with his head on a cushion (this is one of my favourite eye-witness observations in the gospels: where had the cushion come from? Did someone, perhaps Jesus, think to pick one up as they got in the boat?!)
Jesus’ specific words in his ‘rebuke’ to the wind and waves: ‘Peace! Be still!’
Jesus’ two questions to the disciples, including ‘Why are you afraid?’
We need to read this short story slowly and carefully in order to notice all these details—which is, of course, another good reason to learn Greek and read the Greek text, since this forces us to slow down! And it is a reason to ensure that whoever does the public reading of this passage does it carefully, slowly, with understanding and with appropriate drama.

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The risen Jesus with the Eleven in Luke 24

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