Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Night to Remember

The story of the stilling of the storm in Mark 4:35-41 is a logical working out of Mark's continuing disclosure of Jesus' authority.  The words of the disciples at the end of the story make obvious Mark's intent:  "And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

(The following questions are from the method I developed and explain in my book Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted: A Guide to Law and Gospel Preaching.  Purchase it from or

1.  How does the Word function in the text?  The Word, in this case Jesus, functions in two ways in this story, although paradoxically, both are a rebuke.  First he rebukes the wind.  I like Rienecker's translation of Jesus' words to the wind:  "Put a muzzle on and keep it on!"  Then he rebukes the disciples: "Why are you afraid?  Have you no faith?"  In terms of Law and Gospel, Jesus' rebuke of the sea is pure Gospel - showing Jesus' authority over the chaos in our lives, and his rebuke of the disciples is pure Law, showing them clearly their need of Him.

2.  How is the Word not functioning in the text?  There is no call to obedience in the text, no word which says "Follow Christ."  That word, we assume, comes after the disciples have gained confidence in Jesus' authority and power.

3.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  Undoubtedly we are the disciples, prone to cry out whenever we feel that Jesus is "asleep in the stern" and we are afraid that he is unconcerned about us.

4.  What, if any call to obedience is there in this text?  See above.

5.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text?  Only our imaginations limit us in this story.  Several I can think of are:  Afraid/At Peace; Perishing/Being Saved; In the Storm/In Awe.

6.  Exegetical Work:  I often like to look at Kurt Aland's Synopsis of the Four Gospels to see what the parallels are between one gospel's version of a story and another's.  When we look at the parallels in Matthew 8:23-27, and Luke 8:22-25, we see that the words Mark puts into the mouths of the disciples are notably different from the other synoptics.  Mark's version has the disciples saying, "Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?"  This question about "caring" is notably absent in the other versions.  It reminds me of the Israelites' common lament as they wandered in the wilderness:  "Did you bring us out into this wilderness to kill us with hunger?  (i.e. Don't you care?)  Also Mark's version gives us Jesus' words of rebuke of the sea:  "Peace!  Be still!"  Finally, only Mark has Jesus asking his disciples, "Why are you afraid?" All of these are hints of Mark's intent which is to show that the disciples genuinely doubt their Lord's care for them.  It is also worth noting that in all three gospels the word for the disciples' plight is "perishing."  (i.e.  They are being lost/ being destroyed/ not being saved).  Ironically, it is precisely the reason Jesus came - to save - that they are doubting.

7.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  As always you can go to study and look under Year B, Pentecost 4 and find any number of models for this text.  One model I have played with is as follows:

D1:  Life is sinking into chaos.  D2:  Depending on self shown as an illusion.  D3:  We are wholly lost.  P4:  We are wholly saved in Christ.  P5:  Depending on Christ is no illusion.  P6: A great calm.

8.  Consider the insights of the pioneers of the New Homiletic?  Rice's insistence that we help our listeners recognize their shared story in the text is an excellent way to go here.  Certainly all listeners will share the experience of being in "a storm" and wondering if Christ cares about us.

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