Sometimes we miss important points when we read the Bible.
Yeah, I know how it is. You’ve heard the same story over and over. The pastor has preached it over and over. The same points are made over and over. So, when you come across that story again, you read on autopilot and fly over a very important mountaintop.
For example, carefully read the following account from Mark 4:35-41.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took him along since he was in the boat. And other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!” (Christian Standard Bible)
Many who read this are transfixed by Jesus’ ability to command the weather. The disciples certainly were! And since the account ends with their declaratory amazement, that’s what we’re left to ponder. Point made.
But really, are we surprised? Jesus is God. The world was made by Him and through Him (Colossians 1:16.). That makes Jesus the Atmospheric Grand Pooh-bah, the Ultimate Climate Czar, the Supreme Environmental Commander.
Some readers focus on the dichotomy of the disciples’ panicked fear vs. and Jesus’ “snoozin’ on a pillah.” How could He possibly do that? Well, Jesus knew exactly how He was going to die, and when (Mark 8:31), and drowning at that time wasn’t His designated demise. This is a more subtle point, but still solid.
Or readers focus on the disciples’ accusation, “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Duh. Of course, He cares, boys! Jesus taught that His (and our) Heavenly Father cares for even the tiniest of things like wildflowers (Luke 12:28), sparrows, and strands of hair (Luke 12:6). If our Heavenly Father cares for the “insignificant things,” of course He would care about the uber-important “significant things” like His highest creation, His children, and their well-being! So, since Jesus shares His Father’s nature, He shares His Father’s compassion and care at the same level. Another good point.
Pro tip: This type of “lesser to the greater” example is a typically rabbinic method of teaching. If something applies to a lesser thing, of course it would apply to a greater thing. It also works in reverse. Jesus often used this type of comparison to drive his point home and it’s powerful. Look for it as you read through the Gospels.
Anyway, back to the missing point of the Sea of Galilee Crossing Event. The obvious points we’ve covered are Jesus’ authority, Jesus’ peace, and Jesus’ care. Add some illustrations to these three points and you have a solid sermon! But there’s a “minor” point many of us miss.
It’s Jesus’ command, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.”
“So what,” you may ask?
Jesus’ command revealed His intention, and His spoken intention revealed His will. Jesus’ will was (and always is) perfectly aligned with His Father’s will, for that was our Father’s original design for humanity – His children ruling the earth in perfect union with God’s will. Where humanity failed, Jesus succeeded. And Jesus’ work is to restore that original design to humanity.
Jesus’ earthly life was wholly steered by His Father’s will.
Jesus consumed His Father’s will. “‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work,’ Jesus told them” (John 4:34). In other words, Jesus ate His Father’s will for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
And He was consumed by His Father’s will, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38). Jesus was so consumed by His Father’s will, He allowed Himself to be consumed by death so that death would be consumed by His eternal life (John 11:25).
Yeah, God’s will is kind of a big deal.
This is the massive point that is often overlooked in Gospel stories like the Sea of Galilee adventure. Every sub-point of the story comes under the main point of God’s will.
Jesus’ will is to cross the Sea of Galilee. If it’s His will to cross the water, then it’s His Father’s will they do so. Therefore, nothing can or will get in Jesus’ way of realizing His intention to go to the other side.
Having declared His will, everything else must follow His will in the chain of events.
Jesus is at peace, sleeping away on a cushion, because He knows nothing can thwart His will. His will be done.
Jesus’ care is evident because He won’t let circumstances negate His will and swamp His disciples, who are under His care, although the boat is swamping. His will be done.
Jesus’ authority calmed the wind and waves because the stormy situation stood opposed to His will, threatening to stop their advance, and all creation will bend to the Creator’s will. His will be done.
Yes, all of the above points are important, valid, and greatly encouraging. But the overlooked and overarching point? God’s will be done!
Finally, I want to share another overlooked point in Mark’s recounting of the event. There wasn’t just one boat, the boat on which the disciples floated. There were “other boats” that sailed with them. Why was that? Could it be they needed additional boats because Jesus and His disciples were too many for just one watercraft?
Not according to Matthew (“the boat” 8:23-27) and Luke (“a boat” 8:22-25). According to their accounts, everyone piled into one vessel, not vessels. So, who was in the other boats?
Likely, some were those who followed Jesus to minister to His needs, like the women who helped care for the guys – Mary, called Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, Susanna, “and many others who were supporting them from their possessions” (Matthew 27:55; Luke 8:1-3).
There may also have been some from the crowds who were drawn to this remarkable, miracle-working rabbi who was preaching the arrival of God’s kingdom, what they had been taught was the onset of the messianic age. They followed Jesus because they didn’t want to miss the Kingdom it when it started.
I smile to think that Jesus’ disciples and entourage weren’t the only ones under Jesus’ authority and care during a tumultuous situation. There were other unnamed, faceless people who were following their Master all the way to the “other side.” They too witnessed Jesus’ majesty, His will in motion, because they obediently followed Him in search of His Kingdom.
Jesus has commanded us to go with Him to the “other side,” into His eternal Kingdom by devoting ourselves to Him and following Him. We can trust that Jesus will deliver us safely because His will for us to have eternal life after death has been revealed through His Word.
Thy will be done, Lord!