When we hear the story told in Mark 4:35-41, we usually focus on Jesus having mastery over nature--which would make sense, since it was through him as the pre-existent Word that nature was created. Or we focus on the two-part question he asked the disciples, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" and wonder about our own faith when life gets stormy. These are the two most obvious takeaways; these are what jump out at us. These two points are hard to miss.
The beauty of the Scriptures, however—and to me, a big part of what describing them as “inspired” means-- is that no matter how many times you read a passage (and some of us have been reading the Bible for a bunch of years) something else can jump out at you at any time. And this time it was this, in verse 36, the last part: "Other boats were with him". Other boats.
I never noticed in this story that there were other boats.
Wonder what it was like for the people in those other boats? They were certainly caught in the same storm as the boat that the disciples were in with Jesus. Who did they cry out to? Who could they wake up who would fix everything? Who could be with them, supporting them, helping them believe, challenging them to have faith that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (as Julian of Norwich affirmed)?
It is easy to pick on the disciples for their lack of faith—they had Jesus with them ALL THE TIME for those three years, not only right there and then in that boat. We all too often feel like we are in one of those other boats, and we don’t have Jesus with us. Yes, we are often afraid, and yes, we often lack faith. Life is stormy, challenging, dangerous, painful, unfair and grief-laden. And because life is all of those things, we sometimes wear our fear and lack of faith as a badge of honor, as proof of our nobility—after all, we don’t have Jesus in our boat.
Except . . we do. We DO have Jesus in the boat. And even if it doesn’t seem like Jesus is in the boat, notice that when Jesus stilled the storm from that boat, it didn’t stay stormy for the other boats! Even if we don’t sense Jesus’ presence, Jesus is still calming storms. That same Julian of Norwich, who lived in the 1300s as the plagues were killing people left and right in a matter of hours, affirmed that "[God] did not say 'You shall not be tempest-tossed' . . . ; 'But he did say 'You shall not be overcome.' God wants us to heed these words so that we shall always be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy."
And remember (with apologies for the non-inclusive language), “fellowship is two fellows in the same ship”. We truly are not alone, either when we cry out, or when Jesus answers.
GOSPEL Mark 4:35-41
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’41 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?’