|Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Gallilee|
- 1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 and Psalm 9:9-20 or
- 1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 18:10-16 and Psalm 133 •
- Job 38:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 •
- 2 Corinthians 6:1-13 •
- Mark 4:35-41
The brief but striking episode recorded in Mark’s Gospel for this Sunday -- in which Jesus appears to control a storm at sea with a simple command -- is usually referred to as a ‘nature’ miracle. But, as so often in the Gospels, this ‘miracle’ should be understood as a ‘sign’ rather than a ‘wonder’. What matters is what it says, not what it accomplishes.
Storms are natural metaphors. They easily transfer from the world of nature to the concerns of human life, and can thus be used to signify, and communicate, a climax in the strains and stresses of human life. This use of the image is common in the Bible – in the Psalms – for example -- and sometimes the metaphor and the literal event are inextricably interwoven – as in the story of Jonah, for instance.
In either case, the natural event of the storm is to be read as a symbol. It reveals something about Jesus and his relationship to God. The punch line of the story, of course, is the stilling of the storm, at which point the terror of the disciples is changed, not into grateful relief, but into ‘awe’ at the person of Jesus – "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?".
But in a way, the key moment is to be found a few verses earlier, when Jesus lies sleeping on a cushion. It is in response to their frightened accusation "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" that he stills the storm. The enormous gap between his relationship to God and theirs, however, is revealed not so much by his extraordinary power over the storm, but his ability to sleep in the midst of it.