Today’s scripture readings address a point common in the Bible: that of the grandeur and power of nature as an indicator of the glory of the creator. The scriptures are woven together in such a way that they trace the path of this idea from the early days of salvation history to the revelation of Jesus in the New Testament. We begin with the great suffering hero of the Old Testament, Job.
Near the end of the Book of Job there is an encounter between Job and God in which the Lord of all creation forcefully reminds Job that it was God, and not Job, who created the universe and all that is in it. With this established, but without explaining his actions in allowing Job to be tested severely and to suffer, God makes it clear that Job has no right to question his judgment, for the creature does not question the creator. Job finally gets this, saying in conclusion: “Look, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth” (Job 40:4).
Next, the Psalm begins by describing the immensity of the seas which struck ancient mariners as they plied their trade: “They who sailed the sea in ships, trading on the deep waters: these saw the works of the Lord and his wonders in the abyss.” Then the Psalmist recounts how God protects his people even when they are nearly destroyed by the elements of creation: “They cried to the Lord in their distress; from their straits he rescued them, he hushed the storm to a gentle breeze, and the billows of the sea were stilled” (Ps 107:23-24; 28-29).
Job and the Psalm prepare for Jesus’ assertion of authority over all creation in the Gospel: even the winds and the sea obey Jesus’ words. It is worth noting that the events of today’s Gospel reading take place on the Sea of Galilee, a lake which is not huge (it is far less than 1% the size of Lake Erie) but which is subject to quick changes in weather due to the local geography. It is not surprising, then, that we read: “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up” (Mark 4:37).
When the disciples with Jesus in their boat encounter a sudden storm and fear they will drown, they wake Jesus, who remarkably had been asleep, and he “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” After the tempest died down Jesus turned to his followers asking, “Why are you terrified?” (Mark 4:39, 40). The question sounds odd since it was perfectly reasonable for them to be alarmed over the storm, but Jesus soon reveals that his point goes much deeper.
By posing a second question: “Do you not yet have faith?” the Lord makes clear what he is getting at: the disciples’ inability to trust him. That hesitancy to confide in Jesus began to fade after they saw his amazing command of nature itself, yet it would persist throughout Jesus’ ministry and even show itself during his passion, when his closest disciples abandoned him.
The definitive response of the disciples to their own question “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mark 4:41) would only come after the resurrection, when together with Mary—who always trusted entirely in her Son—they recognized the risen Lord in his glory. The journey of the disciples will unfold through the pages of Gospel; let’s walk with them on this path as together we discover new and deeper trust in the Lord Jesus—the Lord of all creation.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.