Master of the Storm

Both Jonah and Yeshua calmed a storm. Jonah sank in the water, but Yeshua rebuked the wind and the sea as if He was rebuking an evil spirit: “Hush, be still!”

Artwork from the Torah Club Jesus, My Rabbi study, lesson "The Other Side". (Image and art © First Fruits of Zion)

Sudden storms on Lake Galilee are common. High hills surround the lake; the cool winds from the heights can easily clash with the warm air on the lake, displacing it and stirring the wind and waves into a violent tempest.

The crests of the waves began to wash over the gunwales of the open, low-sided fishing boat. “They began to be swamped and to be in danger” (Luke 8:23), but as the boat pitched and rolled on the waves and filled with water, the Master slept soundly on a soggy cushion in the stern.

The well-known gospel story makes several allusions to the story of Jonah. In both stories the principal character sleeps peacefully while a deadly storm tosses the boat around. In both stories the terrified sailors awaken the sleeper and rebuke him. In both stories the principal character has the solution to the danger. Both storms are miraculously calmed. The miraculous calming of the sea terrifies both sets of sailors. Even Mark’s word choices echo the story of Jonah.

The panicked disciples fought to keep the boat aright and afloat. They shook the Master awake, saying, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). As the boat plunged into the trough of a great wave, they cried out, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:24).

The Master rebuked the wind and the sea as if He was rebuking an evil spirit: “Hush, be still!” The same language accompanies the Master’s exorcisms. Rebuking a weather phenomenon makes no more sense than rebuking a fever. Yeshua addressed the hidden spiritual reality behind the revealed physical world. A fever is not just a fever. A storm is not just a storm. In Jewish cosmology, the spiritual world animates the physical world. The story suggests that spiritual forces were at work, resisting the Master’s attempt to cross out of Jewish territory and enter their territory.

At the Master’s rebuke, the waters fled; at the sound of His voice, they hurried back; thus He rebuked the sea; He rebuked the sea and made it quiet (Psalm 104:7, 106:9; Nahum 1:4). As the waves flattened out into quiet ripples, the Master turned to the disciples and asked, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

The disciples did have faith, but the rabbi from Galilee significantly stretched it. In the Jonah story, the calming of the sea strikes fear into the hearts of the sailors: “The men feared the LORD greatly” (Jonah 1:16). In the gospel story, the disciples have a similar reaction to the calming of the sea. “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41).

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