Jesus Calms the Storm

The-Storm-on-the-Sea-of-Galilee-Rembrandts-painting35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In Mark 4:35-41, there is a familiar story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. Perhaps you are familiar with the story from Sunday School or the old flannel graphs and can picture Jesus standing at the front of the boat, arms outstretched commanding the sea to “be still”.  It could be that you’ve heard this passage preached on many times maybe calling you to have faith through the storms of life.  Certainly, there is even an aspect of Christ’s sovereignty over nature that flows right out of this passage.  But there are two elements about this passage that I’d like to point out, which you may not be aware of.

The first, perhaps more obvious, is the typological fulfillment of Jonah from the first chapter recorded on his ministry.  In short, typology is when a person, event, or institution points forward to a future person, event, or institution.  The type points forward to the antitype.  In the account from Jonah chapter 1, we see Jonah, the type, and above in our passage from Mark, we see Jesus, the antitype.

In Jonah 1:1-3, Jonah was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh in order to call them to repentance.  He refused and instead headed on a boat to Tarshish.  We pick up in verse 4 below:

4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

Now, just upon reading that passage, the similarities between the passage from Mark should become evident.  Between the two accounts, we have both continuity and discontinuity.  In other words there are things that are similar, and things not so much so.  The similarities from the two events would be: the boat, the storm, the fear displayed by the mariners, Jonah sleeping, the call to Jonah (“Why are you sleeping!?!”), etc.  As a side note, it’s important when examining typology that we don’t make every point find similarity.  For instance, Jesus was asleep in the stern or rear of the boat while Jonah was asleep in the “inner part.”  That aside, the similarities from the two stories are striking and here is the point, or where we begin to see how Jesus is the antitype, i.e. the greater Jonah.  Whereas Jonah was guilty of sin before God, the only solution to calm the storm was to throw Jonah overboard, ridding them of guilt from his sin.  Christ, the greater Jonah, had no sin.  As such, this Greater Jonah, did not need to cast Himself overboard to calm the storm.  He had dominion over the storm and rebuked it to be still.  But notice the common response of the mariners on the ship with Jonah and the disciples on the ship with Jesus:

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” Jonah 1:16

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:42

In each case the men recognized that it was the Lord who had control and dominion over the sea and as a direct result of that recognition, each group of men were seriously afraid. This is the right and biblical response to the power and majesty of God.

But that’s not the end of the connection between Jesus and Jonah.  An additional point of typology is brought out through the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:38-41:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Here we see that just as Jonah was cast overboard from the boat as a result of sin and spent three days and nights in the belly of the God-appointed whale, so also Christ as a result of sin, though not His own, was to spend three days and nights “in the heart of the earth”, following His death on the cross.  Similarly, upon the command of God the whale spit out Jonah and Christ was raised victoriously from the grave.  Christ asserted Himself as not only the fulfillment of the type and shadow that Jonah portrayed through his actual, physical encounter with the whale, but also that He was the greater Jonah, sinless on all accounts and reigning supreme over the sea and more importantly death.

But there is a second point from the account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark and for this, we go to Psalm 107:23-32.  Some of the key words/phrases are highlighted:

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Isn’t this a fascinating example of the unity and harmony of God’s Word. Here in a small, but familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark, we find connectivity with Jonah in which we see the supremacy of Christ as a fulfillment of the type and evidence of Him as the greater Jonah.  We can observe the right response that man should have when he encounters the awesome and majestic power of God. Additionally, we see a Psalm of David as a near word for word account of Mark’s Gospel, in which the psalmist magnifies the almighty power of God that is on display as He delivers those who seek Him in their time of despair.  Likewise, we can observe a second response of those who have experienced the blessing of God’s magnificent power and work, thankfulness and praise.

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