The following commentary is a summary and subjective interpretation of Mark 4:35 – 41.
All commentaries are based on the ESV translation.
Starting with verse 35, the author explains that the following passage occurs on a specific day, most likely the day in which the previous passage unfolded. Moreover, these following events occur once evening has arrived. Note that this is most likely relating to the Jewish understanding of evening. Then, Jesus instructs those with Him to “go across to the other side.”
In verse 36, Our Lord and His entourage vacate the crowd that they were previously associating with. He is then taken onto a boat alongside them. Interestingly, the text notes that Christ was taken “just as he was,” seemingly indicates that there was little preparation for Him to come aboard the boat. Accompanying Christ and His party were individuals in other boats. The ESV does not give us a number of how many boats there were alongside them nor how long the boats accompanied Our Savior’s voyage.
In verse 37, the weather changes to an incredible windstorm. Waves start to attack the boat in which Christ is sailing and start to break inside. The result is the boat starting to fill up with water.
In verse 38, Christ is revealed to be the polar opposite of the waves around Him: He’s slumbering on a cushion while located in the stern, the back part of the ship. Our Lord appears to be a somewhat heavy sleeper as His party must wake Him up before getting a response. Their words are ones of fear. Though they address Him with the honorific title “Teacher,” they question if He values their lives. They want to know or are rhetorically asking if He has any regard for them perishing in light of the present weather conditions. It is interesting that their question does not seem to question Christ’s ability to help them. Rather, it appears that their question asks if Christ cares whether or not they die. Even though these individuals may believe that Jesus can save them, they are deeply frightened that Jesus may not care enough to save them.
In verse 39, Christ wakes up and verbally rebukes the assaulting elements. He instructs both the wind and sea with three words, telling them to be peaceful and still. The wind’s and sea’s response is total submission: the wind stops its attacks and the sea is at peace. All of the violence has stopped and peace has been restored.
In verse 40, we read the first words that Christ says to His party since He awoke. He begins by asking them why they’re so afraid and then questions if their faith has increased whatsoever. We may be inclined to read His second question as only relating this to having saving faith in God’s Messiah. However, His second question might pertain to how His party might not have any faith in Christ’s ability to care about other’s lives (see verse 38). His words serve as a kind of rebuke, suggesting that His presence should drive out fear and that those who sailed with Him should have more faith in His abilities.
In verse 41, those with Him become filled with fear. This is not considered a fear of reverence. The NIV describes them as being “terrified,” suggesting that they see Christ as a bigger threat or power than the waves and wind. And though they don’t need to be horrified because of Our Lord’s actions, their logic somewhat withstands. They have just seen a man — a man who is filled with the Spirit of God and is God incarnate no less — bring violent winds and waters to a sudden halt. In truth, they may fear what He is capable of doing next. His party talks amongst themselves, asking who Christ is in light of His ability to command both the sea and winds.
Side Note: These men may understand that Christ doesn’t intend them any harm. However, they perceive that He can command the wind and the water at will. Being that those with Him are probably at least novice sailors if not professional fishermen, they realize the impact Christ could have on the waters if He turned against them.
As a takeaway for us, we should not doubt Christ’s ability to save. Both the wind and the waves are at His command and even as we journey into the rough waters of life, we should find peace through faith. He is willing to impart salvation and help those in need. He is a comfort for us all.