Storms at sea can be frightening even today. Imagine the terror of a storm while on water in the first century, and not only for the primitive boats of that day. In the gospel reading ( Mk 4:35-41), Jesus wishes to cross the sea of Galilee, and while making that crossing a squall erupts. At this point I imagine the boat distant from any shore, and I think of those fishermen’s view of the world at that time. To them they would have sight of heaven above and hell below, and that storm would be Gods wrath. God gives them either the ability to safely cross, or casts them down into the depths of the sea. It is by the will of God that they make it to the other side.
In that gospel story I also think of those cities, towns , and villages that dot the shoreline. I understand that region to be inhabited by Jewish communities, and communities of Greek origin, and those under Roman rule. To set sail from one side might be a departure from a Jewish territory, and the arrival into a pagan town. Many times when Jesus and his disciples sail across that sea that is precisely what they are doing. I can think of that storm raging at sea, and in the same way I can think of a similar storm raging on the shorelines. One a storm of nature and the other a storm of armies marching across the landscape.
When I think of that storm at sea and the questions the disciples asked in panic “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”; I don’t see those disciples simply perishing at sea. I see them perishing through the violent clashing of cultures too. When I hear Jesus command the winds “Quiet! Be still!”; I hear that message being directed at both wind, sea and that clashing culture that was roaring on the seashore. Jesus did come precisely to calm a storm, and authority he used to calm that sea is only a hint of what He will do once they reach the shore.
The first reading (Heb 11:1-2, 8-19) talks a lot about faith, the faith and promise made to Abraham. While at sea I am certain those fisherman put their faith in God every time they ventured from shore. I am certain too that this was not the first storm they encountered at sea, and I am certain that it was not the first time they thought they should perish, and I am certain it was not the first time they cried out in fear ” God save us!” But notice this time what they said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They cried out not to a God on the other side of the firmament, but instead called out to Christ. Here, they placed their faith in Jesus. That faith certainly was in its infancy, and will be tried and doubted many times along their journey. Placing that faith in Christ while in a storm at sea does speak volumes though. It gives illustration to their strength of faith as they walked with Christ. One might look at that miracle of calming of those seas , personally I see that miracle of faith. Faith in a God that enters into humanity to bring us salvation from our perils, and to lead us back to God . It’s the faith of Christianity.