“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 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?”” (Mark 4:37–38, ESV)
Last night my lovely wife and I were watching the show Lethal Weapon. Damon Wayans plays Roger Murtaugh a fifty-year old detective who has been paired with the sometimes crazy Martin Riggs. They take down some crooked arms dealer in a wild shootout in the middle of the night. The next day Damon is at the police station describing the gun battle in great detail to the other police officers. As he vividly recounts the events of the previous night, he says, “some people may call this heroic, but I just call it Tuesday.” The point being that Roger Murtaugh wants his fellow officers to see him in a good light and so he downplays his actions and in so doing makes himself look even more impressive, after all a dangerous gun battle is just another day on the job for him.
We do not have the same thing from the disciples here, even though by all rights we should expect it. If you, dear reader, were in a boat that was in danger of being swamped and sunk on a vicious night on the Sea of Galilee, would you play up how frightened you were? Probably not, once you made it through the storm alive, you would probably be like Damon Wayans, “some people call it the storm of the century, but I just call it another night on Galilee.”
One of the indications of the veracity of these events is the fact that again and again the disciples are not cast in a good light, on the contrary they often come off as confused, mistaken, or as here simply frightened out of their wits. One would not pen the narrative in this way unless it were absolutely true, no one likes to make themselves look bad.
Jesus is acting completely differently than the disciples. They are in fear of their lives, he is asleep in the stern [in the Greek the word asleep is emphasized], his head on a cushion used by the one sitting in the very back end of the boat. Mark wants us to see this contrast between fear and nonchalance, between worried disciples, their focus on the mighty waves around them, and sleeping Jesus, not bothered at all by the wind or the waves. Indeed, the disciples must wake him up!
We don’t know what the point is yet [although we will soon], but what we do know is that Jesus is not at all bothered by the forces of nature, how very mighty and life-threatening they might be. Why isn’t he?