When we read story of Jesus, it’s important to remember that we have the benefit of knowing the whole story. We know who Jesus is (or do we?) and how the story ends, but Jesus’ disciples don’t have the benefit of that information. In this story comes a question that is easy for us to gloss over, but it is actually a key question in Mark: “Who then is this?” Later that question will be turned on to the disciples as Jesus asks, “who do you say that I am”. This story likely plays a significant role in their answer.
It’s also important to remember that the people in this story don’t have the benefit of the scientific advancements we have. While weather is still relatively unpredictable to us today, we understand scientifically what is happening with it. But in Jesus’ day, weather was deeply mysterious and often directly to connected to God (or the gods). It was the work of God, done at God’s command. Psalm 135:5-7 says, “I know that the Lord is great; our Lord is above all gods. He it is who make the clouds rise at the end of the earth; he makes the lightnings for the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses”. Psalm 107:28-29 says, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out from their distress; he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.” While these are poems, they come out of a lived belief that God is responsible for weather. There was no other explanation. It was, in a sense, their science. It was their only way to understand the mysterious and unpredictable patterns of weather.
So when Jesus gets up and “commands” the wind (“rebuke” can also be translated “command”) and says “Peace, be still” and the storm calms, the disciples view of who he is shifts. He’s no longer just a great prophet and teacher, with great healing power; he’s no longer even just the “son of God” or one “sent by God”. He’s commanding the wind and the waves and they are obeying him. This is not what anyone of this earth does. People have healed. People have cast out demons. People have taught. But not this. This is what Yahweh does. So, “who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” They were already afraid because of the wind and the waves. But I wonder what kind of fear came over them at this moment. “Whose presence are we in?”
That’s a good question for us. As we pray, as we gather for worship, as we serve: whose presence are we in? Do we have the same awe, wonder and even fear as the disciples did? Or have we whittled Jesus down to merely our “best bud”? Who, then, is this? Whose presence are we in? Just whose footsteps are we following? I said early that we have the benefit of knowing who Jesus is. But do we?