The gospel of Mark is written for Christians who are suffering in a time of persecution. In times of suffering the questions arise: “Why this suffering? Where is God during these difficult times? Does God care about us?”
Mark seeks to help his congregation, (and ourselves), face this problem. He presents this scene of Jesus and his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat – Peter’s boat is the classical image of the Christian community as it travels on its’ journey “to the other side” in the company of Jesus. Since Jesus is in the boat with them and they are undertaking the journey at his invitation (“Let us cross over to the other side”), some Christians may falsely expect to have a problem free journey through life!…. But what happens is that “A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.” – (In ancient times the sea and an uncontrollable storm at sea were considered to be symbols of chaos, of evil. The persecution that Mark’s Christians are experiencing was seen to be the result of the work of uncontrollable forces of evil) – Mark is pointing out that being a Christian does not mean that no problems will be encountered during the journey.
During times of suffering it can seem that God is absent, the God is indifferent to what is happening. (Jesus was “in the stern, asleep on a cushion”) In the gospel passage the disciples wake Jesus up with the complaint “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” In response Jesus wakes up, rebukes the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still”. The awesome result is that “The wind ceased and there was a great calm”. Mark wants his fellow Christians to realise who Jesus is, who is this Jesus that is travelling with them in the boat! The psalm chosen to go with the gospel passage helps us understand. It gives a description of seafarers who are caught up in a terrible storm at sea and fear for their lives. “Then they cried to the Lord in their need and he rescued them from their distress. He (the Lord) stilled the storm to a whisper: all the waves of the sea were hushed.” God’s power is at work controlling the uncontrollable, overcoming the chaos of evil. In answer to the disciples question “Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?” Mark points out that the Christian community have “the Lord”, i.e. God, with them in the boat, so their journey through life, despite persecution and suffering, should be characterized by faith and trust in God’s loving care.