Faith of a mustard seed

Barbara Woods-Washington 2014

Barbara A. Woods Washington, M. Div.

“But Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Mark’s use of ‘faith’ is a Triple Tradition pericope— ‘The Stilling of The Storm’, (Mark 4:35-41). Matthew’s variation from Mark is at these points: Mark identifies the great storm with ‘wind’; Jesus is asleep on a ‘cushion’; and, significant I think, is seen in the variation of questioning. In the dialogue with the disciples Mark records a series of questions where Matthew has exclamations. Noteworthy is the initial question asked in Mark when the disciples woke Jesus saying, “do you not care if we perish?” Here, Matthew records the exclamation, “Save Lord, we are perishing!” (Matt 8:23-27).

On the variation of ‘the cushion’, I am immediately reminded of Dr. Thurman’s dialogue when he said to us “Jesus Is A Cushion!”. In our seven day Educational Trust scholars’ seminar, he was in a discussion on some very relevant differences between Judaism and Christianity. He recalled how Jacob wrestled with an angel in saying that Judaism is a faith that the believer has a very personal relationship with God. Face to face. One on one. You can’t go God, until you bless me. He likened Jesus’ position in Christianity to a ‘cushion’. Christians, he said, have put Jesus in the middle, like a cushion.

The ‘Stilling of the Storm’ is classified a ‘miracle story’ and appears in Mark as a test of faith— particularly with the doubting mood that the disciples are in. Their mixed emotions come through in that they obviously believe that Jesus has the ‘power to know’ of the wind storm even ‘in his sleep’. That perhaps he should have known enough to wake up and save them. Or, he simply did not care. “Do you not care if we perish?” In my ‘ole preacher’s mind’s eye’, I can see the disciples round table discussion while Jesus is asleep. Surely their very foundation was shaking in the midst of this storm. As their fright turned to resentment that Jesus could even sleep through this, I can hear— “we ‘bout to perish”; “He don’t care.” “It’s time for Him to wake up!” “Yeah, we ‘bout to go get Him up!”

Unlike Matthew’s account where the discussion of fear and faith is the first order of business, in Mark Jesus rebukes the wind at first consciousness. As a response to their fear and lack of faith, but most importantly, I think— a response to their doubt about him caring for them, when he awakes he says first, “Peace. Be Still”. It is not just the winds, not just the rains, not just the sea— but also the disciples who are now at peace!

2017. Hurricanes! Harvey! Irma! Maria! Jose! All being spoken of as ‘the worst in Hundreds of Years”. The kind of Storm that is difficult to define, only that it has “High Speed Cyclonic Winds’ and Rains that after Blowing Up and Blowing Away EVERYTHING in it’s path— Death and Destruction. Whole Islands. Whole Towns… what is left sits in many instances… under Water. Wakes everybody… Up!

You gotta love a Lord who alone can give you peace in the midst of a storm, yet in your stillness speak a word to question your fear and your lack of faith. Seemed kinda silly to the disciples who now says, “who is this…”

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