Faith of A Mustard Seed

Barbara Woods Washington

Barbara Woods-Washington, M. Div.

Second in Mark’s use of ‘Faith’ is another Triple Tradition pericope— ‘The Stilling of The Storm’, (Mark 4:35-41).  Matthew variates from Mark 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.

When I consider the American Christian Church in 2021 —of it’s “Comeback”, now being coined as the ‘Post-Covid Church’; I am thinking of how critical it will be to make a major shift in the ‘Jesus is a Cushion’ practice.  Into a Second Year of “No Congregational Church”, she should not be in Celebration mode.  Time now with urgency to make “Our Path Straight”… back to God!

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!

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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