“[Jesus] said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”(Mark 4:40).
Unless I missed one, this is the second rebuke Jesus gives his disciples in Mark. Jesus and his disciples have started across the Sea of Galilee and have encountered a storm. Mark calls it a “furious squall” with waves breaking over the boat so that it was “nearly swamped.”
Why was Jesus so peeved with his disciples? They woke him up! They must have believed that Jesus could do something. They must have believed that he would do something. After all, they were all in the same boat! Doesn’t that belief count for anything?
Faith is more than belief. It’s even more than belief in someone (or some thing). Faith engenders calm in the face of trial.
The twelve had seen Jesus’ great power: exorcisms, healings, and restorations. But these had been challenges faced by others. If you haven’t noticed, it’s easier to urge faith on others during their trials, to be at peace during their storms. It’s tougher when the trials are our own. The disciples were now the ones in trouble, and it was plain to Jesus their belief had not risen to the level of faith. Proof was in their fear.
Faith doesn’t come all at once. It’s a process, like a growing seed. It is nurtured by trial believe it or not – which is why it’s important NOT to pray you won’t be tried, but to pray that you will be delivered from trial when it comes. It’s also nurtured by prayer, and an exposure to the stories of God working in the lives of others.
Spiritual maturity is a developed confidence in God so that no matter what life throws at you, you face it unafraid, confident in the one who finds it easy to sleep in the storm.
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? (Mark 4:13)
That’s Jesus, talking to his disciples. Actually, rebuking his disciples is more like it. It is the first time Jesus speaks to them harshly in the gospel of Mark. It won’t be the last.
The rebuke comes hot on the heels of the parable of the sower. The disciples confess they don’t understand it. Jesus’ rebuke is intended to emphasize how serious a predicament is their ignorance. He speaks in parables to hide the message from “outsiders,” people who really have no interest. If his disciples don’t get the message . . . well . . . their “inside track” (Jesus has called them to be “with” him after all) is in danger.
The point of the parable of the sower is plain (it must be because Jesus says if you can’t get that parable, you can’t get any of them). But to be sure, Jesus explains it. The seed being sown is the message of God. The point is: “What kind of reception will it receive?” Hearers are the soil. Some don’t listen at all (Jesus blames Satan). Others listen only superficially. Still others listen, but their attraction to the siren song of the world drowns out any benefit. Finally, some listen, take the message to heart, and fruit is produced. They become God plants in the world.
The point of the parable is not that we should produce fruit. That’s the job of the seed. Our task is to provide a fertile place for the seed to grow. If godliness is not being produced in our lives, it’s not a seed problem. It’s a soil problem. It’s an us problem. Perhaps a bit of weeding is in order.
That was the verdict of Jesus’ family and Mark mentions it early in his account (3:20-21). As a result, they “went to take charge of him.” The phrase translates one word used four times later in chapter fourteen and there translated “arrest.”
There is here an animosity against Jesus by his own family similar to the animosity of those who would later put him to death. It is the same kind of enmity that has filled chapter three. The religious leaders were watching for a reason to kill him and strangely, they found it when Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand.
Why are these people so opposed to Jesus?
We are not told. Perhaps it was jealousy. Perhaps they were afraid their place of leadership was being challenged by this former carpenter from Galilee. Perhaps they felt Jesus’ revival wave would cause too much of a disturbance in Palestine and invite closer scrutiny by the Romans.
But in the end, reasons for rejecting Jesus do not matter. There is no good reason to reject Jesus.
Why does Mark paint Jesus’ family in such an unfavorable light? Perhaps because his readers have likewise suffered at the rejection of their families. Perhaps because his readers knew that Jesus’ family (at least some of them – James and Jude for example) became believers, giving hope for change in their own families. Or perhaps to underscore this one salient point: you cannot be a part of Jesus’ family without doing the will of God.