Upon first reading Mark 4:35-41, one might be tempted to think that this is a legendary tale. It is the fantastic story of Jesus silencing a deadly storm by simply speaking to it. A hurricane force storm obeys Jesus just as a small child obeys a parent when he is told to be quiet and to stay quiet. Remarkably though, the narrative contains features that do not square with the typical features of a legendary account. Rather, this story has features that make it easy to conclude that this is an eyewitness account.
The key is all the little details contained in the story that don’t necessarily help move the story along. Mark notes that the event happened in the evening. They took Jesus with them in a boat, just as he was. This means that Jesus went from the teaching boat, straight to the traveling boat, without going back on shore. We learn there were lots of others boats around him. And during the journey Jesus went to sleep on a cushion in the back of a boat.
What is the significance of all the small details? They are meaningful because these are the memories of somebody. Our minds tend to recount particular small details amidst the major circumstances we experience in life. So, when we encounter such details in a narrative we must conclude that this was eyewitness reporting. In the case of The Book of Mark, the various details we encounter are probably the memories of Peter. If you’ll recall, Peter served as a primary source of Mark as he authored his gospel.
It is also important to consider that the biblical gospels were written way too early to be legends. They were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses and those eyewitnesses could have been consulted regarding the veracity of the account. While modern, realistic fiction does contain minute details like the ones we find in the gospel of Mark, we must keep in mind that Mark originally wrote to a 1st century audience and not a 21st century audience.
The most important takeaway is that this event really happened. The power of Jesus isn’t simply devotional. His power doesn’t simply surface internally, in our hearts. Jesus really calmed a hurricane like storm by simply speaking to it. Let that soak in for a moment.
So, if this really happened, if Jesus had this kind of power, then we must take all that he said very seriously. Many people like to pick and choose the teachings of Jesus that they want to follow. They embrace his easier saying and reject the more challenging ones. They create a makeshift Jesus according to their own preferences. But if Jesus really calmed a storm as Mark says he did, then we have to deal with him on his terms. You don’t get to control the one who has control over creation.