The Disciples’ Power to Still the Storm: Exalted Humanity and the Power over Nature in Mark

Jesus’s stilling of the storm is often seen as a demonstration of his divinity in that only God can have power to command the wind and sea. This is supported by an appeal to certain OT passages that seem to say as much. As Morna Hooker says, “It is God who made the sea, and God alone who controls it. . . . The authority with which Jesus acts, as in 2:1–10, is that of God himself.” The same logic is often applied to the other nature miracles in the Gospels as well. In this reading of the passage, Jesus berates the disciples for not having faith in his authority/divinity or for not trusting in his divine care for them (since he was sleeping). In other words, he expected them to remain calm and trust that Jesus/God would save them and protect them. A focus on revealed divinity in this miracle precludes asking about other possibilities of what Jesus expected from his disciples. It seems unfair to berate them for being scared in a life-threatening storm; in fact, don’t they demonstrate faith by coming to Jesus to save them?

This paper will argue that Jesus expected the disciples themselves to still the storm, to put into action the mystery of the kingdom of God he has revealed to them. Focusing on the Gospel of Mark, I will argue this thesis from a close reading of the text and from a narrative perspective in the whole Gospel, showing that the stilling of the storm fits into the active participation of the disciples in the powerful enactment of the kingdom. Mark seems to indicate that, if the disciples have sufficient faith and understanding, they will perform powerful miracles like Jesus, including miracles showing power over nature. For instance, the disciples heal and cast out demons (6:7, 13; 9:23), Jesus seems to say they could feed the 5,000 (6:37), and he clearly says that they can move mountains (11:22-23). This argument has implications for Christology, our view of the disciples, and anthropology in general. We must still answer the disciples’ question, “Who then is this that both the wind and the sea obey him?” If Jesus expected the disciples to perform acts of power over nature, by what capacity were they expected to perform them, and in what capacity has Jesus actually performed them? I will argue that we must look for answers in divinization of renewed humans, endowment with cosmos-controlling Wisdom, apocalyptic prophetic power, and a return to human dominion over creation as expressed in Ps 8 and Gen 1.

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