Why Does Jesus Rebuke His Disciples?

Mark 4:35-41 is a fascinating passage. And, like many episodes in this Gospel, some aspects of it are head-scratchingly mystifying.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Why does Jesus rebuke his disciples? It seems that they recognize clearly that they’re in trouble and that Jesus is the one who can do something about it. They call on him for help and he rescues them. But why does he then rebuke them? Didn’t they do what they should have? Didn’t they call on him to save them? From one perspective, it seems that he should have commended them!

Is it because they speak to him disrespectfully and sarcastically? I can see how some people might think this, especially since the question may imply that Jesus doesn’t care about their fate. But that seems to be a notion that stems from a post-Victorian conception of Christian piety in which politeness and placidity are supreme virtues. The psalmists and prophets of Israel are anything but polite and the disciples’ speech reflects how Scripture often portrays people wrestling with God, often in agitated fashion, as in Psalm 44:23-24:

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?

Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face

and forget our misery and oppression?

Does Jesus rebuke them merely for being afraid? Would he rather they be confident in some way as the boat continues to take on water, eventually sinking?

So, why does he rebuke them and what else did he expect them to do?

4 thoughts on “Why Does Jesus Rebuke His Disciples?

  1. Bradley Collins

    I’m honestly astounded that you took the time to write this article and leave it the way that you did. Allow me to quote Jesus “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” The message of Jesus of Nazareth was that we had the ability to love, heal etc. within us already. That we did not need Jesus to be physically present there nor should we rely on him to do everything for us because we possess the ability to do it on our own. We are simply unaware of this ability. Further proof is when he rebuked his disciples for stopping a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. So it seems two thousand years later the legacy of ignorance continues. Even this coming of the Messiah was not enough to break this false belief, even in his personal disciples who heard and witnessed all, that human beings are not capable of doing or being good on their own. Faith was required because the intellectual understanding of human body and the human condition were not readily known by man, and Jesus couldn’t even teach them a basic message without them wanting to call down fire from heaven and murder people (sounds a lot like the US Gov today) Men aren’t Wicked or evil, they’re just ignorant about what it means if you are created in the image of a omnipresent being. Or if you simply study physiology and psychology neuroscience quantum mechanics sociology etcetera you can determine that human beings are capable of many things that we are unaware of. No need to confuse things with ancient script that not even the original authors believed. Or else they would have been performing Miracles right? Cause they had faith. But they didn’t. And it seems to me it’s because they did not have the intellectual preparation for such an understanding. If you were to go today and pluck an isolated tribe member from South America and try to explain them how an MRI works they’re going to think you’re some kind of devil or magician. Either way they will not be able to perform an MRI scan. This is not Supernatural or spiritual in nature it’s simply a matter of exposure and lack of knowledge and understanding. The reason why Christians today do not perform any of the miricles that Jesus did, because they’re still expecting him to do it for them. They still don’t get it.

    1. myers

      I am astounded that you have such a complicated answer when the simple truth is right there, right out of Jesus’ mouth. He said, Why are you so fearful, how is it that you have no faith? What prompted that response was the question by the disciples, Don’t you care that we perish.

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