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?

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2 responses to “Why Does Jesus Rebuke His Disciples?

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