Jesus had spent all day teaching the crowds through parables. In what probably was a more tiring task in a more private setting, he explained those parables to his disciples. At the end of the day, he was tired and needed a break from the crowds. So at his insistence, they got into a boat and began traveling to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
In that story as told in Mark’s Gospel, there is a little phrase that has always intrigued me. “And there were also with him other little ships” (Mark 4:36b). Why was it important for Mark to note that there were other boats besides the one Jesus was traveling in with the disciples? Were there other disciples in those boats? Were they occupied by other people, strangers perhaps, or curious onlookers? We don’t know.
We do know that when Jesus got into the boat he went into the stern, found a cushion, and went to sleep. A storm arose and the waves were breaking into the boat. The disciples were men of the sea and knew the danger they were in. But Jesus continued sleeping until the disciples woke him and reprimanded him for not caring that they were in danger of perishing.
Jesus showed no worry. He gave no instruction or words of caution to the disciples. Instead he spoke to a word of rebuke to the wind and calmly said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind obeyed him and the sea became still.
The disciples learned a great lesson in faith that day. They had no power over the storm and the motion of the sea. But Jesus did. They marveled at the power of Jesus. I suspect they said to themselves, “I sure am glad Jesus was in our boat.” They knew the sea had calmed because Jesus had heard their concern and responded to their cry for assistance. Truth is, the sea became calm for “the other little ships” also. But the occupants of those vessels were none the wiser as to how or why it happened. They did not get a lesson in faith, or come away with the understanding that they had a savior who had the ability to help them. They were just beneficiaries of being close in proximity to the boat Jesus was in.
We have faced a lot of storms in recent months. We will face more in the months and years to come. Here is the question we need to ask ourselves: Is Jesus in our boat? Or are we traveling in some “other little ship?”
Brent Cloyd is associational mission strategist for Greater Wabash Baptist Association.