Calming the Storm: Something Greater Than Jonah Is Here

In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms a storm. And when you read the story, there are multiple correspondences to the story of Jonah. In fact, the way Mark narrates the story seems to have been influenced by the events in Jonah 1. There are at least eight points of correspondence:

  1. The key character gets into a boat (Jonah 1:3; Mark 4:36)
  2. A storm arises on the sea that threatens everyone on board (Jonah 1:4; Mark 4:37)
  3. Everyone on the boat panics (Jonah 1:5; Mark 4:38)
  4. The key character is found sleeping in the boat (Jonah 1:5; Mark 4:38)
  5. Those on board wake up the key character (Jonah 1:6; Mark 4:38)
  6. Those on board question the key character and bring up the notion of perishing (Jonah 1:6; Mark 4:38)
  7. The sea becomes calm (Jonah 1:15; Mark 4:39)
  8. The men on board the boat respond with fear (Jonah 1:16; Mark 4:41)

The sheer number of correspondences, as well as the parallel order of events in Jonah 1 and Mark 4, indicate the influence of Jonah 1 on Mark’s account of Jesus’ miracle. But there are also important differences between Jonah 1 and Mark 4. Here are five:

  1. Jonah was on a boat because he was fleeing the will of God; Jesus was on a boat as he continued to fulfill the will of God.
  2. Jonah’s presence on the boat was the reason the storm arose; Jesus’ presence on the boat was the reason the storm became calm.
  3. Jonah was woken up but did not call upon the Lord; Jesus woke up, and he was the Lord whom the disciples called upon for help.
  4. Jonah was on a boat in order to not go to the Gentiles in Nineveh; Jesus was on a boat in order to go to the Gentile territory that we see in Mark 5 (the very next chapter).
  5. Jonah had to be delivered from death; Jesus delivered everyone else from death.

Jesus surpassed Jonah. He was a true and greater messenger of God who came to be the Light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus himself insisted, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matt. 12:41).

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