From Despair to Faith: The Stilling of the Storm

Keywords: fear, death, faith, anagnorisis, eternal life


On 27 March, 2020, Pope Francis raised to the Lord a prayer of supplication in the name of the whole of humanity, seeking an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. In that occasion he gave an impressive homily based on the text of Mark 4,35-41, the famous account of the stilling of the storm. The present paper studies the triple attestation in the Synoptics (Matt 8,23-27; Mark 4,35-41; Luke 8,22-25), by considering the main difference on which it’s necessary to reflect with attention: Matthew reverses Mark and Luke in an important point. In fact, in Matt 8,26b, the injunction addressed to the wind and the sea falls after the question about the nature of the disciples’ faith, but in Mark 4,39b and Luke 8,24b the opposite happens: Jesus first calms the storm and only then asks the question about their faith. Why? With different strategies, all three Synoptics show that the disciples are men who, for all their slowness, will enter step by step into the anagnorisis of Jesus. In the course of the drama, the question with which the episode of the stilling of the storm concludes is really serious about Jesus’ identity. Beyond the differences of detail which emerge from the reading in parallel, the three Synoptics agree in conferring the same narrative emphasis on the disciples’ final question: “Who is this then, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The question about who is this (τίς ἐστιν) forms the key query: if the Christological question continues after the description of the final solution, that means that, for the evangelists, the most important aspect is represented not by the miracle of the stilling of the storm but what that reveals about the identity of the protagonist of the story. The ultimate aim of the text concerns the identity of Jesus as God. The disciples are full of ὀλιγοπιστία because they are frightened of dying, not yet having learnt the perspective of eternal life: the one who speaks in the stilling of the storm is, yes, the Nazarene of history but still more the Risen One whom the great storm of death will have to obey in the morning of Easter.


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