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Was it a Question without Faith? (Mark 4:38)

I have had a great summer off from my daily routines and have been busy on some major writing projects. They will be announced at this year’s ETS annual meeting. You’ll like them.

But during the summer Robin (my wife) and I were listening to some sermons from an excellent preacher. I want to emphasize that he is really good. But even really good exegetical preachers can make mistakes, and his mistake, as subtle as it was, should serve as a reminder that we should always check the Greek before we preach.

I have no doubt that this preachers knows the Greek rule I am going to share with you, but I don’t think he checked the Greek this time.

Jesus is out on the sea with his disciples, the storm comes up, and the disciples wake up Jesus to ask him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (NIV). The preacher preached this passage as an open question, one in which the disciples showed no faith in Jesus. But is that right? This certainly is the impression that the NIV gives (as well as all the other major translations). Even the NLT is at fault here, making the disciples faith even harder to see. “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

The Greek is, διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα; What do you see?

The question is introduced with οὐ, which means the disciples assumed that Jesus did in fact care. They assumed that his answer would be, “Yes, I do care.” That’s what the οὐ is doing.

I know we can’t always carry this piece of information over into our translations all the time, but it seems to me that this is one of those situations in which we should. “Teacher, you do care if we drown, don’t you?”

It wasn’t a question based only on fear. Sure, they were afraid, but what was really bothering them was that they had a certain view of Jesus and his care for them, and his sleeping in the midst of the storm did not line up with their faith in him. So they didn’t ask a totally open-ended question. Their question shows a budding faith, a faith in his care for them, a faith that was being tested by the storm.

That’s something different, and something that each of us faces on a regular basis. We have a basic understanding of the Lord’s care and protection for us, and then life happens. The pains and tragedies of our lives raises the question of our faith in him, but in the midst of that pain we can certainly cry out to him, expressing our faith in him, and yet asking for his help.

After all, that’s what Jesus did on the cross.

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