Jesus Calms the Storm
- Imagine the disciples' feelings before and after Jesus' miracle.
- Answer the disciples' question “Who is this?”
- Praise Jesus for his power and presence in our lives.
In unit 3 we will focus on some of the miracles that show Jesus' power over the forces of nature in the world and in human lives. These miracles are not meant merely to show Jesus' superhuman power. They are meant to tell us something about Jesus and about the kingdom of God that Jesus is announcing.
They show that the ordinary human being called Jesus is also the Son of God who can show God's power in the world. They demonstrate the kingdom of God that Jesus will usher in---when sickness and death will be destroyed and the powers of evil brought under control.
The Bible story for today displays all of these aspects of Jesus' miracles. Here we have an ordinary human being who is tired and falls asleep in the boat. Here we have the Son of God who has power over the wind and the waves. Here we have a picture of how God's kingdom will bring under control all the powers that are against us.
Imagine the scene: Tired and weary after a long day of teaching and healing, Jesus falls asleep on some cushions in the stern of the boat. Suddenly a violent storm whips up over the lake. This is not uncommon on Galilee, and because it's a relatively small body of water with smaller boats that could easily capsize, it could be even more chaotic.
The disciples, scared out of their wits with the waves crashing over the boat, wake Jesus up. They don't just wake him, they scold him. To them Jesus seems indifferent to the dangers they face, and their panic turns into accusation.
Awakened from his sleep, Jesus stands and orders the wind and the waves to be still. Literally, it's more like a rebuke: "Shut up!" It's as if Jesus were talking to a wild horse or a frenzied dog. His words display both power and authority, and the forces of nature obey Jesus' calm command. Immediately all is calm.
It's almost humorous, then, to see Jesus, having awakened and ordered the wind and the waves into a state of calm, turn to his frightened disciples and upbraid them for their lack of faith.
The disciples, filled with fear, awe, and wonder, ask "Who is this?" Who is this person who falls asleep and then wakes up to quiet the forces of nature? That's the question that reverberates through this session and will reverberate through this quarter. Who is this person who does such great and good deeds?
Over the centuries this story has acquired deep meaning for many believers. The picture of a storm-tossed boat with the cross for a mast became an early Christian symbol for the church (and in our time was adopted by the World Council of Churches). This image expresses the great comfort we have as those who are in the boat with Jesus on the stormy sea of life.
What did the disciples expect Jesus to do when they woke him up?
Have you ever felt like scolding Jesus for his lack of sensitivity or action? Does he ever seem to fall asleep on you?
“Who is this?” is the fundamental question about Jesus. In what ways is it being asked and answered today?
Already at this age, perhaps especially at this age, children experience many frightening things. Perhaps you can identify some of these fears as you think about the children in your class. You can certainly identify your own fears, and this might be an opportunity to share how you turn to Jesus in those fears.
Let your children wonder about the contrast between the tired Jesus who falls asleep and the powerful Jesus who rebukes the wind and the waves.
Songs: “Rooftops,” “Green Pastures”
Storm word cards printable page, cut apart
Story symbol, session 1 printable page
Welcome the kids with a warm smile. Tell them how happy you are to see them today—in fact, so happy that it makes you feel bright red or orange—or whatever color seems appropriate for a happy feeling to you!
Gather everyone together and ask kids to think about their week. Ask,
- On the whole, was it a good week, an OK week, a great week, or a disappointing week?
- What color would best describe how you feel as you think about last week?
After everyone—including you—has had the opportunity to share a little about his or her week and color choice, open with prayer. Consider including some of the following:
- Thank God that the kids were able to come this morning.
- Ask God to be with any child who is absent.
- Thank God for being with all of you throughout the week.
- Ask God to bless each person, mentioning each by name.
- Ask God to help each person learn what God wants to teach us today.
Open your time of worship by inviting everyone to stand up and praise God as though they are shouting from the rooftops. Teach kids some simple actions to go with some of the words in the song “Rooftops” and then praise God with your voices and bodies as you sing it together.
Introduce the next song by asking kids to share their ideas about what they think shepherds do most of the day. Give them a few hints, such as
- keeping their sheep healthy
- keeping their sheep safe
- keeping their sheep fed
Point out that being a shepherd is not just a job that starts in the morning and ends at night—shepherds care for their sheep all the time! Share that God is like a shepherd to us—God cares for us as carefully as a shepherd takes care of the sheep. Explain that beginning today you’ll be learning some verses about that together from the Bible. Open your Bible and read the first three verses of Psalm 23 to your group and then listen to them together in the Scripture song “Green Pastures.”
Attach the word cards to the walls around the room. Have kids read the words as you hang up the cards. Sit back down and ask what these words make them think about. A birthday party? A football game? Have them suggest what comes to mind—storms, sometimes scary storms!
Ask the group to think of the time they were most scared in a storm. What kind of storm was it? Of all the words on the walls, what was it about the storm that scared kids most? When they are ready, have kids go to that word and sit down under it. Give each person time to briefly tell about the scariest storm they have experienced.
Invite everyone to come back to your story area as you pull these word cards off the walls: lightning, wind, thunder. Take out the story symbol for today and place the three word cards beside it.
Tell kids that the disciples were in a storm once. To make it worse—they were out in a boat. Jesus was in the boat with them. Ask kids whether or not they think the disciples were calm through the storm because they knew that Jesus was right there with them.
Leave the question open-ended and get ready for the story. Leave the story symbol and words where you can come back to them at the end of the story.
The disciples’ question “Who is this?” is haunting and powerful. It’s a question you and I may ask too! In this story Jesus reveals himself to them—and to us—as “one who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all the creatures, that is, one who is also true God” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 15).
Bell to ring or jingle
Before the session begins, bookmark your Bible to Mark 4.
Gather everyone around you. Take out your bell(s). Explain that for the next several weeks you’ll be using the bell(s) to signal that it’s time to greet the story. When they hear the bell, they will say: Hear the bell! Hear the bell! You will respond by saying: There’s a part of God’s story I can’t wait to tell!
Practice the story call one more time. Ring the bell.
Listeners: Hear the bell! Hear the bell!
Storyteller: There’s a part of God’s story I can’t wait to tell!
The story follows:
It had been another busy day. Large crowds of people followed Jesus and his disciples to the lake. So many people came. Some wanted to hear Jesus tell about God. Others wanted to be touched by Jesus and healed. Some just wanted to see Jesus and listen to him. Many people had heard about his power. There were people here. People there. People, people, everywhere. And Jesus and his disciples were tired.
(Open your Bible and read verse 35.) That’s how this part of God’s great story begins. Jesus needed to rest. The disciples climbed into the boat with him. They grabbed the oars and headed off for the other side of the lake.
It was a beautiful evening. The sun was going down. Imagine a quiet night after supper on a hot day. Can you picture Jesus and his disciples quietly rowing across the water? What sounds do you think could be heard as they rowed on this peaceful evening? (Pause for responses.)
As they got out into the middle of the lake, a wind came up. The disciples noticed a cool breeze. Then waves were splashing against the boat. The boat began to rock from side to side. The sky grew very dark. The wind whistled across the water. Soon waves were pounding and crashing and splashing into the boat. The disciples were drenched!
But that’s not all—the boat began to sink! The disciples—these grown men—some of whom were fisherman and used to being out in bad storms—were scared. They tried to scoop the water out of the boat, but no matter how fast or how hard they scooped, their boat filled up.
What sounds do you think could be heard from the storms? (Pause for responses.) What sounds could be heard from the disciples? (Pause for responses.)
While everyone else was scooping and yelling and tossing and turning in the boat, Jesus was fast asleep, his head on a cushion at the back of the boat.
What sounds do you think could be heard from Jesus? (Pause for responses.)
The disciples shook Jesus awake. They shouted to be heard above the storm: “Jesus, don’t you even care if we all drown?”
Jesus woke up and saw the storm raging around their boat. He saw the terror in his disciples’ eyes and heard the fear in their voices.
Then Jesus stood up and stretched out his arms over the waves. “Quiet! Be still!” he commanded the wind and the waves. The wind and the waves listened to Jesus—and they obeyed. In an instant the crashing waves melted into calm. The wind vanished. All was quiet and peaceful on the lake.
But in the small boat, the disciples’ hearts were still pounding. Imagine the expression on their faces. How do you think their faces looked? (Pause for responses.)
Then Jesus spoke. “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you believe that I have the power to save you? Where is your faith?”
For a minute the disciples were silent. They were still terrified. Their bodies had not stopped shaking. When they were able to speak, they didn’t answer Jesus’ question. But they had a question. Listen to what the Bible says. (Read verse 41.)
Does that seem like a strange question to you? The disciples had been living and working with Jesus for a while by then—why do you think they might have asked who he was? (Pause for responses.)
End of the story
Go back to the story symbol and three word cards near it. Point to the word thunder. Ask kids to repeat the words Jesus said to the storm: “Quiet! Be still!” Point to the word wind. Have kids repeat Jesus’ words. Then point to the word lightning. Have kids repeat Jesus’ words a third time. Point out that, with three little words, Jesus showed his amazing power over nature.
Have prayer together, thanking God for his amazing power over nature—even the wind and the waves obey him. Thank Jesus for taking care of his disciples and us too!
Masking tape or rope
Before starting this activity, clear the area so that kids don’t trip over things or bang into tables or chairs. Use masking tape or rope to form a large boat shape on the floor.
Introduce “Freeze, please!” to the group. Tell kids that you will give them instructions about acting out a scene from the story. After they have been in action for a short time, you will call out: Freeze, please! They will freeze in place and you will take a photo of their story scene. Look at the photo together; then go on to the next scene.
- Tell kids that they are the disciples. Jesus has just asked them to get into the boat with him and row over to the other side of the lake. Ask a couple of children to take imaginary oars and be the rowers. The rest will engage in conversation as friends do at the end of a busy day. Encourage them to use their imagination and talk about the things they might have seen or experienced that day with Jesus—the big crowds, the warm weather, and so on. Once everyone is ready, give the signal and snap a photo.
- Assign someone to be Jesus asleep in the back of the boat. Assign a few kids to stay out and make the storm sound effects—pounding, wind whistling, and so on. The rest will act out the furious storm coming up. Remind them that the weather went from a beautiful calm to a fierce storm. Their body actions and voices should reflect that—they can take their cues from the sound effects the others are making. Remind your actors that water was coming into the boat and it was sinking. The disciples were afraid they would die. Tell them that you will stop them before it’s time to awaken Jesus. When the action reaches its high point, give the Freeze, please! signal and take a picture.
- Assign a different person to be Jesus. The kids producing storm noises remain in place for the beginning of this scene. Begin with the furious storm and move into waking Jesus up, showing the disciples’ absolute fear. Jesus wakes up, stands, and speaks to the wind and the waves. Freeze, please!
- Invite the sound effects people to join the others in the boat. Explain that the storm is over, but everyone is still terrified. They can’t believe what has just happened. They try to catch their breath and have their bodies stop shaking. They finally begin asking each other: “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” (It isn’t necessary to have a Jesus figure for this scene, however if your Jesus actor from the previous scene would like a challenge, invite him or her to pose as they imagine Jesus might have looked while the disciples were talking to each other.) Freeze, then photograph.
Ask the kids to answer the disciples’ question “Who is this?”
As kids talk and work on their windsocks, tell them about a time in your own life when you’ve trusted Jesus’ care.
Windsock pattern printable page, one per child
Streamers, 6-8 strips per child
String or yarn, one 16” (40 cm) length per child
Show and Share papers, session 1
Memory Challenge posters printable page, one per child
Dear Family Letter (printable page or email version), one per child
Note: Before your session begins you might want to make a windsock to show your group as you introduce the craft.
Point out that the same Jesus who calmed the wind and the waves is taking care of each of them all the time! Gather kids around the activity table and invite them to make a wind sock as a reminder that Jesus is so powerful that even the wind obeys him. Set out materials (windsock patterns, markers for decorating, streamers or strips cut from a plastic tablecloth—each about 10” x 1” or 12 x 2.5 cm—tape, string) and have kids complete the windsocks as follows:
- Color the letters on the windsocks and decorate as desired.
- Lay the paper, letters face down, and tape 6-8 streamers to the inside.
- Roll the paper into a tube. Tape it closed.
- Tape a string to the insides of the top.
As kids work, talk together some more about how Jesus takes care of them and is with them at all times—even during those scary times they talked about at the beginning of the session.
When the wind socks are finished, set them aside and introduce the Show and Share paper for this week. Point out the following activities:
- “On the Way Home”: Encourage kids to do the activity with people in their car.
- Show everyone how to fold the inside pages of the paper to create a storybook after they have done the activities with their family. Note: Be sure to tell them to save the book. For each week in this unit the Show and Share paper will fold to make a storybook. At the end they will have a set of five special storybooks about Jesus’ power! Next session they will make a special folder to keep all the books in.
- The maze puzzle on the back page.
Close by standing in a prayer circle to praise Jesus for his power and presence in our lives. Invite your group to join you in an eyes-open prayer in which they’ll follow your instructions (indicated by the underlined words) and respond with: We praise you, Jesus!
Jesus, You are with us at all times. We praise you with high-fives.
We praise you, Jesus!
Jesus, you care for us at all times. We praise you with loud clapping.
We praise you, Jesus!
You are all powerful! We praise you with low-fives.
We praise you, Jesus!
You are our God’s Son. We praise you with arms raised.
We praise you, Jesus!
large tub or basin of water, paper boats made from cardstock or coated paper, small pebbles or marbles
Make paper boats, one per child plus a few extra.
1. Fold a rectangular sheet of paper in half.
2. Beginning at the folded edge, fold corners down to meet the middle.
3. Fold up the bottom flap on each side. Tuck in the surplus flaps, and tape as shown in the illustration.
4. Take hold of the bottom points of the triangle shape; bring them together to form a square with the flaps to the outside. Open the square, and carefully turn the flaps to the inside. Pull the point up to shape the bottom of the boat.
As kids arrive, invite them to find a partner and race the boats in the water by blowing the boats from one end of the tub to the other. Encourage kids to try different methods of blowing (long steady blows, short puffs, from the side or behind). Allow a few moments to discuss the races. Ask, What happens if the wind (blowing) is too strong? What caused a boat to sink?
Bible or story version from Step 2
This activity can be used in place of Step 3: Living into the Story.
Retell the story as your group provides the sound effects. If you have two good readers in the group you might ask them to read the story—one can read the words spoken by Jesus and the disciples and the other can read the narration.
Assign half of the group to make wind sounds and the other half to make water sounds. Practice the sounds together. Make windy sounds with the “f ” sound. Blow out very quietly to indicate breezes, and increase the volume, durations, and power as the wind picks up, howling at its peak and then decreasing again. Watery sounds can be made with the “sh” sound in the same way. Direct the volume with hand signals like an orchestra conductor directing an orchestra. Use a distinctive hand signal to indicate silence.
Read the story slowly, pausing after each sentence to give kids time to think about what they are hearing. The sounds should start quietly as the story begins, increase as the storm whips up, and then stay at a loud pitch until Jesus speaks, when they cease altogether.
End by inviting kids to come up with their own answers to the question “Who is this?”
markers, Memory Challenge posters, one per child
Invite kids to decorate their Memory Challenge poster. Remind them that they will be learning the rest of the psalm in several weeks; the poster for that section will attach to this one to make one big poster.
Show and Share paper, session 1
Divide group into pairs. Have kids spread out around the room. Read one question at a time, and have both kids in each pair answer, one at a time. Then read another question. After doing a few questions, have kids form new pairs and continue.