What does Mark 4:36 mean?Jesus has been teaching a crowd from a boat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, probably by Capernaum. Evening has come, and the people have heard all the parables they can absorb (Mark 4:33). Without returning to Peter and Andrew's house to pick something up or even setting foot on shore, Jesus asks the twelve to launch across the lake. If He had gone to shore, the people likely would have rushed Him again, seeking more healing miracles (Mark 3:7–10, 20; 4:1).
The disciples learn that following Jesus requires travelling light. When Jesus sends them out on their own for the first time, He tells them to "take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics" (Mark 6:8–9). This isn't because those things won't come in handy—actually, it's because those items are very useful! But Jesus doesn't want the disciples to grow to rely on worldly things. Paul, sitting in a Roman prison, tells the Philippians that he appreciates their gifts but also knows how to be content without them (Philippians 4:10–14).
This is a theme in Scripture that we often miss. God does not promise His ministers an easy life. He promises to equip us for ministry; failures are on our account, not His. He ensures we can bear any circumstances (Philippians 4:13) and reject any sin (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that He provides what we need in the moment, whether food (Matthew 6:11), clothing (Matthew 6:24–25), or words (Mark 13:11). He does not promise us worldly comforts, or even safety. Just what we need to do His will.
Mark doesn't elaborate as to who is in the other boats, and Luke and Matthew don't mention them. It's possible that the other disciples beyond the twelve asked local fishermen to follow (Mark 4:10), but we just don't know. Perhaps, due to the storm, the other boats fell back that evening and didn't make it across the lake with Jesus and the twelve. Perhaps God allowed the storm for this purpose. Since Scripture is not specific, we really don't know.