Even the winds and the sea obey him
(New Revised Standard Version)
When Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’
And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
The account of Jesus stilling the storm is not only found in Matthews’s gospel, but we also find it in the gospels of Luke and Mark. The Sea of Galilee often had around 300 boats on it and it was not unusual for some of the disciples to go out onto the sea on a boat. This was no small rowing boat, it was large enough to carry Jesus and his twelve disciples and it would have been powered by both oars and a sail with the sail being taken down in difficult weather conditions.
To give you a mental picture of the size of the Sea of Galilee, it is approximately fourteen miles long by six miles wide, but in places it is up to 46 meters deep. With little warning, storms can appear over the surrounding mountains, causing violent waves and making sailing on the Sea of Galilee very dangerous.
When the disciples had followed Jesus into the boat, there would have been no warning that a storm was coming; they hadn’t got into the boat foolishly, without regard for the weather conditions. This storm had caught them by surprise without warning, and they found themselves in great danger.
The miracles of Jesus were not new to the disciples, they were aware of his power, but being caught in the storm led them to panic. Some of the disciples were experienced sailors, used to going out in all sorts of weather conditions, and they had a healthy respect for the natural elements.
What they didn’t realise, is that Jesus had the power to control the very forces of nature, which God had created. What they didn’t do was to put their trust in Jesus who was sleeping, unphased by the storm, as if the boat was in still waters.
In life we don’t always put our trust in God like we should. We have a faith and we come to church but sometimes we ask ourselves is God really there? We look at our circumstances and allow them to overwhelm us, and so we focus our mind on the circumstance and not on God. This is what the disciples were doing, focusing on the storm, rather on the one who was in the boat with them and who had the power to still the storm.
God doesn’t want us to live our life with our minds focusing on our fears and problems. God is calling us to have a faith that believes. But note, Jesus was not on the shoreline watching them in the storm, he was in the storm with them.
When you are on board a boat and the water is calm there is a sense of safety, but the moment the wind gets up a bit and the boat rocks a bit more than you want it to, you don’t have that same sense of security. We need to remember that these disciples were professional fishermen; they were the experts at being out in a boat on the sea.
So when is it time to panic? It’s time to panic when the experts panic; and that’s what the disciples were doing, but we know from reading the story that there was no need for them to panic.
A question for us to think about is what do we do when we face adversity? Do we…
- Draw on our experiences of the past, and how we got through stormy times before, and think “OK, God has been there for me in the past he will be there for me again?”
- Do we face adversity with a positive attitude – nervous but thinking “OK, whatever comes my way I will deal with it.”
- Or do we just simply press on forwards thinking “I’m not going to let this situation bother me.”
- Or do we panic?
The disciples may have thought, “Oh we have been through storms before, we’ll be OK”, but this was no ordinary storm, it was a storm of all storms. These so called experts of being out on a boat in the sea actually thought they might really die, so they did the only thing they knew how best to do and that was to look towards Jesus their leader for help.
The only problem was, when they looked at Jesus he was fast asleep in the boat. He was not worried, or perturbed, he was just relaxed.
The thing is, how God looks at things and how we look at things are very different. God knows that he has it all under control, often we worry that he doesn’t. The disciples looked at the storm and thought it was time to panic, things were out of control. In Mark’s account of the storm they asked Jesus, “Don’t you care?”
How many times have we said those exact words to God ourselves, “Don’t you care God?” We might not always say it verbally, but I’m sure we sometimes think it.
Sometimes the storms in our lives come without warning. There might be something going on in your life at the moment that makes you feel like you are caught up in a storm, or you are worried about something and you are wondering where God is in all of this. It might be a health-related worry, worry about finances, or worry about a family member.
The disciples had good reason to be afraid, I know if I was in their situation I would be too. It is not unreasonable that we look around us at things that are happening in our life and worry. Our natural reaction is to be anxious, but how does God want us to respond?
In the passage it tells us that Jesus rebuked the wind and told it to be quiet. Jesus powerfully commanded the wind and waves to be calm by his authority. Jesus is not the meek and mild character that the world might have you believe, but he is powerful and mighty. Jesus did what only God could do: he stilled the storm to a whisper. Is this the Jesus that you know in your life? The Jesus who moves in power and authority?
The disciples must have looked at him in dismay! Was it unreasonable for them to be scared in the middle of the storm? No. But equally so, was it unreasonable for Jesus to expect them to trust him?
You might look at the chaos of your life and think that you have every right to be anxious and you might even be questioning God’s involvement in your life. You might be thinking “Yes, I believe in God”, but you are struggling to be sure if he is powerful enough to handle your situation. Let me reassure you that he is.
Whilst we are asking God where he is, God is asking us why are we so afraid? Why don’t you have faith in me? God loves us deeply, he has everything under his control. The image of Jesus resting is how God is in our lives; he is not worried, he is not panicking, he has everything under control, but, we must play our part and let him take control.
He knows that everything is going to be OK – we need to have faith. Our problem is that we only see things from our perspective and not God’s.
There are three things we must do:
- Daily remind ourselves that Jesus is Lord over every event and aspect of our lives. He never stops being God, He never stops being in control.
- When we enter the storms of our life, have faith and trust that Jesus is with you if you allow him to be.
- Trust God in all areas of our life, not just the storm.
(North East Hub)