Calm in the Storm
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, November 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
"Does Jesus care?" This is the question many Christians ask in their times of trouble. "Does Jesus know my troubles? Does Jesus care?" From this passage I want to assure you that Jesus does know and care what happens to his people. In fact, the reason the eternal Son became incarnate is that he cares for us. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our merciful and faithful high priest who, because himself suffered when he was tempted, is able to help those who are being tempted.
The Christian life is not without troubles. The apostle Paul said, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). We saw an example of this recently when sixteen Protestant Christians, including a pastor, who were worshiping God on a Sunday, were murdered in Pakistan by Moslem extremists. When we hear of such things, we ask, "Does Jesus care?"
When Jesus called his disciples, he warned them of the troubles that would befall them as Christians. In fact, he asked them to take up the cross and follow him. He promised to give his people eternal life. He told them, "Fear not those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." In the same way, for us who are disciples today, to live is Christ and to die is gain. We can face any trouble knowing that when we depart from this life, we will be with Christ.
In Luke 8:22-25 we read of how Jesus cared for his disciples. First, we must understand that these disciples were people whom Jesus had personally called to himself. They were believers in Christ. Their faith was weak but was growing. They were oligopistoi, men of little faith, but they did have some faith. They were not unbelievers, who have no faith.
When these people-Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, and others-were effectually called by Jesus, they responded to him in faith. We are told that they left all and followed him to be taught by him. They became his disciples.
On this day Jesus woke up early in the morning, maybe in the fourth watch, which began at 3:00 A.M. It could be that he prayed for three or four hours, then ministered three or four hours publicly, and then ministered again privately in the home for several hours. Jesus always did the will of God. Thus, at the end of the day, even though he was very tired, Jesus was guided by the Holy Spirit to go southeast across the lake from Capernaum to the other side, and he obeyed. Why did Jesus have to cross the lake? Because on the other side was a Gentile man who was demonized by six thousand demons. In the will of God this man was to be delivered by Jesus Christ and commissioned by Christ to be the first missionary to the Gentiles.
Obedience to God's Command
Although Jesus was very tired physically, in obedience to the Holy Spirit he commanded his disciples to go across the lake. The first point is the command of God. We must go when and where God commands us to go. A Christian is one who obeys Christ.
In Luke 8:22 we read, "'One day Jesus said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side of the lake.' So they got into a boat and set out." A Christian is not autonomous but theonomous. In other words, a Christian is a disciple, one who is ruled by God and who follows Christ. A Christian is one who has surrendered himself to his Lord completely. A Christian is one who sings, "Where he leads me, I will follow." A Christian is one who is led by the Holy Spirit and by God's infallible word, not by his own desires.
When Jesus says, "Let us go," you must go with him, if you are a disciple. Some of you may be going where he did not command you, and perhaps you find yourself in trouble and confusion. If this is true of you, you must draw the conclusion that maybe you went where Jesus was not sending you. You may be like Demas, Paul's fellow worker, of whom Paul wrote, "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica" (2 Timothy 4:10).
If you go where the Lord did not command you to go, he shall not go with you. But if you go where Jesus commands, his presence will go with you. Then you can take great comfort in these words of Jesus to his disciples: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). If you are a Christian, this statement found in Numbers 9:23 must be true of you: "At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out." Obedience is the hallmark of the Christian life.
The Commotion on the Lake
At the command of Jesus, the disciples set out across the lake. All of a sudden a great storm arose. The second point we want to examine is the commotion on the lake.
Christian life is never smooth sailing. These disciples were experienced fishermen who knew all about the Sea of Galilee. As they rowed their small boat across the lake, they suddenly encountered a great storm, but this was not an uncommon occurrence. The Sea of Galilee, which stretches thirteen miles from north to south and eight miles from east to west, lies 680 feet below sea level. In a basin surrounded by mountains, the lake is known for sudden, violent storms, which are caused by cool air from Mount Hermon and the Mediterranean being drawn through the narrow, mountain passes and colliding with the hot, humid air over the lake. This phenomenon causes a twisting, whirlwind action that churns the waters into an angry tempest.
This particular journey started out smoothly. Because he was physically exhausted, Jesus had immediately laid his head on a cushion and gone to sleep at the back of the boat. Suddenly, though, there was an earthquake, or sea quake-Matthew uses the word seismos. Great winds and waves arose which began to beat against the bark of the boat. As the boat filled with water, it was in danger of sinking. It may be that Satan was behind this terrible storm and quake in an attempt to kill Jesus before his appointed time. But Jesus slept through all of these things. I want you to know even when you go in the way God commands you, there may be trouble, commotion, and storm, but you can have peace.
The Composure of Jesus
The third point we want to make is the composure of Jesus during this storm. We already noted that Jesus was sleeping, despite the great commotion around him. What does this deep sleep of Jesus tell us?
First, it shows his perfect humanity. Jesus was sleeping so soundly simply because he was tired from the events of the day. We must note that this is the only place in the Scripture where we read about Jesus sleeping.
Second, it shows that Jesus Christ trusted in his heavenly Father, who had directed him to cross the lake. He knew the Father would protect him and that he would arrive safely on the other side. Thus, Jesus was not afraid or anxious. Remember how he said, "The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him" (John 8:29)? This was the secret of his calmness, composure, peace, and ease. Jesus was not anxious, but peaceful because he knew the God of peace is with him. He trusted in God his Father implicitly; therefore, he was able to sleep through the great storm. That is what we also must do in the midst of the stormy days in our lives.
The Cry of the Disciples
The fourth thing we notice in this passage is the cry, not of Jesus, but of his disciples. It seems the disciples did not want to trouble Jesus when the storm began. I am sure as experienced fishermen they thought that they could handle this problem by themselves. But soon they came to the extremity of their experience and realized there was no way they could solve the problem. As the fear of death gripped them, they came to Jesus and woke him up, crying, "Kurie, s˘son, apollumetha" or "Lord, save! We perish!" Elsewhere, we read that they said, "Teacher, don't you care we perish?" and still elsewhere it is, "Master, Master, we perish!"
Were the disciples acting correctly by coming to Jesus, waking him up, and praying to him? Yes, that was exactly the right thing to do in a situation like this. Faith must not depend on itself but on the Savior. At the time of your misery and trouble and anxiety and fear, I hope you also will pray, "Lord, save!" Jesus alone is our Savior as well as our Lord.
The disciples cried out to Jesus to save them from death. That is what we should do also. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon him, for he cares for us. He is the only Savior and the mighty Savior-mighty to save us.
But there is no question that the faith of the disciples was not perfect. Theirs was weak faith, not great faith. In fact, it was a mixture of faith and doubt. That there was unbelief mixed with their faith was very evident in the disciples' prayer. Remember how one of them asked Jesus, "Don't you care that we are perishing?" There is a certain complaint and reproach, a certain blaming of God, in those words. Whenever there is a tinge of blaming God, a tinge of bitterness, a tinge of complaint against God, it is because of unbelief. It has nothing to do with faith.
Notice the statement of the disciples: "We are perishing!" That was a false statement. The disciples in the boat with Jesus thought it was true, but it was completely false, an utter impossibility. But the unbelief of the disciples was displayed by these words. What these disciples were saying was, "Jesus, don't you realize that you and we are going to die? And you are the reason we are going to die. Didn't you command us to come out on this lake?"
Again, this is sheer unbelief and doubt. Not only is it an utter impossibility for Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe to perish, but it is also impossible for a Christian to perish. Didn't Jesus tell the disciples, "Let us cross over to the other side"? He did not say anything about dying along the way. He did not say, "Let us go and die in the lake." The disciples were making up these statements out of their own unbelief. In fact, we can imagine Jesus telling Peter, "Peter, we are not perishing. It would be impossible to do so. Peter, don't you understand God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life? Don't you know that I came that you may have life eternal? Yes, I know that that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly." It is unbelief that says, "We are perishing!"
Church, you are not going to perish! Jesus Christ is the Lord of creation and the upholder of all things. How can he drown? How can his church perish? He is the builder of it, the head of it, and the foundation of it. He dwells in it.
The truth is, just as we have to grow in faith, so also the disciples had to grow in faith. Oh, they believed, but their faith was mixed with unbelief, and that is why they were afraid. Unbelief is the cause of all fear. The disciples were men of little faith. Little faith people fear when there is no reason to fear. PGM Little faith people are anxious when there is no reason to be anxious. Little faith parents, who are always worried, will instill this worry into their children.
The disciples had to grow in faith. Fear and strong faith are opposites. What, then, should we do in the midst of our troubles, turmoil, fear, and anxiety? We must do the one thing that is right: we must come to Jesus Christ, pray to him in faith, and cry out specifically and passionately, "Lord, save!" When we do so, he will save us.
Jesus Controls the Wind and Waves
The fifth point we want to notice is the control Jesus Christ exercised over the waves and the wind. In response to the cry of his disciples, Jesus rose up and commanded the wind and the waves, "Quiet! Be muzzled!" In Mark 4:39 we read that instantly "the wind died down and it was completely calm."
Has any other person in the history of the world been able to command the weather and receive such an instant response? No. Paul was a great apostle, and yet he didn't do it. He was shipwrecked four times, as we read in 2 Corinthians 11:25 and Acts 27, but we never read that Paul commanded the weather. He never rebuked the winds and the waves. In fact, we are told once he had to stay in the open ocean for a day and a night as a result of a shipwreck. But Jesus Christ, the Sovereign Lord of the universe, commands the winds and the waves, and they obey him.
The Great Calm
The sixth point we need to notice is the great calm that resulted from Jesus' rebuke of the wind and the waves. In response to Jesus' command to be still, the winds and the waves obeyed and there was a great calm, instantly. It is interesting to read this in the Greek text. There we notice that Jesus did not repeat his command. He commanded once and the calm took place instantly, not gradually. There was instant obedience of nature to this single command of the Sovereign Lord.
The Disciples' Conclusion
The seventh point we want to look at is the conclusion of it all. That is where the focus of the gospel writers is. "Who is this?" the disciples asked each other. "What sort of a person is this Jesus? We thought we knew him, but now we realize we really don't know him. We thought we knew him well, but we really know him only a little. That is why we have little faith. The more we know him, the greater our faith will be."
We are told in one of the gospels that in the end the disciples were more afraid than before-not because of the storm but because of this idea of who Jesus might be. "Who is this one?" they thought. "He is beyond our comprehension. What sort of a man is this who commands the weather and the weather obeys him?" And then, as Jewish people who knew the Scriptures, the disciples began to ask themselves, "Wait a minute. Is he the one we think he is, concerning whom we read certain things in the Old Testament?"
Perhaps they were remembering Psalm 89:8-9, where we read, "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them." This verse tells us that it is the Lord God Almighty who rules the surging sea and stills the waves.
Perhaps they were thinking about Psalm 107:25-30, where we learn that not only does God still the waves, but he stirs them up also: "For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits' end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven." I am sure Jesus himself would be conscious of this passage when he told the wind and waves, "Quiet! Be muzzled!"
Perhaps these disciples also thought of Job 9:8, where we read concerning God, "He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea." And in Matthew 14 we read that they observed Jesus Christ another time doing just that-walking over the waves.
Let us do some deductive thinking along with the disciples in the light of this epiphany of Christ. The Old Testament says the Lord God Almighty treads on the waves of the sea. The Old Testament says the Lord God Almighty stirs up the waves that rise to the heavens and go down to the depths. The Old Testament says the Lord God Almighty stills the waves and guides the people to their desired haven. The Old Testament says the Lord God Almighty rules over the surging sea. Only the Lord God Almighty can do all these things. That is the first conclusion we can come to.
Second, there is a man who has done all these things. His name is Jesus. What, therefore, is the conclusion that we and the disciples must come to? That this Jesus is Deity. He is God. He is truly the Son of God. That is why the Bible says the disciples were afraid with great fear.
What Sort of Man Is Jesus?
"What sort of a man is this?" the disciples asked themselves. What was their conclusion? That he is God Almighty of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ, Son of the living God. Remember how Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"? The calming of the storm was Christ's epiphany to his disciples that they may learn who he was, that they could know him better, and that their faith would grow.
Who is Jesus Christ? The Bible says he is greater than the temple. The Bible says he is greater than Jonah. The Bible says he is greater than Solomon. The Bible says he is greater than Elijah.
What sort of a man is Jesus Christ? He is one with all authority on earth to forgive sins. He is the one who can heal the sick. He is the one who can cast out demons, and he did so, even six thousand of them from one man, and afterwards the man was seated, clothed and sober, at Jesus' feet. Only God Almighty can do this. He is the one who raises the dead. It is he who said, "Lazarus, come forth!" and the dead man came forth from his tomb. It is he who said, "I and my Father are one." It is he who said, "Before Abraham was, I am."
Who is Jesus Christ? He is the Creator of all things, visible and invisible, in heaven and on earth. He is the upholder of all things. He is the eternal Word who was God and who became flesh. He is the destroyer of death for us. He is the Savior of his people. He is the head of the church. He is the Lord of all.
Jesus Christ Gives Us Peace
Who is Jesus Christ? That is the question we must all ask ourselves. When we discover the truth of who he is, if we believe in him, we shall be united to him eternally. Then we shall have the calm Jesus himself experienced in the storm and Paul experienced in the midst of his many storms and shipwrecks. Then the peace of God shall guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Then the God of peace shall be with us in all the storms of life that we face. Then we will be able to say, "To me to live is Christ and die is gain." Then we will say, "To depart is to be with Christ." Then we shall experience the calm the apostle Peter experienced as he was arrested by Herod and awaiting death, as we read in Acts 12:6, "The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers." Interesting, isn't it? Peter knew he was about to be killed, as James had just been killed, and yet he was asleep. That is calm in the great storm. Stephen experienced the same type of calm while he was being stoned to death, as we read in Acts 7.
I am not saying that our lives will be a bed of roses, without problems or troubles. Such teaching is false. But I am saying that we can experience great calm in the midst of the great storms of our lives because of the eternal union we have by faith with Jesus Christ. It is because of this that Paul in Romans 8 could declare with such great triumph, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor death nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:37-39).
In the early church there was certain Christian art which depicted the church as a boat driven upon perilous seas with Jesus in the midst. What was this symbolizing? That for Christians there is nothing to fear. God is with us. Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). This Jesus is with us, and it is he who says, "Peace, be still." This Jesus cannot drown; thus, neither can we nor any members of his church, which is built by him upon him and is united with him. No wonder the answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" is very simple: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
Therefore, I urge you to believe in Jesus Christ even this day! Believe in his word, which said, "Let us cross over together," and cross over with him from death to life. He will guide us into our desired heaven, which is eternal life with God. Believe in his Spirit and live in the knowledge that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Have You Trusted in Christ?
What about you? Have you asked that question concerning Jesus Christ, "What sort of a man is this?" If you do, you will discover he is God in human flesh. And then you must ask, "Why did he come?" What is the answer? That you may not perish but have everlasting life.
Have you put your trust in this Jesus Christ? I am not asking whether you know some facts about him. I am not asking whether you agree with what the Bible says about him. That is not saving faith. Yes, you must believe that what the Bible says about Jesus is true, but saving faith means that you entrust yourself completely to him. Saving faith means that together with Christ you will cross over from death to life, so that in the midst of even the greatest trouble you can experience deep calm in the depth of your soul.
May God help us to be so profoundly affected by the gospel that we will ask this question along with the disciples, "Who is this man?" May we discover by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that he is Deity, that he is God, sent to save us. It is he who says, "Come unto me and I will give you rest." May we come to God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, even this day and receive rest. Amen.
Copyright © 2001, P. G. Mathew
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