“As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And a great storm developed on the sea so that the waves began to swamp the boat. But he was asleep. So they came and woke him up saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are about to die!’ But he said to them, ‘Why are you cowardly, you people of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was dead calm. And the men were amazed and said, ‘What sort of person is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!'” (Matthew 8:23-27 NET)
Jesus lived a very busy life. The snippets we get in the gospels tell us that he frequently spent all day in teaching and sometimes all night in prayer. As he taught and healed more, his popularity spread. As his popularity spread, the people would not let him alone.
We do not have a clear setting for this incident – each of the synoptic gospels gives a different perspective of what happened prior to their setting sail. Matthew mentions healing, including Peter’s mother-in-law, plus a large crowd pressing about him without real commitment. Mark talks about a day filled with teaching and when it was evening, Jesus suggested they cross to the other side of the lake. Luke simply states that “one day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples.” I think we can be confident that it was one of those very busy days.
Have you ever spent a day teaching? Those who regularly teach for a full day are usually open about how tired they are at the end of the day. When Jesus and his disciples got into this boat, it seems that the motion of the boat helped to lull Jesus into a restful sleep. He was in such a deep sleep that he missed the storm that had sprung up on the lake and the waves that were now threatening to swamp the boat. His disciples were terrified! And remember – these were seasoned fishermen!
At least the disciples knew who to turn to in their time of crisis: they turned to Jesus. They came to him, woke him up, and gave him an update on their situation: “We are about to die!” Notice Jesus response: “Why are you afraid?” (ESV) or “Why are you cowardly?” (NET). There really was no reason to be frightened, even at such a storm, because the creator of everything was with them.
Jesus turned and spoke to the storm – immediately, there was a dead calm. Can you imagine going from being in a boat that was being tossed by the waves to being in a dead calm? There was not the usual dying down of the storm. Jesus simply spoke and the storm stopped. No wonder the disciples were amazed.
Life isn’t always smooth. Storms come up and we can sometimes be like these disciples: we get frightened because we forget who it is who we have with us. With Jesus in our lives, we no longer have to worry about storms that threaten us. He has the power to calm any storm. And he will if we will just trust him. “With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storms…” With Jesus with us, what is there to fear?
Readings for next week:
2 February – Matthew 10
3 February – Matthew 11
4 February – Matthew 12
5 February – Matthew 13
6 February – Matthew 14