After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Calms a Storm
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”
For some reason, one of the first questions that rose in my thinking was the size of the boat. How large of a boat did the 13 men use to cross the Sea of Galilee?
That ignorance is unnecessary since a boat was unearthed near the region of Capernaum. This boat, sometimes called the “Jesus Boat” has been dated to approx. 50 BCE, and is typical of the boat Jesus and His disciples may have taken across the Sea of Galilee on that fateful night.
What is surprising is the size of the boat. Per the graphic to the right, the boat may have been 27 foot long. That is the approx. length of a UPS van.
Not an ocean liner to say the least!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
The audience were the twelve disciples.
And other boats were with Him. Mark simply adds this snippet, without adding any additional information. Did the other boats venture out into the sea with Jesus and His disciples? Nothing else is spoken of concerning the other boats in the three gospel accounts of this miracle, yet it intrigues me that Mark added that info.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Jesus performed this miracle at the request of His disciples, who were afraid for their lives. Turns out fear is a major theme in this miracle. Both before and after the miracle! But let us consider the circumstances for a moment.
The fishermen among the disciples knew the Sea of Galilee. They had spent their lives fishing on this body of water and knew of these dangerous gales that could strike at a moments notice. They were experienced sailors, yet with this storm they were beyond their own abilities in controlling the circumstance, in maintaining their safe passage. Prior to waking Jesus, I imagine Simon, Andrew, John and James, the experienced fishermen, had enlisted all of “them thar landlubbers” of the group into any help they could provide. Although I am somewhat reluctant to say it, this storm provided a great team building exercise, but I think this was not the intent! This storm had greater messages than that.
The wind is described as a great windstorm, and Luke provides us the added information of this storm coming down on the lake. This added information helps greatly, since it speaks of the winds from the surrounding mountains sweeping down into the hot tropical air of the lake basin. The ferocity of the wind and the contours of the land surrounding the lake merged together to create a very perilous trip across the sea. This storm may have caused the other boats that were with Him initially to turn back, but that is pure conjecture.
With the wind sweeping down on the sea, the waves became an additional threat to the lives of those in the boat. The text speaks of the boat being flooded with water. The Greek word symplēroō Luke uses in 8:23 describes the boat as being “swamped” or filled with water. This was a terrible position to be in, and for these experienced sailors to be found helpless must have been very humbling.
Golly, they can’t even take care of their Master in the very element they are experts!
What was the message for the original audience?
Where is your faith? Although the telling of the miracle often highlights a lack of faith the disciples, they knew who to go to in the middle of the storm. Admittedly they had few options beyond exhausting their own resources, and yet they went to Him, asking Him about His care for them.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The storm is whipping us to the point of sinking and You are asleep. Can’t you man the rigging, or take an oar to help us ride the storm out? Everyone is taking part in getting us through the storm. We need your help. Don’t you care?
It is interesting that the text speaks of the disciples waking Him, to ask of His care, and the very next verse speaking of Him waking up. Did they have to wake Him twice? That is not clear, but when He awoke, He definitely did not help the disciples in the way they had hoped.
He simply spoke to the wind and the sea. Peace! Be still!
Take a moment to consider how unexpected this assistance is. All of the disciples are in terror, doing all they know how to do, and their Teacher addresses both the obvious and not so obvious problems. The obvious problem He addressed by simply speaking two words to the elements. Calmness returns to the sea and the boat, with it’s inhabitants, are safe once more from the elements.
Yet the fear in the disciples hearts about their survival in the storm becomes great fear, not in the storm anymore, but in the identity of the One in their midst.
Who in the world are we hanging out with here? The sensory overload of the storm, the adrenaline pumping through their veins, the survival instinct that took them to their limits is to be contrasted with the One who simply spoke two words to the elements, and then challenged the disciples about their natural survival instincts as being out of place.
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The disciples had left all they had to follow after this Rabbi. They had seen miracles as bystanders, witnessing of His power and might, of His abilities, but this miracle included the disciples. They simply hadn’t translated what they had witnessed as they saw Him heal a leper, or raise a widows son into their own experience.
The One they were following brought great fear into their lives. What manner of man is this One? These disciples had been taught of the Lord God being over the sea, for the Old Testament speaks often of the sea reacting to the rule of God. Stories of the Lord God opening the Red Sea for Moses, of the Lord God bringing the flood in Noah’s day, and of the Lord God stilling the sea during Jonah’s rebellion.
Specific passages may have rung in the disciples ears as they considered what manner of man was in their midst.
Psalm 89:9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
Psalm 77:16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.
Psalm 93:4 Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!
Were the disciples beginning to grasp that the One asleep in the back of the boat moments ago is the Lord God in their midst?
What is the message for us today?
Two applications for my own life occur to me, and may apply to my reader.
A personal experience with the Lord God, in the person of Jesus Christ is the faith being questioned by the Lord to the disciples. Hearing of others experience with the Lord does not make me a disciple. Watching God do miraculous things in others lives does not make me a believer. Mental assent to truth, to agreeing that something is true or has happened in the past may provide support for my faith, but it is not faith.
Faith, if I am reading this passage correctly, is personal. It is not my Pastor’s faith, or my wife’s faith, or anyone else’s faith.
I have heard of faith as being defined as follows a few years back, and it has greatly helped me to better exercise faith in the Lord. Faith is hearing the Word of God, understanding the message of the Word, and agreeing to comply with the message. This definition helps me with the inclusion of understanding.
The disciples were beginning to understand, through their personal experience and their questioning amongst their selves of who this Man was, that they were in deep waters, (theologically speaking.) The implications began to pile up, and the emotional impact what they had just went through drove home what their eyes had only seen previously into their very hearts and lives.
This tends to be a hobby horse for this blog, in that many posts seem to return to the theme of the Master’s love and goodness to His people, His creation.
How often have you questioned the loving concern of the Master when you are in the midst of a storm? The psalmist often requests the Lord to wake and defend his cause. Many times, in the Old Testament, God’s saints have asked this question, and I know I have asked this question far to often. Yet in the midst of the storm, the very request is answered, and He rises to the cry of His people.
And if we have ears to hear, we may understand that our faith may not be as it should be.
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