He Calms The Storm
© 05.09.09 By D. Eric Williams
Whenever we use a harmony of the Scripture as opposed to an examination of each individual text, we need to realize that (in a sense), we are circumventing the intention of the original author. Each Gospel writer was inspired by the Holy Spirit to present to his audience a particular point of view. Each Gospel writer examined the subject – the life and work of Jesus Christ – from a different perspective and presented to their audience that specific position. As the Holy Spirit led each writer there were certain aspects of their life and ministry of Jesus Christ that were emphasized. When we combine all of these different points of view we have a well rounded understanding of the life and ministry of Jesus. When we study them in isolation we see the different aspects that the Spirit of God chose to emphasize in that distinct account.
This is not to say we should avoid a harmony of the Gospels. I mention this in order to remind us that the individual writers had a different perspective and emphasized certain aspects of their subject. Therefore, if we study the life of Jesus Christ as a harmony of the Gospels we must not neglect the study of Jesus life and ministry as it is presented to us by the individual Gospel writers. In other words, to use a harmony of the Gospels is to study the life and ministry of Jesus in one way. To use the individual Gospel accounts is to study it in another. Both are valid. Neither should be neglected.
In today's teaching we are going to look at Matthew, Mark and Luke and their harmonized presentation of the crossing of the Sea of Galilee and a storm that threatened to capsize the boat which Jesus and his disciples were in. Let's read the harmonization which you have on the back of the bulletin.
Mark 4:35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." Matt. 8:23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. Mark 4:36 And leaving the crowd they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.
Mark 4:37-38 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?" Matt 8:25 "Master, Master, we are perishing!" Luke 8:24 "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."
Matt. 8:26 And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?" Then he rose and rebuked the winds and Mark 4:39b-40 said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith" Matt. 8:26 "O you of little faith?" Luke 8:25 "Where is your faith?"
Luke 8:25 And they were afraid Matt. 8:27 And the men marveled, Mark 4:41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this" Matt. 8:27 "What sort of man is this, Luke 8:25 that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?" (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
As you see I have decided to present this in a four-point outline. This particular harmonization presents to us the disciples following Jesus into the storm where their faith and courage tested along with their understanding.
In Mark 4:35 we are told that this event took place in the evening at the conclusion of Christ's teaching. We have looked at that time specific time of teaching earlier as it is presented in Matthew chapter 13. In Matthew 13 we are told that Jesus finished teaching the crowds and then continued to teach his closest followers back at the house. Apparently he didn't stay in the house that night but determined to cross over the sea of Galilee in order to begin his next day's work on the other side.
Therefore the duty of the disciples did not end at the conclusion of the work day. They had been with Jesus throughout the day as he taught. They were apparently in the boat with him as he presented the parables and then spent a period of time listening to his teaching in the house as well. Now, in today's church environment a service that lasts much more than an hour is considered a burden. A sermon which extends beyond 20 or 30 minutes is thought to be excessive. Yet the disciples spent an entire day listening to the teaching of Jesus Christ. Now, I realize that to hear the very words of Jesus and to spend time with him personally is different than attending church and listening to a pastor. Or is it? The truth of the matter is that wherever two or more are gathered in Jesus name, he is there in their midst. When we come together here or in any other fellowship of believers we gather as the body of Jesus Christ. When the pastor preaches a sermon he is presenting the Word of God. Thus we really should have the same unflagging interest that the disciples had.
They spent the entire day with Jesus and listen to his teaching right up until evening came. You would think that at some point they might get tired and wander off somewhere to take a nap. However, at the end of a long day of teaching and learning at the feet of Jesus Christ they do not hesitate to follow Jesus into the boat, willing to make a trip across the lake because Jesus requested it be done.
Any action on man's part in favor of the Lord is always a matter of grace. In other words, it is Jesus who initiates this excursion across the Sea of Galilee. As we read in the text he said to his disciples "let us go across to the other side." This was Jesus idea. He's the one who invited the disciples to come with him. I suppose that if they had refused (of course they would not), he would have wrote himself across the lake alone. But as the text tells us when he got into the boat is disciples followed him.
In every aspect of their relationship with Jesus Christ the disciples experienced grace. They were invited and called by him. They were touched by the power of his Spirit to embrace his teaching. Granted, until the day of Pentecost, they did not have a full understanding of what Jesus was talking about; nevertheless, they were moved in their heart by God's gracious action so that they were willing to drop everything and leave their normal life behind in order to spend time with Jesus Christ. Their relationship with the Lord was entirely a matter of grace. Their relationship with Jesus Christ was always a matter of his leadership and their willing submission.
It is significant that they leave the crowd behind. Yes there are other boats that went along with them but Mark is careful to tell us in his Gospel account that when the disciples embarked on this trip across the lake with Jesus Christ they left the crowd behind. The crowd represented the folks who enjoyed the "magic show" and enjoyed listening to Christ speak but they were not sild out to Jesus. As we will see, even his disciples did not really understand who he was. We shall find out that – sadly enough – the disciples thought of Christ as something of a magician as well. However, at this point we are reminded that the disciples were willing to leave the crowd behind in order to follow Jesus Christ.
And so they took him with them in the boat. In other words, they were the ones who were working the oars. We aren't sure exactly what the boat was like. They have found remains of fishing boats in that area of Palestine and according to tat archaeological evidence this may have been a boat of about 25 feet in length and roughly 7 feet wide. If it was the same type of boat that has been found in that region it was a boat with a shallow draft and without sails. This would mean that the disciples took him with them in the boat in the sense that they were the ones who were manning the oars or if it was equipped with a sail they were the ones to trim the craft and guide it across the lake.
Apparently they were not bringing much with them. The Scripture says that Jesus came just as he was; tired and without apparent provision. We might assume that the apostles simply piled into the boat with Jesus Christ and launched across the lake. Perhaps they had arrangements made in order to provide food and shelter on the other side. Or, perchance there were no arrangements and the apostles simply submitted to the request of Jesus Christ to cross the Sea of Galilee and did not concern themselves with any type of preparation. From a human perspective this does seem to be an impromptu trip.
As you might expect there are others to tag along with Jesus and his disciples. These others had seen what Christ had done they had heard his teaching and they probably envied the privilege which the 12 apostles and joy. In any case there are other boats which began to cross the Sea of Galilee and so we have a flotilla had been east into the storm.
Into The Storm
The Sea of Galilee was known for its intense storms and I suppose this is still the case. The surface of the lake is about 600 feet below sea level. The lake is bordered to the north and east by mountain ranges. This low lying this body of water next to high mountain peaks tends to create volatile weather systems. In this particular case a great wind storm arose so that the waves were threatening to swamp the boat.
Matthew describes it as a shaking of the Sea. He uses the same term "size models" that is used to describe a great earthquake. Mark and Luke describe it as a whirlwind with tremendous force. Thus we are led to believe that a storm came thundering down upon the lake which roiled the waters into a raging cauldron. This small, shallow draft boat was soon near capsizing and from a human perspective it appeared that all was lost.
Surprisingly, Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat. In the Greek we are told that he had his head on the head rest. This may have been some kind of a fellow aura might have been a chunk of wood for all we know. At any rate it was apparently the only "cushion" or head rest in the boat. Not that anyone else would have wanted to use it at this particular point in time. Jesus was the only one with a heavenly perspective and that perspective allowed him to sleep through this tremendous, raging storm.
Indeed, it may appear as if Jesus was indifferent to the fate of his apostles. At least that's how the disciples may have viewed it. I can imagine as the storm increased in ferocity they would be anxious glances toward the stern of the boat where the master lay in a deep sleep. I can imagine that one or two of them may have begun to wonder out loud "isn't there something that Jesus could do for us?" I can imagine that the apostles would feel the fear arising in their throats and were eventually driven to cry out "teacher do you not care that we are perishing?"
When we look at the harmony of this event we find a variety of words attributed to the apostles. We should recognize that when you have 12 men together in a boat under this kind of duress you will hear a variety of responses to the situation. One or more of them began by shouting "teacher do you not care that we are parachuting?" This would seem a bit disrespectful and perhaps another of the apostles who heard that particular shout above the storm made his way to the back of the boat to dry out "Master, Master, we are perishing!" And then we may hear from a variety of the apostles "save us, Lord; we are perishing estimation point"
Hence, the harmony of the Gospel accounts reveals to us the disciples storm of protest and fear which arose in the midst of this raging tempest on the Sea of Galilee. The storm in the natural realm revealed the storms in the hearts of the apostles. There was a note of indignation along with their fright. Thereby, this storm revealed what was in the heart of each man. Sometimes a storm will cause a man to panic and lose confidence. Oftentimes as we see with the apostles a man will wait until the last minute before he seeks help. This may have been out of deference to Jesus and his obvious need for rest; it may have been evidence of a desire to simply go it alone which failed to recognize the need to call upon Jesus for help.
Yet, this storm eventually drove the disciples to turn to Jesus. It was too much for them - even though they were the experienced ones. Most of them had made their living for many years working that lake and I cannot imaging that they had never encountered a storm before. Perhaps this one was the biggest they had ever confronted but it is ironic that the battle tested fishermen turned to the carpenter of Nazareth when the going got really rough. In the end they realized that there was no security apart from Jesus.
Tests Courage and Faith
According to Matthew the very first thing that Jesus did upon awaking is ask his apostles "why are you afraid, or you a little faith?" Mark and Luke don't give us this prospective.
Jesus wanted his disciples to recognize their irrational response to this danger. From a human perspective their fear was justified. From a human perspective there is nothing irrational about the behavior whatsoever. Yet, before Christ does anything about storm he asked them why they're afraid. And in asking that question he supplies the answer; they have little faith. I can imagine that Jesus had to shout this sentence above the sound of the storm and so it may have come across as a bit harsh. In any case it reminds us that Jesus Christ expected the best of his disciples.
Because Jesus expects the best of his disciples he would often point out the need for improvement in a particular area. Perhaps he was frustrated with his disciples because after spending so much time with them they continue to think like mere men. Even though the apostles had seen the miracles of Jesus in curing sickness and in casting out demons they did not realize the extent of his power. Granted, some of his most exciting miracles are still in the future. But, the apostles have seen and heard enough to come to a better conclusion concerning the nature of Jesus Christ.
I find it interesting that Jesus rebuked his disciples before he did anything about the storm. It is interesting because it shows us the heart of our Lord and Savior. In the first place he was at peace and confidence concerning his father's care for him. That's why he was able to sleep in the midst of the storm. In the second place Jesus does not want to waste an opportunity to bring correction while he has the undivided attention of his disciples. And he is fully confident of his control of the situation because no storm can have the better of the Lord Jesus Christ.
What the apostles do not understand at this point is that all of creation history are under the control of Jesus. He is the eternal son of God and everything in this realm and every aspect of this realm is in subjection to the Son of Man. This raging storm that may have approached hurricane strength and shook the very foundations of the lake was no match for the eternal son. They did not understand that all things came into being through him and for him and so the energy of the storm may be eliminated or redirected as Christ saw fit. And so, just as it was in the beginning when the Creator brought all things into being by his spoken word, Jesus merely speaks, saying, "Peace! Be still!"
There are no incantations. There are no special movements or ritual designed to placate some supernatural power. Once again we see that Jesus needs only to speak a word and his will is done. This is so different than the Jewish attempts to manipulate the supernatural as we have seen previously. It is instantaneous. And it leaves no doubt in the mind of the observer that the eternal son of God is indeed God himself.
The calm is complete and immediate. I can imagine that with this instantaneous change of circumstance there was a hush that fell over the apostles and the other people on the lake. In the midst of this great calm Jesus asks them "why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith, oh you of little faith? Where is your faith?" In so saying Jesus reminds them that fear belies any claim to faith. You see, faith is to know the character of God, to be at peace with them and to act accordingly.
Jesus knew the character of God completely. Like Abraham who is confronted with a worst-case scenario Jesus knew that God's character demanded he always do the best for his people. Jesus knew that his father in Heaven had brought forth Christ in his humanity to accomplish a particular work. Jesus knew that his work would not end by drowning upon the stormy sea of Galilee. Jesus knew the character of the father in heaven and knew that he would accomplish what he had determined. Thus, Jesus stood fast no leading the father and resting in that.
You see, peace with God is to have relationship with him. Christ had a relationship of the deepest intimacy with the father in heaven. He was at one accord with the father. He shared the same vision and gold. He understood the mission that he had voluntarily embraced and adopted it as his own. This intimate relationship with God meant that he placed the glory of the father above all else. Because he was at peace with the father he realized that nothing could stand in the way of God's determined will and the realization of his reign in the Messiah.
This faith that Jesus wanted his apostles to have was a faith which produced action. Sometimes an action would be to sleep in the back of the boat. Sometimes an action would be to simply roll the boat to the storm as best as they could. Perhaps that action would be to calm him calmly and confidently to Jesus and say "Do you have any suggestions lord?" True faith would not allow room for the desperation that the apostles had exhibited.
And so Jesus openly questions their faith. I don't think he meant to say they had no faith; he is driving home the point that they do not have enough faith. He is frustrated because they see him as to see the father and so his disciples should have understood the character of their father in heaven more accurately. When they saw that Christ was sleeping through the storm they should have realized that they were supposed to have that same kind of confidence and faith. They should have realized that just as Jesus cares for his own, healing and liberating them, God cares for his children as well.
At least the disciples understood that they needed to turn to Jesus in his time of trouble and storm. We should not miss this fact. Yes, Jesus is disappointed with their lack of faith but you will note that he does not correct them for waking him in the midst of the storm. Unfortunately their fear and lack of faith all but cancel out that positive aspect of their response.
At this point in their relationship with Jesus Christ the disciples did not really understand that he was a person with two natures. To the disciples Jesus was a man with superhuman qualities. Because of their cultural conditioning they thought that the supernatural realm was to be manipulated through skillful use of Scripture and esoteric incantations. Yet in order to understand their lord they needed to recognize his humanity and his deity.
Because they thought of him as a superman they did not appreciate his true humanity and so could not properly understand the reason he slept in the back of the boat. If they thought of him as truly and fully human they would have realized that he was resting in the arms of his father in the midst of the raging storm. However, because they thought of him as a superman they were not inspired to the same level of faith and confidence that he possessed. Do you see where they stumble? To recognize the true humanity of Jesus Christ is to recognize a tremendous level of faith. To think of him as superman is to diminish his dependence upon the heavenly Father.
Additionally they did not recognize his true deity. Again, if they had realized that in this single person Jesus Christ there was a true human nature and the true nature of God they would have viewed his nap at the back of the boat as evidence that he was in complete control. In failing to recognize that Jesus as the eternal Son his apostles did not appreciate the security of their position.
This is why they were afraid when the great calm came upon the Sea of Galilee. They marveled at this man who now appear to be much more than a mere superman. Nevertheless, they were unable to truly grasp food and what Jesus was. They understood that creation obeys only the voice of God. I imagine that they expected Jesus to conjure some sort of supernatural propulsion that would you take the boat to shore. I doubt they expected Jesus to command creation.
Hence, the storm tested their courage and faith but it also tested their understanding. More accurately the miracle of Christ's command over the storm tested their understanding. Indeed, it stretched it to the very limit. The truth is, they did not understand the truth about Jesus and tell he had died and risen. In fact, they were not fully enlightened and tell the Spirit of God was poured out upon them some time after he ascended into heaven.
Therefore, we must leave this story with a disciples in a certain state of limbo. They have witnessed a tremendous miracle and yet they do not really understand the import of that event.
Application: Following Jesus
Each of us is called to follow Jesus no matter where he may go. Sometimes we think that we have done enough when the day's work is done. Sometimes we think that our duty to follow has come to an end when the typical activity of the day is over We might think that we've done all they can be expected when we attend Sunday morning service. We might believe that we have followed far enough when we add to the mix a daily Bible reading and prayer time.
However, Jesus expects us to follow him everywhere. Jesus expects us to take up our cross and die to ourselves. He expects us to follow him into every corner of life as he searches out those places that have not received his light in its fullness.
Moreover, we must take Jesus "just as he is." We cannot follow a "Jesus" of our own devising. For, to do so, is to not follow Jesus at all. Far too many people who call themselves Christians - the ones who rail against those who take Jesus just as he is - are not really willing to follow the Lord.
We will find that when we are willing to follow Jesus everywhere he leads others will rally around us. Our example of undivided devotion will serve to inspire others to a similar reverence.
In any case, we must be willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads. We must be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and lay our life at the feet of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Application: Into The Storm
Thus, there are times when we are required to follow Jesus into the storm.
Indeed life is full of many storms. We will encounter storms of life at the hands of those who are against us. Sometimes those were against us arise from within our own ranks. Jesus experienced this. One of the chosen 12 was a traitor. Like Jesus, we may encounter the storm of opposition from those who feel that our devotion to Christ is fanatical. They are offended by people who take seriously Jesus' claim of absolute sovereignty. Because they are unwilling to bow the knee to the master they will stir a storm of protest against us. Sometimes it will bring others into this stormy opposition and we may find ourselves as one alone among the crowd of naysayers.
Sometimes the storm is financial. Sometimes a storm is emotional. Sometimes the storm is a battle to overcome sinful desires. No matter what storm we encounter we do so in the company of Jesus Christ. Yet, we are not alone. We are with Jesus Christ. We have followed Jesus into the boat and he demands submission in every part of our arena of activity.
From a national perspective we may think that there is no hope in the midst of our storm we mean I see an end to opposition or emotional distress or financial difficulty. It may seem to us that Jesus is in different to our hardship. However, this is because we lack the heavenly perspective of our Lord.
In the book of James we are told to count all joy when they fall into various trials. One of the reasons we should be joyful in the midst of trial is that it will reveal to us those areas of our life that need to be dealt with. The storms of life often arouse the worst that is within us. It is at this point that we require a heavenly perspective rather than the earthly perspective which is natural to us. We must realize that it is Jesus Christ who has led us into the storm. It is not happenstance but is part of the plan of God for life.
Unfortunately the storms of life will tempt us to react with panic. Life's storms may cause us to lose confidence in our Lord Jesus. Part of the problem is that we often wait until the storm has nearly swamped our boat. We wait until we are driven to the point of despair over the bitterness of the opposition. We wait until our heart is torn in two with emotional upheaval. We wait until we are overwhelmed with temptation and sunk deep into a pit of private sin. The result is that we lose sight of the big picture. The storm seems to be what life is all about and we forget that the storm is designed to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ. The storm is not supposed to define our life but to be merely a passage on our what to eternity. We find it hard to think of anything but the storm and our eyes grow dim to the radiant presence of Christ. Indeed, the tempest might cause of us despair for life itself.
We cannot allow that to happen. Instead we must cry out to our master. He will not review this if our initial cry is one of despair. Certainly we would prefer that we come to him in confidence; any embellishment of his ability to save us will be met with a response. The storms of life should be any drive us to Jesus. The storms of life should reawaken the knowledge that security is found in Christ alone. No matter what we encounter in our arena activity Jesus is more than adequate.
Application: Tests our Courage and Faith
When we meet with hardship Christ would have us recognize that fear and faithlessness are irrational. The Bible tells us that cowards are not admitted into the kingdom of God. Therefore we are reminded that storms are a normal part of life. We are led through them in order to increase - and prove - our courage and faith. Storms require us to see things through the eyes of God and maintain faith encourage no matter what.
Jesus will use the storms of life to point out our inadequacies. He will lovingly direct our attention to that thing in life which keeps us from responding to hardship with courage and faith. Courage depends upon faith. It does not mean we will have no fear whatsoever but it means that we will have confidence in the ability of Jesus Christ to manage the storms of life on our behalf.
No storm can stand before our Lord Jesus. All of creation in history is under his control. This realm and every aspect of reality is subject to Jesus and is guided by his hand. His power over the storms of life is supernatural. It does not depend upon our ability or the character of those who may be serving to intensify the storm. Instead, Jesus holds all in his hand and nothing happens apart from his will.
Jesus may choose to eliminate or to redirect the storm of life as he sees fit. He may choose to have us continue in the midst of a storm, learning to rely upon him completely. Whether there is a calm which ends the tempest or whether our little ship of life remains afloat in the midst of the tumult we can be without fear and full of faith.
You see, fear belie his our claims to faith. Fear reveals a lack of knowledge concerning the character of our God in Christ. Fear shows us that we have not developed our relationship with the Lord as far as we may have believed. Fear reveals our inaction.
I think we are sometimes a frustration to the Lord Jesus. We have the Spirit of God within us and the Word of God written upon our heart. There is no reason for us to be afraid and faithless. The storms of life must be embraced so that we can grow in her age and faith and in Christ likeness.
Application: And Our Understanding
In the past weeks and months I have tried to betray Christ in his humanity in order to enable us to better understand the security of our position. Christ was like us in every way except without sin. His slumber in the stern of the boat during the tempest was not evidence of his deity but was evidence of his humble humanity. Jesus Christ could have drowned with his 12 apostles as easily as any human being. Nevertheless, because he was wholly dependent upon his father in Heaven he slept without fear.
When we understand the humanity of Jesus Christ; when we understand that he is fully human Jess is we are; we understand that he was not a Superman – then we can better understand how we are supposed to live in this life. The Bible tells us to imitate Jesus Christ and the only way we can imitate him is in his humanity. Jesus expressed the character of God in his humanity. We are supposed to do the same thing. We are supposed to have the same kind of confidence and faith that Jesus had. Therefore the storms of life will test our understanding of Jesus. In the midst of the storm we need to recall the fact that Jesus is fully human and yet he was able to navigate the storms of life in complete confidence and faith.
Likewise, our failure to grasp the divinity of Jesus Christ leaves us wanting as well. If we truly understand his deity we will not fear when we are in the midst of the storm. Why? Because we know that he controls all things. As Paul says in his letter to the church at Rome:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)
All things work together for our good. All things are used by God to conformed to the image of his son. All of this is part of our heritage as children of the King. And that is only on target if Jesus is truly God. A deep-seated understanding of Christ's deity will give us the confidence and faith we need to sail through life's tempests unafraid. In fact, as Paul says in his letter to the church in Ephesus:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
When we are made a new creation in Jesus Christ there are good works "built in" to our being. Part of the new creation is the good works that God intends for us to do. I've told you before that if we are in the Spirit of God everything that we do is say "good work." Everything that we do that is lawful and moral and just and in keeping with God's will is a good work. Therefore, when we walk through the storms of life according to God's will and courage and faith we are doing a good work that has been prepared beforehand for us to walk in. This is to say that the storms of life serve to reveal the good works that God has built into us at the new creation. This is a matter of grace. This is something that God does for us. This is something that we accomplished in the strength of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is not a word we have somehow brought up from within ourselves. No, it is a work of Jesus Christ within us.
Thus we must understand Jesus Christ in his humanity and in his deity in order to accomplish a godly navigation of life's storms.
Be encouraged. We are beloved of the father in Jesus Christ. Jesus loved us so much that he died for us while we were yet sinners. The storms that we encounter in this life as we follow our Lord Jesus - no matter their origin - are designed to bring glory to God and to benefit us as his children. Go then in the confidence and faith of Christ victorious. Amen.