Matthew 8:23–27 (ESV): Jesus Calms a Storm
Jesus and his disciples get in a boat to cross the sea—I believe the Sea of Galilee—whereupon Jesus goes to sleep. While he is asleep, a great storm arises, and the disciples think they’re going to perish, so they wake Jesus to ask him to save them. His response?
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (verse 26a (ESV))
He then gets up and “rebukes” the storm, which then dissipates, leaving a “great calm” (verse 26 (ESV)). At this, the disciples “marvel,” and say, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (verse 27 (ESV)).
The disciples do have some faith, in this passage—at least they go to Jesus to ask him to save them. But if they had really, truly believed that he was the Messiah, would they have thought they were going to die in the first place? At this point, I’m pretty sure they believed that the Messiah wouldn’t die; at the moment the storm came up, they had more faith in the power of the storm than they had that Jesus was the Messiah.
Or maybe they thought that Jesus would survive, but they wouldn’t? Even then, the logic is flawed; I had a pastor point out once the parallel passage in Luke 8:22- 25 (ESV), where, before setting out, Jesus said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” If they had truly believed that Jesus was God, they would have known that they’d be getting to the other side, because he’d said so.
I also find the wording interesting, when it says that Jesus “rebukes” the storm. Was the storm doing something wrong, that Jesus had to rebuke it? But this isn’t the first time the Bible uses the word “rebuke” in connection with God and nature; the ESV Study Bible points us to 2 Samuel 22:16 and Psalm 18:15:
Then the channels of the sea were seen;
the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the LORD,
at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.
Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.
Even so, it just seems like an odd word to me—whether New Testament or Old—for God to be commanding the natural world. When this passage says that Jesus “rebukes” the storm, I think of him saying something along the lines of, “Hey! Storm! What are you doing? I’m trying to sleep here!” and the storm saying, “Sorry Jesus!” and slinking away. To be clear, I don’t think this is how the situation actually happened—I’m not trying to be blasphemous—it’s just the picture that comes to mind for me when I hear the word “rebuke” in this context.