SynopsisThis passage starts with Jesus telling his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side” [of the Sea of Galilee] (verse 35 (ESV)). So he and his disciples get into a boat to cross the sea, and Jesus goes to the stern to sleep on a cushion. During the night a great windstorm arises, and the disciples get scared—so scared that they wake Jesus, and ask him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (verse 38 (ESV)).
Jesus wakes up and “rebukes” the wind and the sea, telling them to “be still” (verse 39 (ESV)), and the weather stops.
At this point Jesus rebukes his disciples:
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (verse 40 (ESV))This fills the disciples with even more fear, however, but now their fear is of Jesus, as they wonder who this could be that even the wind and the sea obeys him.
ThoughtsI purposely started this post by quoting Jesus telling the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” Jesus never promised his disciples that they wouldn’t die. He didn’t promise them that their lives would be easy. (Quite the opposite!) But, on this one occasion, he did promise them that they would go to the other side of the sea. He didn’t say so in so many words, of course; he didn’t come right out and say to his disciples, “Hey guys, I promise you, we’re going to go to the other side of the sea. Even though there will be a bad storm during the night, it won’t prevent us from getting there.” He just said, “Let us go across to the other side.” Normally that would be enough for the disciples; “Jesus said we’re going to the other side of the sea, so we’re going to go to the other side of the sea.” It’s only in the face of a huge storm that they question it, and think—even if not in their conscious minds—that “surely this storm makes Jesus’ earlier statement null and void. He said we’re going there, but he didn’t have this storm in mind when he said it.”
It’s important that we note, however, that this probably isn’t anything that the disciples were specifically and consciously thinking. I don’t think anyone thought to himself, “Jesus said we’re going to the other side, but I don’t believe him anymore.” I think they just saw the storm, got afraid, and thought about nothing more than their fear. And I make that point because I think that’s how we all fall into our occasional bouts of faithlessness. I very much doubt that Christians get into situations and consciously think to themselves, “God is powerless in this situation! There is absolutely nothing He can do—it’s out of His control!” Yet, though we’re not thinking that consciously, that is in effect what we’re thinking when we get into situations that cause us to panic; there is no reason to panic unless God is not in control, so if we panic it’s because we believe, on some level, that He is not.
Or perhaps we are thinking that He is in control, but simply doesn’t care about us. As the disciples asked Jesus, “do you not care that we are perishing?” Perhaps, when we get into bad situations, we forget God’s character, and start to wonder if perhaps He has abandoned us. But if that’s the case, the best way to combat our panic would probably be to meditate on His character.
This passage ends with the disciples even more afraid of Jesus than they had been of the storm—but I’m thinking that this fear is more acceptable to God, since it is now “fear of the Lord.” The wind and the sea had been scary enough, but humans are used to the fact that we can’t control the weather. When the disciples met someone who actually could, it shook them. Their question is a valid one: “Who is this?” This situation gave them a glimpse of who He actually is.