Luke begins this extraordinary passage with an ordinary statement. He writes, “Now on one of those days, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’”
We know where they are headed because the upcoming passage tells us that they land in the area of Gerasenes. Thirteen men pile into a boat and head from the northern part of the Sea of Galilee to the southwest corner.
We can imagine the boat is fairly large, as it is big enough for thirteen men. It is also big enough for Jesus to find a place to lie down and go to sleep. Picture the disciples in the boat. Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector are watching as the fishermen take charge. Simon Peter is likely the captain of the boat.
It is an ordinary journey and probably one in which the fishermen have taken before. As they sit in the boat, maybe they are all thinking about the past few months of excitement. Little do they know that they will face a perilous storm. Storms on the Sea of Galilee rise up suddenly. The surrounding mountains and valleys create dangerous storm conditions that seem to come from nowhere.
The storm comes. The disciples are in a panic. Even the most experienced fishermen are alarmed. Wind whips across the water and causes the waters to stir. Luke describes it as a fierce gale. It is loud and strong. The disciples are holding on for dear life. The wind whips the waves and water starts coming over the sides of the boat. They desperately try to scoop the water out. But, their efforts are not enough. The boat is beginning to fill with water and it is becoming swamped. Their life is flashing before their eyes.
They come to Jesus, who is asleep. He must be very tired to sleep through this storm! They wake Him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” We are going to die. Help us.
A storm threatens Jesus and His disciples. Let’s say it another way. God’s creation threatens to kill the Messiah, who will redeem Israel. How can that be?
God is the Creator of the universe. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He creates in a gloriously magnificent way. He speaks, and the universe exists from nothing.
As we ponder His work, we are told how we are to respond to God’s word.
Let all the earth fear the LORD; Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. (Psalm 33:8-9)
As we stand in awe, the proper response is praise and worship. John’s Revelation gives us a fitting word. He writes:
Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. (Revelation 4:11)
God created all things because it is His will. God purposes for Creation to take place, and it happens. He speaks, and the universe comes into existence.
God is not only the Creator, but He is provident and sovereign over His creation. God does not create the universe and stand back and let nature take its course. Rather, God is intimately involved in every detail.
He who created the stars leads them forth in their path of orbit. He calls each star by name. It is God, who by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, ensures that not one star goes missing (Isaiah 40:26). God is almighty in power.
God oversees the universe and the earth. As God speaks to Job, He asks Job, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place (Job 38:12)? God brings us every evening and every morning.
God oversees the mountains and the valleys. He tells Isaiah that when it is time, He will make all His mountains a road (Isaiah 49:11). He need only to speak, and the hills and mountains will tremble and fall. God is almighty in power.
God oversees the vast oceans spanning the earth. He is the one who rules over the swelling of the sea. Every wave rises when He says, and they become still at His bidding (Psalm 89:9).
God is sovereign over every aspect of weather, whether hot or cold. It is from God that the ice and frost forms and give birth (Job 38:29). His word tells us that God causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. Every raindrop falling in the humid region of Thailand, and every snowflake descending on the continent of Africa are directed by God. It is He who strikes every lightning bolt and brings forth the wind from His treasuries (Psalm 135:7). If it is a drizzle, it is because God says drizzle. If it is a blizzard, it is God’s blizzard (Job 37:5-6).
God’s word reveals it is He who directs every moving molecule of wind, snow, or dust we encounter.
There is more. The universe brings catastrophic results to the inhabitants of the earth. In the time of Noah, all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened (Gen. 7:11), and every inhabitant of the earth, except one family, perished in the floodwaters.
The Egyptians felt the full force of the thunder and hail, and fire that ran down to the earth to destroy crops, livestock, and the death of men, women, and children (Gen. 19:24).
The people of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by brimstone and fire from heaven (Ex. 9:22).
Jonah and the boat he is on experience a great storm on the sea and the sailors throw Jonah overboard to save the ship (Jonah 1:4).
We can expect a great catastrophe in the future. Jesus tells us that at the end of the age, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky (Matthew 24:29).
John’s Revelation speaks of a coming great earthquake, that will be of such force, that it will exceed any earthquake that ever happened since man came to be upon the earth (Revelation 16:18).
Why do these catastrophes happen? God is behind every force of nature. It is He who brings it about. Why? Isn’t that the question everyone asks after an earthquake or a tidal wave devastates cities? Why God?
God’s word tells us why. It is because of our sin.
After Adam sins, God tells Adam, cursed is the ground because of you. No longer will Creation work in your favor. Just that opposite will occur. As you struggle to eat and harvest, your work will yield thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:17-19).
We learn from the Apostle Paul that the reason for the catastrophes and dangers of creation is because God subjected creation to futility. The universe did not willingly turn against its inhabitants, but God subjected the universe to be a place of futility (Romans 8:20-22).
The reason for the storms, deserts, dust, waves, wind, and downpours is because of people. The earth is also polluted by its inhabitants. The rebellion and transgression against God’s laws, the violation of His statutes, and the breaking of God’s everlasting covenant explain why a curse devours the earth. People are guilty. Not God. (Isaiah 24:5-6)
The next time someone asks after an earthquake or a tidal wave devastates a city, tell them you know why. God’s word gives us the answer. The answer is in the mirror. It is because of our sin.
We pollute the world with sin. But, God is glorious. His glory is that He redeems us from our sin. He is gracious and forgiving. Most of all, God is glorious in His love.
God prophecies to His people in the Old Testament of a great reversal. The sin curse will be taken away. Wildernesses will become lush fields of flowing grass. Deserts will become vineyards and fertile gardens. The universe will be made right in every way. What used to be very good, but was polluted with sin, will become very good once again.
The way God plans this great reversal is through His Son. God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Then on that day, the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious (Isaiah 11:6-10).
Jesus is the root of Jesse. Jesse is the father of David. God promises to send the Messiah through the lineage of David. Jesus is the Messiah.
As we look again at Paul’s letter to the Romans, let us read the entirety of the passage, which speaks of creation being set free from the pollution of sin.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:20-22)
Jesus will set free the children of God from their sins. Right now, the corruption of sin lies over the entire creation. Jesus will redeem the children of God and will lift the blanket of corruption to reveal the glory of the children of God. Until that final day, all of the creation groans and suffers.
Now, as we contemplate these great truths about the Creator, His provident and sovereign power over creation, creation being subjected to corruption, and the Messiah, let us return to Luke’s passage.
Jesus and His disciples are in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. A fierce wind is whipping the waves, so they fill the boat with water. The disciples, some who are expert sailors, are in a panic and believe they are going to die. Jesus, the one who sets free the children of God, and all of creation, is sleeping in the boat.
The disciple woke Jesus saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Jesus gets up and rebukes the wind and the surging waves, and they stop, and it becomes calm. Mark’s gospel says that Jesus says, “Hush, be still” (Mark 4:39).
Imagine being in the boat. There is a raging deadly storm one moment, and there is complete peace in the next. The reason is Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves. The Greek word for rebuke means that He forbid the wind. He censured it. He admonished it. He spoke to the wind like a father who speaks to a child and says, “Stop. Knock it off. That’s enough.”
As we might expect, the disciples are fearful and amazed. They have been in storms before, but none of them have ever told the storm to stop. Imagine standing next to someone who does this!
The disciples say to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
We cannot control the weather. We cannot even predict the weather. Just this week, people were watching NASA and SpaceX as they planned to launch a rocket into space from Cape Canaveral, Florida. One hour before the launch, they could not predict if the weather would be favorable. The launch was scheduled for 4:33 pm, and it wasn’t until 4:17 pm that they decided to scrub the mission.
Highly-paid scientists, engineers, business people, and meteorologists stood by. They cannot do anything. They cannot say to the storm, be still for five minutes while we launch. They cannot pick the time of day. Predicting the weather is beyond our ability. Controlling the weather is unimaginable.
Jesus asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?”
Some people believe they lack faith because Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” The disciples should believe Jesus that they would arrive at their destination. But, there is much more at stake.
The disciples witness Jesus’ baptism and hear the voice out of heaven, proclaim, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." The disciples witnessed that Jesus has authority over demons and the spiritual realm. The disciples witnessed Jesus has authority over leprosy and sickness. The disciples' witness Jesus has authority over the Sabbath. The disciples' witness that Jesus has the authority to forgive sin.
Jesus proves to His disciples that He is the Messiah. Do they expect the Messiah will drown in the Sea of Galilee? Is that what the Scriptures say? Will the Messiah find His end at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee? No!
God raises up a storm over the Sea of Galilee so His Son may prove He has authority over creation. God desires to show that He and Jesus are One. The fullness of God dwells in Jesus.
It is by Jesus that all things are created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things are created through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). The storm is created by Him, so He may rebuke it and say, “Be still.” Jesus proves that He is able to lift the blanket of corruption from this world because He has power over sin and creation.
Are there storms in your life? Are the catastrophes that make you anxious? Are you worried about the coronavirus? Are you facing life-threatening circumstances?
Where is your faith? Are you trusting in government to still the storms of this world? Are you putting your faith in having the right education to give you protection from the wind and rain? Are you accumulating the treasures of this world to give you comfort and joy during the hurricanes of life rage outside? Where is your faith?
The storms of life exist so we put our faith in Jesus. The reason the world is suffering a pandemic is so people will turn to Jesus. He is the answer. Only Jesus can save us and bring us to glory. Put your faith in Jesus. He is our shelter in the storm. He is a strong tower and a mighty fortress. Jesus covers us with His wings. Put your faith in the One who calms the seas!