The power of nature defeated

Peace in a storm

Matthew 8:23–27

The authority of Jesus

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.

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 marvelled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” — Matthew 8:18, 23–27

Huge crashing waves of a storm at sea.

After being disturbed from his plan od leaving, Jesus manages to get into the boat with his disciples. Mark’s Gospel adds further detail that this is just one boat among many crossing the lake and also that Jesus is asleep in the stern of the boat. The disciples mentioned here are not restricted to the 12 apostles, there were more of them travelling.

Even so, among the 12 were seasoned sailors, James, John, Simon and Andrew were fishermen, people who were used to Galilean storms, so why would they panic and wake Jesus, and why would the other people in the boats not ask the experienced sailors to help them? The storm must have been bad if the experienced sailors were unable to help and/or if they themselves were scared. This was a big storm, which arose suddenly otherwise experienced sailors would not have set sail.

I have heard it said that the storm was sent by Satan to prevent Jesus from doing his job, but I reject that hypothesis as Matthew in unafraid to mention forces of evil in his Gospel, which he does in the next few verses. Neither is it a storm from God, like the storm sent to prevent Jonah from fleeing to Tarshish, these were people who were obeying God. It must have been nothing more sinister than just a storm, the power of nature unleashed.

Jesus responds to being in two rebukes. First to his followers and then to the storm. It looks like Jesus has got the order wrong, the disciples are after all under threat by a storm. Jesus has not got it wrong, the disciples are in no danger because they are with Jesus. His rebuke is telling: “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” is in stark contrast to the Great faith he commended the centurion, a foreigner and probably of another religion, for having. The disciples have not got the faith to realise that in calm and in the storm they are safe with Jesus. What happens next is not necessary for Jesus to do, it is Jesus demonstrating how they are safe with him.

Jesus is enough

Jesus’ second rebuke is to the storm, which does not subside, but stops immediately. The disciples are amazed by this. They have already seen Jesus heal people, he has power over contagious disease, can heal with a touch or at a distance and has authority over demons. Commanding demons was something they had seen, so this would not have amazed these disciples as much as what happened: The power of nature is subject to the word of Jesus.

The disciples woke Jesus because they had seen his power, but were not prepared for this demonstration. Nor were they prepared for the rebuke he gave them. They believed in what Jesus could do but missed out on that being with Jesus is enough. They did not trust that they were safe in his presence. The peace of Jesus was shown in his attitude, peace can be found where Jesus is.

There is no need for those of us who believe in Jesus to worry, being with him is enough, we are safe, even in a storm.

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