There is much to learn about weathering the storms of life from the story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus shows the disciples that there is nothing outside of His authority and there is never a reason to lose faith when He’s nearby. In the same way, He shows us that there is no problem beyond His power and there is never a reason to lose faith when He’s with us. God doesn’t always calm the storms in our lives, but He never leaves us to face them alone. If God is always with us and is always in authority over all things, what cause is there for worry?
Knowing that Jesus just said His followers will understand His parables while unbelievers stay in the dark (8:10), it’s sobering to admit that the parable He tells in these verses is very hard to explain.
The parable seems to continue the message of The Parable of the Sower (vss 11-15). How the word is received is the point. The word of God is a light that is available to all men; it won’t stay hidden. It will be proclaimed and is accessible. However, only those who hear it correctly will benefit from it (note the beginning of verse 18 – “Therefore take care how you listen”). Those who hear it and believe will benefit by growing in the word more and more. But those who don’t hear will lose even the religion they think they have (perhaps a warning to the religious Jews).
If hearing the word is the focus, then verse 17 doesn’t refer to secret sins that will come out at judgment (as in Lk 12:2-3), but to the inability of man to hide the word of God. The message of the word won’t stay hidden.
The Catholics say the brothers mentioned here are half-brothers of Jesus born to Joseph in a prior marriage (because Mary is a perpetual virgin). Nothing in the text supports this.
Jesus essentially tells us that we are His family. We aren’t equal to Him, but we’re brothers and sisters to the Son and children of the Father IF we believe the Son’s message. We are justified, but even more, we’re adopted into the family of God. A life of obedience proves our lineage.
By saying this, Jesus makes it clear that nothing and no one takes priority over our relationship with God. He will later say that those who follow Him must hate their family and their life in comparison to their love for Him (Lk 14:26). This is not to say that Jesus downplays familial relationships – He simply expresses the preeminence of our relationship to God in extreme terms.
Note that we show we are His by OBEDIENCE (…hear the word of God and do it). This is the same point Jesus made at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount (Lk 6:46-19). It’s not what we hear or say that matters – it’s what we DO. Our obedience shows our status as children of God (much like words show our hearts – 6:45 – and works prove our faith – Jas 2:26).
In Matthew’s account, Jesus sees the huge crowds following Him and decides to leave where they are and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The text says that He and the disciples get into the boat, so it’s reasonable to assume it’s thirteen men who begin to sail to the other side.
The Sea of Galilee is over 600 feet below sea level and surrounded by mountains. Oftentimes wind sweeps down from the mountains suddenly and causes violent storms with little warning. This may explain why the group gets in the boat and heads out with no sense of impending doom.
As they sail across the lake, Jesus falls asleep. It’s a mark of His humanity and the effort He puts into the ministry that He’s so tired He stays asleep even after the killer storm arises (which presumably is loud and violent). Notice that it’s not until He’s asleep that the storm begins (which could mean there’s an evil element to the storm or perhaps it’s simply God’s timing in wanting the storm to occur after Jesus is asleep and seemingly unaware).
The storm kicks up waves that begin to swamp the boat. It’s notable that if all the disciples are there, four of them make their living on the Sea of Galilee. If the storm is so bad that even these four men (Andrew, Peter, James, John) fear for their lives, it means the group’s truly in a life-or-death situation. The disciples don’t just imagine they’re in danger.
After fighting the storm for a while, the disciples decide to wake Jesus. When they do, they’re more than scared. They’re also incredulous and angry. Luke records them crying out to Jesus in exasperation, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” Mark perhaps catches their mood more accurately when he records them saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38).
When Jesus wakes up, He sees the storm and rebukes the wind and the waves. The storm immediately ceases, and the lake becomes calm. If His fatigue showed His humanity, here He clearly displays His divinity. When it’s quiet and still, Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Where is your faith?” It’s the ultimate drop-the-mic moment.
The disciples are awestruck. They say nothing to Jesus in response, but to each other they say, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” The disciples’ reaction to His power shows they don’t understand Him fully. They must have expected Him to do something – otherwise there was no reason to wake Him – but they apparently didn’t expect the incredible act He performed. Being amazed at what He did is perfectly natural (and regardless of their faith it would be strange NOT to be in awe of what they just witnessed), but wondering what kind of Man could control nature means they still don’t grasp that the Lord of creation is with them.
Something to consider: Judas presumably is in the boat and witnesses what Jesus does. It’s a picture of the blindness and deception of the unbelieving heart that he can experience this and still give up on Jesus and never fully believe He’s the Messiah.
Lessons from the Storm
The disciples were not wrong to be afraid. It doesn’t make sense that Jesus would expect the disciples to casually respond to a storm intense enough to overwhelm seasoned sailors. God understands our fears and knows there are things in this life that are beyond our ability to cope. He does not condemn us for sometimes being afraid. This is likely another reason (beyond showing His power) why Jesus calmed the storm. If He only wanted the disciples to know they couldn’t be hurt as long as they were with Him, He could have let the storm continue. He calmed it so the threat it presented and the fear it produced went away. He did more than just protect them; He gave them peace.
The disciples were right to wake Jesus. The disciples cried out to Jesus because they assumed He could do something (although it’s interesting to consider what that was – they obviously didn’t expect Him to do what He did). Where they made a mistake was in waiting until the storm was so bad that they lost all hope and went to Jesus in a panic. He was essentially their last resort. When we live dependent lives, going to God in any and all situations becomes habit and saves us trying to fix things on our own and getting overwhelmed by waves. The mature Christian knows to raise the white flag early and often. Without Jesus, we can do nothing.
The disciples were wrong to think they and Jesus could die. Even after witnessing His miracles and hearing His teaching, they still did not fully comprehend who Jesus is. If they had complete faith in Him, they would have realized that the Messiah can’t die before He fulfills His purpose. Their panic exposed their lack of faith. And that’s what storms do, don’t they? They test and prove our belief (or unbelief). In this case, it showed that the disciples didn’t believe in Jesus as much as they said they did. They may have left everything to follow Him, but when the chips were down they still doubted. And since they doubted, they missed the truth that as long as they’re with Jesus, they’re safe. Jesus asks them, “Where is your faith?” because they clearly don’t (or didn’t) believe He’s the divine Son of God.
The disciples were wrong to think Jesus didn’t care. When they went to Him in a panic and asked how He could sleep and let them die, they showed a lack of trust and belief. They assumed His sleeping showed a lack of concern for their safety. In reality, it showed a lack of concern for the danger of the storm. He slept because He knew they were safe. He knew they were safe because He was there and wouldn’t let the storm hurt them.
So what are the takeaways? It’s okay to be afraid. It’s good to realize that some storms are beyond our ability to survive on our own. It’s good to go to our Redeemer in a panic and cry out for help (God oftentimes sends storms for just this purpose). We must remember, however, that as long as our Redeemer is with us (and He’s ALWAYS with us), our ultimate safety is assured. That doesn’t mean our physical safety is guaranteed, but it means our eternal safety and wellbeing is. We must also remember that our Savior is Lord of the Storms. There is no storm outside of His control or authority. They all bow to His sovereignty (so while it’s okay to panic a bit, we can never forget who’s in control of our situation). Lastly, we must never doubt His love and concern. Just because He doesn’t respond how and when we think He should, it doesn’t mean He isn’t intimately familiar with that we’re facing and its effect on us. Our Savior’s timing and methods display His divinity and infinity; they don’t betray His lack of love and concern.
Five things to remember during any storm:
God is sovereign.
God is omniscient.
God’s thoughts and timing and perspective aren’t ours.
God is good.
God loves us.