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 marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:23-27
Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope? That if something didn’t happen soon, you’d feel like you “just can’t go on”, “everything is ruined” or “your going to just die”? Maybe you’re thinking, “I need something to happen in my life to remove this feeling of dread, of utter despair! God, why don’t you do something!”
Well, while studying Matthew 8:23-27, the historical account of Jesus calming the stormy sea, something stood out to me. Now, it’s probably not going to be anything new and more than likely this has been talked about before in a manner that far outshines any understanding I can bring, but writing like this always helps me formulate my thoughts in an orderly manner and helps me to understand things more clearly. As always, input is appreciated for further understanding and revelation.
In Matthew 8:23, Jesus gets into the boat and then feels comfortable enough to go to sleep. I don’t know how long he slept for or how long they were in the boat, but the very next verse, a great storm rose up. This tempest, according to the description in the original language was something like an earthquake. It was as if the whole of the sea shook. The more I picture this, I think of the waves not just coming one after the other, but constantly buffeting the boat from all sides, one building upon another until they burst against the sides of Jesus’ boat and the others following along. According to Matthew 8:25, the disciples react with a very natural and human emotion, fear and dread. Any one of us might cry out in a similar manner, LORD SAVE US! We are perishing! How many situations in our own lives where all we could do is cry out to God for rescue. I know specific times when prayers were answered, and I am sure if you’re a believer reading this you could testify to God’s goodness and provision in your life as well. So Jesus’ disciples cry out to him in desperation and like a good shepherd, he comforts them, calms the sea and encourages them that they did the right thing by waking him up and asking for help…right? Well not exactly, and this is where the focus was for me as I contemplated this scripture recently.
Before he rebukes the wind and sea in a display of awe-inspiring control over all nature, he first rebukes his disciples. “Why do you fear?”, he tells them, “Where is your faith?” Imagine, before anything calmed down, Jesus sits up and steadies himself as the boat is rocking violently back and forth with wave after wave splashing over him and his followers. As he speaks those words to his followers, he’s probably spitting out water and wiping it from his face. Picture it! Get a vision of it in your head! Put yourself in the disciples place! What could have been going through their mind at that moment? Probably a different kind of amazement! How about, “we are about to die, and he rebukes us?” In hindsight, I think maybe they should have been more fearful of waking him up!
Jesus, the creator of all things, is in the boat with them, sleeping peacefully, completely unconcerned about the circumstances around him. But instead of looking at him and drawing on all they’re prior experiences with him, remembering all he had done prior to this moment, instead of all of those things, they panicked.
Consider what Jesus did with his life prior to this, and how those things encouraged his disciples to willfully follow him. This Jesus they followed, brought life to dead flesh, caused healing by just willing it, directed demons to be cast out of others and ordered a multitude of fish to jump into a fishing net and become food. When Jesus did these signs and wonders, he was showing them that despite the established order of things (which he put into place), he was still in control of it all.
So now, this Jesus they walked with, talked with, and seen do great signs and wonders, this God-Man that has already shown them that he is able to work outside of the very normal progression of life and nature around them because he controls it, gets in a boat, goes to sleep and does not wake until they physically rouse him. And what does he wake up to?
FEAR AND DOUBT!
Oh, body of believers, at one time or another, and more than likely sometime in the future, this is us!
How may times do we cry out to God in desperation, “Lord, deliver me from this trial, this storm! Rescue me for I am perishing! The waves of life are crashing all around, I can’t take it anymore!” Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. With absolute certainty, God hears our cries and our prayers, and we trust that He answers them. I know for certain there have been times where He has answered them for me and my family! But I am not talking about those moments of faith, when we trust God no matter what. We all have seasons, if even for a moment, where God is faithful and we are not and we are crying out to Him not because we trust Him, but because we don’t! This is not an easy thing to hear. It sounds judgmental and harsh… But please remember, I am writing this for me and decided to share my thoughts.
No one has perfect, abiding, trusting, faith all of the time. Remember we are not made perfect in anything that we have done, but by faith in what Christ has done and what he did was attribute his perfectness to us! So despite his(Christ’s) robe of perfection that we wear, in our flesh and blood we (or at least I) at times, cry out to him because my momentary circumstances seem bigger to me then him, and not just because I know God is going to work things out no matter what! I am just being honest with myself here…
So, why did Jesus rebuke them?
Was it because he was really looking forward to that nap after ministering to so many? He was human after all. Or was he trying to tell them something about trusting him no matter the circumstances. Was he trying to say, that there are times you need to trust me, even when I don’t instantly deliver you from some storm and allow the rain and winds to continue to batter you? Or maybe continue to trust in me when I don’t completely remove from you a bent towards a particular sin or ability to stumble and you have to war within yourself to turn away from it? How about, in the moment that you have to make a choice, good or bad, and the devil is bending your ear, luring you away, you don’t have to cry out in fearful desperation, “I am perishing”, because he is already in the boat with you and you can say simply, “he is here with me, in the middle of this, and I WILL trust him!” and then ride out the storm.
How great are the refining fires that come by way of storms and difficulties? How great does our faith grow when we ride those storms all the way to the solid shore of Christ’s love and abundant grace? As powerful and dangerous as they can be, surfers look for that perfect wave, and not only do they ride it, they ride it with style and grace. Now, how much more do we have to draw on while navigating life’s storms?
There will always be times that we need God’s physical and very direct intervention in our lives, and we should never resist crying out to him in faith and trust. But in this I encourage you, when you’re met with a tempest in your life, and doubt creeps in, trust that Christ is there in the boat with you, and even if it capsizes, he is also in control of the tempest as well!
For the cause of Christ, you may die, but you will never perish!
ADDENDUM: I know the other accounts of this story in the bible indicate he rebuked his disciples AFTER the storm, but I believe the truth remains that Jesus was calling them to a faith and trust in him in the midst of any circumstance. He calls us to that as well! My hope for myself is that I not trust in my feelings in whatever situation that may come up, but hold fast to Christ and his Word.