Luke 8:22-25 Common English Bible (CEB)
Jesus calms the sea
22 One day Jesus and his disciples boarded a boat. He said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So they set sail.
23 While they were sailing, he fell asleep. Gale-force winds swept down on the lake. The boat was filling up with water and they were in danger.24 So they went and woke Jesus, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” But he got up and gave orders to the wind and the violent waves. The storm died down and it was calm.
25 He said to his disciples, “Where is your faith?”
Filled with awe and wonder, they said to each other, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him!”
Have you ever been terrified of something? My kids find the strangest stuff to be scared of. My daughter was terrified of my wife’s brother because he looked like her mom with a beard (to be honest, he makes me uncomfortable, too). They’re far more scared of mosquitoes than wasps. They’re scared of vegetables and going upstairs by themselves (but not scared of coming back downstairs in the middle of the night to wake us up). One daughter had a nightmare that a bad guy stole all the food through the TV. The other daughter had a dream that she turned into a triangle.
As we get older, our fears get more sophisticated and rational, but a lot of times they are just as statistically improbable. Some of us live every moment with a “what if?” just out of view. On the other hand, some of us may be facing real danger, real threats to our security, our finances, our relationships, or our way of life. These are the kind of fears that put Jesus to sleep.
For an ancient Israelite, the greatest symbol for fear and chaos was the sea. They were not an intrepid seafaring people like the Greeks. They clearly did some fishing and some journeying, but nothing like the surrounding countries. Read through the Bible and check out all the times they talk about the sea or the waters, and you’ll see it. In the creation story, God brings order out of chaos by bringing land out of the water. In the flood story, when God wants to destroy the world, he uses water. The rest of the Bible is full of mentions of sea monsters, fish-eating people, shipwrecks, and storms. And throughout the Old Testament, one of the greatest compliments they pay to God is to recognize that he has power over the sea.
So when the disciples face a storm on their boat, even though they are seasoned fishermen, they are terrified. Of course, if I try to imagine facing a storm on a boat without electric lighting, the complete darkness and washing machine experience, I think I would panic, too. But not Jesus. He thinks it’s a good time for a nap. When the disciples wake him up in a panic, he seems a little annoyed. (It’s comforting to me as a parent that being annoyed when woken up unexpectedly is not a sin). He stands up, stops the storm, and asks them where their faith is. For the disciples, this is more than just a cool trick. Jesus just handled their collective, historic fear of the ocean, AND he did something that only God is supposed to be able to do.
The story declares two things to us. First, Jesus is unruffled by our dilemmas. When we come to him in a panic, he has a calming presence that covers us before we ever get our problem fixed. Nothing is new to him. Nothing catches him off guard. He saw the problem coming and sees the problem going before we can even wrap our heads around it. Second, he has the power to deal with it. He can calm the storms. We just have to trust. He will lead us beside still waters. All heaven was created by him, for him, and sustained by him so we can come to him with confidence, expecting a miracle.
If you are stuck in a season of fear and want peace, check out this song: