Title: Jesus has power over nature
Scriptures to Read: Matthew 8:18, 23-27; Mark 4:35-42; Luke 8:22-25
In response to His rejection by the leaders of Israel we saw Jesus announcing a new form of the Kingdom of God, the Mystery Kingdom. And, beginning with this section, we see that the miracles He performs from this point on will illustrate his new policy concerning his miracles and teaching. He changes the focus of His teaching. No longer is He addressing Israel the nation. Now he begins to teach the disciples to depend on him. And His miracles are part of that teaching.
On that day
This event takes place on the same day as the teaching of the parables (Mark 4:35-36). It has been a very long day for Jesus.
The great storm
As they are going across the Sea of Galilee they found themselves in a great storm. The extremity of the situation is mentioned at the end of Luke’s account “they began to be swamped and to be in danger” (v23). Their lives are now at stake. As for the Messiah, He wasn’t being shaken at all by these events. Mark describes Him as “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (v38).
The disciples’ response
How did the disciples respond to this situation? According to Luke, they “woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing.” And I’m sure there was a sense of urgency in their voices. When Jesus responds to them we learn that they were afraid. And according to Matthew, they woke Him saying, “Save us Lord; we are perishing!” So in their fear of perishing they come to the Messiah and ask Him to save them.
All three accounts tell us that He rebuked the wind and the sea. And the Greek word here has the meaning “to restrain or to muzzle”. He literally muzzled the wind. And Mark points out in verse 39: “the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.” And this was all instantaneous. Suddenly the wind ceased to blow, and just as quickly the scene is as calm as it can be.
And He said to them in Mark verse 40: “Why are you afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” And Matthew records it, in verse 26, as: “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” And in Luke He says: “Where is your faith?” What point is Jesus making by asking these questions? To begin to answer that, let’s contrast Jesus and the disciples in the storm. Jesus was asleep, exhausted, and confident in His Father. He knows who He is. He knows why He is on earth. He knows His Father’s purposes for Him will be accomplished. And He knows that no storm can defeat those purposes. The disciples understand their danger from their human perspective, and based on their experience of the sea, they are about to perish.
The disciple’s knowledge of Jesus up until this point
When they begin to follow Him they acknowledge that He is the Lamb of God; He is the Messiah, the King of Israel; He is the Son of God; He is the Son of Man; He is the one of whom Moses in the Law, and also the prophets, wrote. They witnessed the miracle at the wedding at Cana, and they believed. Since then they have witnessed many other miracles, including two messianic miracles. They saw Him take possession of the temple. And they have listened to Him preach and teach. That very day, after watching Him cast out the mute demon, they saw Him rejected by the Jewish leadership, and they heard His response. They heard Him pronounce judgement upon that generation. And they listened to Him teaching them about the new facet of God’s kingdom that will come about as a result of the unpardonable sin. Then, in the midst of the storm, when they are fearful for their lives, they turn to Him and ask Him to save them. This actually demonstrates their faith! They applied what they knew about Him and called on Him to save them. Then they trusted Him to do that.
What, then, is the purpose of Jesus’ question?
Jesus is telling them that, since they know who He is, they should also know that no storm is going to cause Him or them to perish! The point of His question is that they actually had enough knowledge of Him that they did not need to be afraid of the storm. There is no way it could have caused Him, or them, to perish. The issue is not that they needed more faith, but that they need not have feared!
The disciples’ reaction
We are told they responded with fear and amazement. This is a different kind of fear from the fear they had in the storm, and a different Greek word is used. In the storm the word was ‘deilos’, meaning fear in the sense of being timid or cowardly. Now the word is ‘phobos’, meaning fear, terror, reverence, respect, honour. It includes the idea of astonishment and amazement. In response to the miracle they were in awe of God. And they recognize that it is God who has worked the miracle, unlike the Pharisees who explain His miracles as the work of Satan.
The lesson learned by the disciples
What did the disciples learn from this event? Even the winds and the sea obey Him! With this miracle Jesus teaches them that He has power and authority over nature.