Without question, all the intricate realities of living in a fallen world are the most difficult realities to which the regenerate must acclimate. People of heaven and the future living in the fallen, cursed now, they feel the tension inwardly between the Spirit and the flesh, and externally between the hope they see in Scripture for the renewal of all things and the harsh, unforgiving difficulties of a cursed inhabited earth.
They know from Scripture that Jesus, as God-Man and anointed king of God’s eternal earthly kingdom, is even now resurrected and ruling with all His omnipotence and sovereignty manifested through His resurrected and glorified, Davidic humanity (Psalm 110:1-2). He is redeeming, restoring, sustaining, and preserving even today, to this very hour. But marriages still fall apart, people still die, hurts remain unreconciled, sins remain unconquered, cultures apostatize from their biblical foundations, the church is fleshly and unsurrendered, and times of terror erupt as ungodly men grow worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13). Moreover, as we go into all the world, including our won neighborhoods and nation, to proclaim the whole gospel to all people and disciple them in the things of God, these fallen realities do not stop—if anything, they often intensify.
How are God’s people to have His mind about such matters? What is the biblical worldview of this glorious tension? Our Lord mercifully gives us truth to bank on as we serve Him in the midst of His enemies (human, angelic, and all other aspects of a fallen world). In His calming of the storm, we find six truths to embrace and use to reframe our thinking as we approach the glorious ruins of this world.
A. God is working in the everyday circumstances of life (vv. 35-37)
This narrative concludes the day that may have begun as early as 3:20 with the blasphemy of the Spirit by the Pharisees. In any event our Lord has had a long day of preaching, teaching, healing, and general ministry. Surely He was indefatigable and boundlessly energetic in the work of His father, and therefore an example for us; but, being perfectly human as well as eternal God, He could be wearied and depleted. This is the scene we find in the opening verses. He is worn, probably achy, drooping. He tells the apostles to take their boat across the Sea of Galilee (they are on the western side; He wants to take the 8-mile journey to the eastern shore). The eastern side of the Sea has smaller towns with fewer people; the Lord is trying to get rest and recuperation away from the crowds that constantly maul Him. What a tender picture of the humanity of our Lord!
But notice: He initiates the journey. They had to take Him (v. 36), but He brought it up. This becomes important, for not long after they are in the boat, the storm begins. The idea behind the Greek is suddenness, without warning. Mark calls it literally “a great windstorm of wind.” The churning wind thrusts the water into an undulating, choppy, rough forcefulness that causes waves to rise and then crash onto the boat. Quickly, the disciples are soaked, the water is forming bigger and bigger puddles, the boat is heaving back and forth. Experienced fishermen, used to the choppiness of water and the rough storm or two, are increasingly terrified.
But God brought them there. God, in Christ, is the reasons they are in the storm to begin with. God put them in the storm, the storm which He controls and which He will end in His time. Does this not encourage your heart as you face the battery of a fallen world?
B. Jesus is fully human, yet without sin (v. 38a)
The tender picture of our Lord continues. While the disciples are terrified—wiping rain out of their eyes, trying to get control of the boat, slipping and falling into each other…the Lord is curled up on a wide cushion in the back of the boat (the cushion where, interestingly enough, the steersman would sit). I wonder if He snored a bit, if He had a blanket, if He was comfortable. Doubtless He was so tired that He could sleep anywhere—including in the back of a very storm-tossed boat. (Perhaps in His exhaustion the rhythm was soothing to Him!)
The God who created light, color, speech, molecules, water, wind, rain—out of nothing, on the basis of His power and will alone—the God who is eternal, with none above Him and all things dependent on Him for their very existence…this God miraculously, mysteriously took to Himself a fully human nature. Somehow, God and man have mingled together in one perfect Person. The two natures remain distinct, but not separate, as they are both necessary to make the one glorious God-Man. He really was human. He really had (and has) DNA, a bloodline, fingerprints, taste buds, organs, energy, all of it. And that energy has been depleted and He is in a deep, needed sleep.
This One is your Lord. This One is your God. This One is approachable, touchable, God expressing Himself through sinless humanity. God has come near, and He has become like us to save us and show us He is not like us, for He is gloriously holy, sovereign, wise, loving, and beautiful.
And this One, as a glorified man, is right now in control of every detail of every molecule of your life.
C. Humans panic because they lose faith in the One they should trust (vv. 38b)
Think of what the disciples have seen—miracles, authority over demons, authoritative and inerrant teaching, wonderous mysteries of the very kingdom of God, perfect sinlessness under the worst of circumstances, even the divine affirmation of the Father on Jesus at His baptism. And we have to give them a tiny bit of credit—their cry, while mixed with unbelief, was genuinely motivated by the realization Jesus could do something and appeared to be indifferent. They knew that much. But still, their panic was fundamentally wrong-headed. With all they had seen, they should have trusted God and the Lord Jesus. They should have said, “I don’t understand, but I trust Him.”
Was it wrong for them to wake Jesus? No—who else should they have asked?—but the spirit and attitude in which they did was wrong. They woke Him as if they had to get His attention, as if He was blind or indifferent, as if they had to get Him to care—as if He was letting them down in their need. This was unbelief, this was judging God, this was sin.
Do we have to pray? Yes, for there are things God desires to do that He will not do if we do not pray (James 4:3). God says He will let us seek Him to do things for us (Ezek. 36:37), to not let Him forget things He has planned from eternity to do (Isaiah 62:6); He even says we are to “command” (!) Him concerning the work of His hands (Isaiah 45:11—the NKJV, HCSB, and other translations are correct to render the Hebrew as an imperative, not as a question). BUT we do not pray as though God does not care, as though He is not in control, as though He has not planned from eternity the exact deliverance and means to it that is best for us and most glorifying to Him (and that He could not come up with a thousand more besides). To do otherwise is to express unbelief rather than settled trust, even in the face of adversity.
D. Jesus has authority over nature, for He is God (v. 39)
Here is the mercy of Jesus: He does not upbraid the disciples for their foolishness (though He does gently rebuke them later). He simply gets up and does as they ask. More: He demonstrates His perfect sovereignty over nature (and by extension, all of life) with a word! Here is the grand conclusion of the line of thought the narrative started with: Jesus, who is Himself eternal God, led them into the storm. And He did so at least partly to demonstrate His own kind sovereignty over that storm, revealing Himself to be God and the Benefactor and Savior of His people. He does not need anything from us, for He is Creator. He loves to help us as we look to Him alone; indeed, He works for every soul who waits for Him (Isaiah 64:4), for that glorifies Him as Provider and Sustainer. He is the tender, lavish Patron Lord of His people.
Don’t miss this: The One who was so tired He slept in the boat now simply gets up, rebukes the unruly wind and waves—they know His voice from thousands of years before when, on the third day of the creation week, He brought them into being and said, “This far and no farther”—and instantly, for He can do all that He wills, the creation obeys its Creator. Jesus is both eternal God and humble man. What a glorious Lord and Master!
E. Trials come for the benefit of our faith (v. 40)
The silence must be a roaring contrast to the terror they have just known. Jesus turns to His men, soft rebuke and instruction now for them. “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” In other words: You know Me. You know My Father. Why be afraid when al the resources and power of heaven are at your disposal in My love for you? You are wrong to not trust Me.
Trials come so God can showcase His goodness and power in sustaining us, in proving His worth despite what has been lost, and here, in demonstrating His power by rescuing us to show the power comes from Him and not ourselves. We are just clay pots bearing an inestimable treasure.
Christian, do you realize you have the ear of the God of Heaven? Do you realize you are a child of the Living God? Do you realize He loves you and can do all things for you as you trust Him?
F. The identity of Jesus is an issue we all must settle (v. 41)
The disciples realize what has just happened. They have seen Jesus do wondrous things; never have they seen Him express perfect control and authority over the weather (that most unpredictable of life’s events). Slowly, it dawns on them who He is. I believe this is the first time many of them understood Jesus was eternal God. And great terror grips them. What is more terrifying than death at the hands of an uncontrollable storm? Having the God who controls the storm standing next to you! His great power and holiness leaves us undone. Indeed, who is this Man, that even the wind and seas obey Him?
Do you know this One as your Savior and covenant Lord? If you do, that same power is completely for you, not against you, with lavish benefits for time and eternity. If you don’t, that omnipotence is arrayed against you in complete wrath and judgment on the last day. O, place your full faith in Him now, and know the blessing of being a worker together with Him and beneficiary of His in the expansion of His Kingdom!