Jesus—His Life and Message: Miracles (Part 9)
May 23, 2017
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Miracles (Part 9)
Nature Miracles (Part 3)
The three synoptic Gospels1 tell the story of Jesus calming a storm that threatened the lives of those in a boat He was on, and presumably of those on other boats that were also crossing the lake with Him. The following account is from the Gospel of Mark:2
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”3
Most commentators consider the odd phrase “just as He was” to mean that He was already in the boat when He suggested they cross the lake. In Mark’s Gospel, there is mention of other boats that went with Him. Perhaps Mark included this to show evidence of Jesus’ great popularity and fame, as he often did throughout this Gospel.4 There is no further mention after this of the other boats, but presumably they too were saved.
Once they were crossing the lake, we’re told that a great windstorm arose. Luke wrote,
A windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger.5
Matthew described it this way:
There arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves.6
Darrell Bock explains:
Given the Sea of Galilee’s topography, such a storm could descend onto the sea quickly without notice and, at night, could hardly be anticipated. The sea is some seven hundred feet below sea level and is depressed with hills surrounding it. The hills on the east side are particularly steep. Cool air rushing down the ravines and hills around the lake can collide with warm air above the lake and create an instant storm in the confined quarters.7
The great wind caused high waves on the lake, which were causing the boat to take on water, putting it in danger of sinking. Jesus, probably exhausted from teaching all day, was asleep in the back of the ship. His disciples were very much awake and concerned about the effects of the storm, so much so that they woke Jesus up. Some of those in the ship were professional fishermen—including Peter, Andrew, James, and John—and had plenty of experience being on the lake in bad weather, so for them to wake Jesus because of the danger shows that their predicament was serious.
In Luke, they awoke Him with the words “Master, Master, we are perishing!” In Matthew, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing,” and in Mark, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” It appears that the disciples thought they were on the verge of dying. Mark’s wording in the English translation can be understood as an accusation, asking Jesus whether it's of any concern to Him that they are about to die. However, the Greek wording used in Mark indicates that the phrase translated as “not care” conveys an expectation of a positive answer, that of course Jesus cares, so the statement is best understood as a request for His help.8 The wording in Matthew and Luke has more the tone of a prayer.
Jesus’ response to the disciples’ plea was to do two things: He rebuked the wind and told the sea to be still. The effect of His commands was that there was a great calm. This is significant in that Jesus controlled the wind and water through His word. He didn’t pray and ask God to calm the storm; rather, in His own authority, He commanded the storm to cease. Throughout the Old Testament, we’re told in poetic language that God Almighty has control of the storms and seas.
By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation … who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.9
The pillars of heaven tremble and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the sea.10
He commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. … Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.11
In all three Gospel accounts, when the disciples woke Jesus, He responded to their calls with a question:
Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?12
Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?13
Where is your faith?14
Jesus chided the disciples for being fearful and lacking faith in Him, making the point that they should have been more trusting. The disciples’ reaction to this miracle and demonstration of Jesus' power over nature was to marvel and fear. They asked one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”15
As the Gospel story progresses, the disciples will come to understand who Jesus is. Within the Gospel of Mark, as in the other Gospels, the answer to the question of who Jesus is gets put forth numerous times, so that anyone who reads the Gospel will be able to answer it.
[Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”16
Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”17
The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”18
When the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”19
Through performing the miracle of calming the wind and waves, Jesus was showing His disciples the authority He had over nature—something only God has—thereby helping them come a step closer to understanding who He was. Through this miracle, Jesus additionally made the point that His disciples were to have faith, to trust that He could and would keep them through the tempests of life.
As Christians, we have recognized and believe that Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. However, like His disciples, we too must learn to put our trust in Him when faced with the waves, winds, and storms of our lives. It might help us to remember that during the time of the storm, when His disciples were fearful, Jesus was at rest, calmly sleeping, not worrying about anything, as He had the power to change the circumstances. When we are fearful and fretful, we can remember that Jesus is able to bring calm into the personal storms that we experience, as we look to Him in faith and trust in His love and care for us.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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1 The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels, as when they are placed side by side in three parallel columns, their many similarities, as well as their differences, can be easily examined. For more on this, see https://directors.tfionline.com/post/jesushis-life-and-message-four-gospels/
2 The two other accounts can be found in Matthew 8:23–26 and Luke 8:22–25.
3 Mark 4:35–41.
4 Mark 1:28, 37, 45; 2:2, 13, 15; 3:7–10, 20, 32; 4:1.
5 Luke 8:23.
6 Matthew 8:24.
7 Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, 761.
8 Stein, Mark, 243.
9 Psalm 65:5–8.
10 Job 26:11–12.
11 Psalm 107:25, 28–30.
12 Mark 4:40.
13 Matthew 8:26.
14 Luke 8:25.
15 Mark 4:41.
16 Mark 8:29.
17 Mark 3:11.
18 Mark 14:61–62.
19 Mark 15:39.