Let the waters rise
I will stand as the oceans roar
Let the earth shake beneath me
Let the mountains fall
You are God over the storm
And I am Yours
- Lauren Daigle, I Am Yours, from the 2015 album How Can It Be
The Sea of Galilee has been described as an unusual body of water because it is small but deep with a shoreline that sits almost 700 feet below sea level. There are surrounding mountains and as a result, when storms appear, it can often be without warning. The wind can whip the waves into 20 feet tall monstrosities. The ancient historian, Josephus, recorded that at any one time there could be over 300 fishing boats in the water. Some of Jesus’ disciples had been fishermen on the Sea of Galilee and were very familiar with the storms that could arise at a moment’s notice.
So, when a storm begins as they are crossing to the other side and Jesus is somehow asleep in the boat, the disciples panic. It is important to note the danger is real. It always seemed growing up that whoever was preaching on this passage would chide the disciples for their reaction, which is hardly fair. We all have the luxury of knowing how it turns out. Even though the disciples had recently seen some pretty miraculous things from the Christ, they cannot be blamed for believing their lives were on the line. They were. It’s no small exaggeration they ask Jesus if He cares whether they drown because without His intervention, that is a real possibility.
This story appears in three places in scripture; here in Matthew 8, but also in Mark 4 and Luke 8. Just like the differences in personality between the writers, there are minor differences in each version but one thing is abundantly clear: when things get scary, the disciples do the right thing and ask for the Christ to save them. I don’t know what they wanted Him to do. I don’t know if they knew what they wanted Him to do. They just wake Him up and state He needs to do something.
Isn’t that just like us? We see God do amazing, unexplainable things in life and yet when we find ourselves in trouble, we immediately seek His deliverance. I once saw a meme that said: Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes He lets the storm rage and He calms His child. The general consensus from all three writers, is that the last thing they seemed to expect was for Jesus to calm the storm. Words that can be translated as “amazed” and “terrified” are used to describe their reaction to the fact that the Christ demonstrates His authority over nature. They even ask amongst themselves who this man can be if the wind and waves obey Him. I may not be a first century fisherman, but the answer seems kind of obvious even to me. He’s no one to be trifled with, that’s for sure.
You have to understand, as Jews these disciples were familiar with the incredible stories of the old testament. They knew men of God could perform astounding tasks. Now here was someone right in their midst doing the very things they had heard talked about in the synagogue. If it ever happens to me, I bet I use words like terrifying and amazing, too. For either He is God and we are not, or we are in trouble. The question we need to ask ourselves is: are we His?