Luke records Jesus stilling a storm. The disciples had seen his miracles and heard his wisdom on many occasions, but this was a pivotal event. At the conclusion of this miracle they said, “Who then is this?” It was as if the disciples had never met the man that they thought they knew so well. This challenged everything they knew of him, deepening their appreciation of the Lord. The stilling of the storm created a storm in their minds! Mark, recording the same event, mentions that the disciples were fearful, that at the moment when Jesus stilled the storm they feared exceedingly (Gk mega)!

Try to transport yourself in mind into that boat: imagine the water now rising over your ankles and most of all try to contemplate this man whom perhaps you too have not fully comprehended. It appears as if the disciples did not see a miracle; they simply said that the wind and the sea obeyed the voice of our Lord! Clearly a miracle was done. Jesus spoke and the elements obeyed! Luke tells us that this event happened on a “certain day” but the record in Mark bears out that this was a very busy day for the Lord. Consider the context of this story in Mark chapters 3 and 4. Jesus was involved in a family dispute and ended up dealing with a huge multitude to whom he spoke many parables (Mark 4:33). After such a tiring day the Lord fell asleep, even in a violent storm!

A violent storm

Luke uses the word ‘mega’ now to describe the magnitude of that storm that arose the moment the little boat was launched. Much has been said about rapid and violent storms on Galilee. The sea sits some 200 metres below sea level and warm moist air would settle upon its surface. The high hills to the east have a tendency to funnel the cool dry air from above them down to the surface of the lake, and within minutes a storm of wind could ensue. The relatively shallow lake is not deep enough to absorb this energy, causing large waves to be whipped up. One traveller to this area observed, “The sun had scarcely set when the wind began to rush down towards the lake, and it continued all night long with increasing violence, so that when we reached the shore next morning the face of the lake was like a huge boiling caldron.”

Yet despite this tumult the Lord slept! It is worth pausing for a moment to consider this insight into the ‘humanity’ of our Lord. We don’t read of him sleeping on any other occasion, and yet now that the day’s work has been done, our Lord collapsed into sleep. How exhausted he must have been. It is wonderful now to think of our Lord lying on the hard timber of the ship’s seat, perhaps with his head just above the surface of the water, and yet he is asleep! Here we see that the Son was at one with his Father and completely at peace.

It is likely that this storm was more than a commonly occurring event; that God had sent it. Matthew refers to it as a “great tempest” (Matt 8:24). So we have a short story but a huge drama! Matthew tells us that the waves covered the ship and Mark and Luke tell us that the ship was full of water. We shouldn’t underestimate the drama; the noise and sights alone would be terrifying. Luke says that the disciples were now in real jeopardy. They were seasoned fisherman in their own ‘stomping ground’ who thought that their end had come. To add to the scene the sky began to darken as nightfall approached (Mark 4:35).

Panic now broke out among the disciples. Putting the records together it is evident that the disciples were crying out above each other to wake him. One shouted, “Master, master, we perish” (Luke 8:24); another shouted, “Lord, save us: we perish” (Matt 8:25). At this point the Lord awoke. Once wakened they asked him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

A question of faith

The Lord was still lying close, if not touching the surface of the water that was filling the boat, with the storm raging around him and yet he answered, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith” (Matt 8:26). The water had just about sunk the boat and Jesus asked where their faith was! We can only imagine the incredulous looks on the disciples in the face of this challenge. How would our faith have fared? Notice that no one cared about Jesus’ safety at this time. In fact the disciples accused him of not even caring that they were about to perish. How short-sighted they were; this man was about to give his life for the world! Although being violently wakened from an exhausted state, the Lord had no angry words; this man was in absolute control of his ‘humanity’.

What a spectacular moment it would have been to witness our Lord rising and rebuking the wind and sea. Mark and Matthew recall that immediately there was a “great calm” (Gk mega) – a very eerie sensation, no doubt. It was now that the disciples were ‘mega’ fearful; they had totally underestimated this man! How perplexing it would have been for them to see that a carpenter was master in their field of sea and boats! But there was far more reason for their fear than this.

The Lord could have done many things that day to save them. The ship could have been brought instantly to the other side of the lake, they could have been protected in the storm (as was Paul when shipwrecked), or he could have called upon God to stop the wind. However, all the disciples remembered what he actually did: he calmed the wind and the sea. The wind had whipped up the sea and if he had stopped just this, the sea would have calmed down eventually. However, Jesus brought instant calm and the waves ‘stopped dead’! This was not necessary to save them! The Lord was teaching a much bigger lesson and their fear makes this evident.

Mark says, “without a parable spake he not unto them” (4:33–35) and the next words of the Lord (other than those in 4:35) are, “Peace, be still” (v39 Gk silent, muzzled). The wind and waves, whilst not having ‘ears’, obeyed the Lord’s command. Just as his Father’s Word has created all things in the beginning, so Christ’s word controlled the creation.

The Son of man

Leading up to the events of this story, Jesus had told his disciples that, “the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt 8:20). Here he was now lying on the hard timber of a boat’s seat with fewer comforts than a fox, but clearly showing a mind that had dominion over all things! Psalm 8 causes us to reflect upon this as David did when he wrote, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (v4). The title “Son of man” is used to demonstrate the dominion of the Lord. Therefore the Psalm continues, “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands …” (v6). We know from Genesis that God intended man to have dominion over all creation, which could only be by the development of a mind that rose above the animals (1:26). Perhaps the disciples were starting to realise that the purpose of God centred on this man.

It is good for us at this point to reflect upon our Lord; his body, like ours would have cried out for comfort. His desperate need for sleep was evidenced from the fact that he slept through the storm, and yet even this sleep was taken away. The disciples woke him abruptly. How do we feel when woken in this way? The weary fleshly mind might have reacted in anger at being violently awakened. But not our Lord! He was totally in control of his spirit from the moment he awoke! What of all the turmoil and storms that so often rage in our minds? Jesus lay on that cold, hard seat, a hero of faith and completely at peace. There were none of the trappings of kingship, but he was the Son of God and the coming King of the world.

By having dominion over the sea the Lord showed in symbol his dominion over the wicked. In Isaiah we read, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (57:20). His control over the wind also extends this idea. As the wind controlled the waves, so does the fleshly mind lead us to wickedness. Paul speaks of saints being tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). So wind can be a symbol of fleshly influences that blow like a storm through our minds. The Lord commanded the wind to be calm, and thus in symbol he demonstrated his victory over every thought and impulse of the flesh. The Lord’s success lay in muzzling the voice of the flesh that causes such storms. This battle was not easily won, but through the strength gained from his Father, he fought and won that final battle in Gethsemane. As his sweat fell as drops of blood to the ground, his mind was focused on his Father’s will and those he loved and came to save. How mistaken were the disciples when they asked, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

The man with an unclean spirit

How often do these fleshly storms afflict our minds? The world and our lives are full of distractions and challenges that so often cause turmoil and anxiety. Our careers, schooling, relationships and all that this world offers can create a storm, but our Lord stilled all of this. How thankful we should be that he has showed us the way! How apt then that the next story in Luke’s record, of Legion, provides in symbol a picture of how our lives can be distorted by sin. This man couldn’t be tamed just as sin cannot be. He was bound by sin and naked because of it. He lived in and around tombs and so, like us, he was associated with sin and death. Jesus gained the victory for this man and the ‘flesh’, represented by the 3,000 pigs, was cast into the sea.

Finally, there was perhaps a greater reason for the disciples’ fear on that day. The disciples’ knowledge of Scripture would have had them believe that only God had creative power. For the first time it would have dawned on them that the one who stood before them was like the Father himself. Psalm 93 speaks of the majesty of Yahweh and of Him being mightier than the mighty waves of the sea (v1–4). The Lord manifested Yahweh’s might and power. In Psalm 107, once again, there is reference to Yahweh’s power over the sea and this was illustrated in several incidents in the life of our Lord (v23–32). This man was like Yahweh Himself!

The scene we have contemplated directs us to the grand purpose of God in Christ. It was getting dark, Mark records, and the boat was imperilled by the water; all around there was nothing but water. Despite these circumstances, Jesus lay at peace. In the boat were disciples, the nucleus of the new creation. In Genesis we read that there was darkness upon the face of the waters, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (1:2). Here the Lord, Creator of the new creation of acceptable hearts and minds, moved over the face of the raging waters. As if driven by Sin’s flesh the waters raged, but the Lord would muzzle its cries completely. The sea of nations will eventually, through his work, be calmed and at peace. This is the day that we long for. Let us make sure that we will not say in the day when he returns, “Who then is this?”, but let us learn of him now so in that day we will “see him as he is” (1John 3:2).