23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
In chapter 8 of the Gospel of Matthew, just after finishing the Sermon on the Mount, we are told that over the course of just one day – in fact probably less than half the day, since He’d been preaching earlier – the Lord healed at least four and probably a dozen or more people. Jesus then decided to leave the area of Capernaum and got into a boat, His disciples close behind. As often happens on the Sea of Galilee, a sudden storm swept down and threatened to overwhelm the boat. Jesus slept, and Simon Peter and the disciples panicked.
Isn’t that an interesting scene? They called to Jesus, “Lord, save us!” (v.25) And when He did save them, then they were amazed! Did the disciples NOT expect Jesus to save them? Why did they marvel at the way He calmed the wind and waves?
First of all, let’s give the disciples credit for realizing an important truth: Jesus will protect those whom He calls. We can and should expect that when we’re taken out of our natural element and thrust into danger while following Jesus’ call, He will be there ready to bring us safely through the storm. Did the disciples really need to worry, really need to call out “Save us”? No, probably not, but we are all human, and while our spirit trusts Jesus, our flesh cries out at the least spot of danger.
This really was a learning process for the disciples, including the stalwart Simon Peter. Simon, Andrew, James and John were all fisherman, and they knew those sudden storms well. They undoubtedly had known men who lost their lives in such storms, and so those four disciples were perhaps even more fearful than the landlubbers among them. Thus far, all the disciples had seen from Jesus were miracles of healing and some great preaching. And yet when the storm threatened, they turned to Him for salvation. At least they got that part right.
We look at this incident and ask, “Didn’t they know that there’s no way that storm would harm the Son of God?” But we forget that these men didn’t yet know Him as the Son of God. Oh, there was undoubtedly a lot of talk about the blessing He’d received at His baptism. (Matthew 3:17) And with so many healings performed throughout Galilee, and people even coming from Syria and beyond the Jordan for healing, there was no doubt that Jesus was blessed by God. But even with all that, the faith of the disciples was just beginning, slowly growing, and it was in incidents like this storm that their faith grew stronger.
And perhaps that is the point, that even while Jesus reprimanded them “O you of little faith,” He knew that this was an opportunity to make their faith bigger. After witnessing His power to save them, the disciples marveled and said, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” They were beginning to let go of their notion that Jesus was just another healing prophet, just a worldly Messiah, just a new king of Israel, and they were seeing a glimpse of who He really is: the Christ, the Anointed One, the very Son of God who would take away the sins of the world.
We are all like those disciples at many times in our lives. We face wind and wrack and we cower in fear, calling out to the Lord, “Save me!” And He gently rebukes us just before He shows us the way out. And with each storm that we sail through, He strengthens us and builds up our faith. Simon Peter doubted whether he would make it through that storm, and yet late in his life he went on to write this:
1 Peter 4:12-13
12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
This same Simon Peter who feared a common storm went on to tell others to face their own trials with faith and rejoicing! Are we anything like that grace-filled Peter who was later crucified in Rome? Honestly, I think we are not yet like the bold bishop of Rome who faced his own persecution with strength and rejoicing. Most of us are probably a bit closer to the fearful Simon Peter who was once among “O you of little faith.”
Today, as we reflect on the storms of our lives and call out for aid from our Savior, let us remember that the disciples – even the Rock himself, Simon Peter – all cowered in the boat that day. Their faith grew over time, as they witnessed first-hand the glory and majesty of the Lord Jesus Christ. But they all started small. Let us therefore grow in faith, too. Let’s accept the reprimand that our faith is very little and allow Jesus to strengthen us. Let us no longer marvel that Jesus can and will save us from the curse of our sin, but let us take hold of our salvation boldly, ready to face whatever comes our way. Even Peter had to learn that lesson, had to grow in his faith, and he later went on to try to teach that to you and me.
1 Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
Lord God in heaven, though we face fiery trials and storms of our own, we know that You will protect and save us. We know we will face such things, and we also know that our faith through those storms brings You glory. So please embolden us today, O Lord, to face trials and to grow in our faith. Help our unbelief! And as only You can do, please go on to perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle us in Your kingdom. Amen.