Summary: There is more than calming the storms of life here.
Don’t You Care That We Are Dying?
Jesus had just finished speaking parables to the crowd and the disciples, when He instructs His disciples that they need to get into the boat can cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The parables were used to reveal information to those whom Jesus had chosen to understand the message and to hide it from the rest. These two parables had to do with the growth of the Kingdom of God. In the first parable, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom grows from the seed of the Gospel itself. It becomes the job of His disciples simply to sow that Gospel and watch the kingdom grow. The second parable relates that even though the Kingdom of God has a humble beginning like that of the tiny mustard seed, it achieves a great result. These parables are tied to the events that were about to follow, including this passage.
Jesus got into the boat with the disciples, and as He was tired fell asleep in the back of the ship as the disciples started to cross over. It also says that other small boats made the crossing, but the action itself only mentions the boat Jesus was in. The Jewish people tended to fear the water. They called bodies of water the “Abyss” or the “deep.” When one looks at the Book of Jonah, for example, it is remarkable that Jonah was so adamant against going to Nineveh to preach that he was willing to enter a boat to make the long trip to Tarshish. Like the book of Jonah, a sudden and violent storm arose which threatened the lives of those on the boat. Like Jonah, Jesus was sound asleep as the waves lashed over the ship, and the crew was having great difficulty crossing. In fact, the disciples who were experienced with the Sea of Galilee were frightened that the boat was about to founder.
The disciples were amazed that Jesus could sleep through the tumult. So they woke Him up and rebuked Him? “Don’t you care that we are ll about to die?” they exclaimed. So Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves, and there was calm. Then He rebuked His disciples for having so little faith. But instead of having their fears calmed, they were even more frightened about Jesus than they were about the storm. What kind of man can speak to the wind and waves and bring such calm? Certainly, this shows Jesus as being much more than an ordinary man. Who can speak to the wind and calm the sea but God?
When this text is applied to our situation today, it usually is to show that Jesus calms the storms in our lives. I have heard a saying like: “Sometimes Jesus calms the storm; sometimes He calms us.” But this is really to miss the point here. There is far more to this than tht. So let us look further.
We have already looked at the parables which show how the Kingdom of God grows. Now we need to look at the next passage which follows. They would cross over and land of the Gadarenes. There they would meet a demon possessed man which was greatly feared and lived in the cemetery. Jesus would cast the devil out of the man, and he would tell his country folk about it. There were pigs in the story, so we know these people were not Jewish, but Gentiles. Gentiles worshiped pigs, and Jesus’ control of them by sending them to drown in the sea put the inhabitants in great fear. He had killed their gods.
Another detail that is easily overlooked by our modern culture is that the idea of the sea or lake was more than a scary abyss. It was often used to describe the Gentile nations which surrounded Israel. We sometimes refer to a group of refugees as a flood of refugees which gives a similar idea. The Gentiles had different customs and culture. The Greeks had tried to suppress Jewish culture and replace it with Greek. This had been forcefully tried under the Greek King Antiochus 4 nearly 200 years earlier. This king had sacrificed a pig on the altar at the Temple which resulted in a war that led to temporary independence for Israel. So when we place the idea of the calming of the sea with this text, we realize that it all has to do with the mission to the Gentiles. Jesus was preparing His disciples in advance for this mission.
When this is put together, it says that the disciples would have to overcome their fear of the Gentiles and instead minister to them. They would have to transcend cultural norms. They probably had some racist ideas about the superiority of their own religion and culture. As far as they were faithful to the LORD and His Word, there is some ground for their privileged position as God’s chosen people. But they had been chosen by God’s grace and not something in themselves. They were as needy as the Gentiles of God’s mercy. Like Jonah, they would have to overcome their hatred of the Gentiles and proclaim the Gospel message of repentance. The Gentiles were perishing and the mercy of God was to go to them as well as the Jews.