“Then He got into the boat and His disciples followed Him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!’” (Matthew 8:23–27).
The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus. This sea is surrounded by hills inside of a rift valley, meaning that it is known for sudden and violent, wind-driven storms. From our text, we learn that the disciples and Jesus got caught in one of those storms. Matthew doesn’t tell us exactly who was afraid; maybe Peter, Andrew, James, and John were not afraid at all, being fishermen by trade. Maybe all of the disciples were terrified. The point is that Matthew wrote that they thought they were going to die at sea that day. What was Jesus doing to save them? He was sleeping. He gave the wind and waves no attention at all. Mark recorded that the disciples even accused Jesus of not caring whether they died or not … “And they woke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:38).
Why does God allow storms to happen at all? The violent storms that blew through our area recently left widespread destruction with tornadic winds, massive hail that possibly set records, and torrential rain that led to flooding. Just like the disciples accusing Jesus of not caring if they met their demise or not, it would be easy for us to wonder if God even cares about our properties and lives. It would be easy for us to accuse God of “sleeping on the job.” Sometimes, we blame God for sending the turmoil into our lives. It’s during these times that we show our lack of faith and understanding.
God allows the storms of life – literal as well as metaphorical – for many reasons. In our text, why was that particular storm allowed to blow up? Was it to humiliate the disciples, or punish them for their lack of faith or their sin? No, He sent that storm to show the disciples just how powerful He is and to encourage them in their faiths. When the disciples woke Jesus, He did not rebuke them, even though they had little to no faith in Him at the moment. Instead, He rebuked the howling winds and raging seas. The truly awesome thing is that they obeyed Him immediately. The disciples should’ve been amazed by this, it’s unnatural and miraculous.
When storms start to blow into our lives, this story is a stark reminder of what we are supposed to do. We should not panic or fear what might happen to us. We should not act as if God is asleep and out of control. Instead, we should show our faith in God through prayer. We should pray that He continue to protect us from all harm and danger during our storm. Prayer is a powerful thing, but it is not to be misunderstood. Just because we pray to God to end the storm or protect us from harm and danger, that doesn’t mean that our prayer will be answered in the way we want it to be. The answer could still be “no” or “not yet.” Sometimes, storms will break our property and could even take our lives. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us; on the contrary, He has and always will love us with all that He is. After all, God IS love.
God’s unconditional love for us allows us to know exactly how God feels about us. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). That means that we don’t have to bring anything to the table. We don’t have to improve ourselves enough or do a certain amount of good works in Jesus’ name before Jesus saves us. That is because Jesus already freely took all of our sin, all of our shame, all of our doubt, and all of our fear with Himself to the cross. His blood sacrifice cleansed us from all those unfaithful things. And when Jesus rose again from the dead, He conquered sin, death, and the devil, forever. He did it all in the name of love. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 14:12–13).