After many years of marriage and a number of tense moments, our friends, Don and Maggie, had come to an agreement: Maggie would not interrupt Don’s concentration when he was in the middle of a project. On a number of occasions Maggie had interrupted Don when he was deeply involved in a task, much to his consternation. Finally, they agreed that when she wanted to ask him something, she would wait until he had finished what he was doing.
The arrangement had worked pretty well over the years, until a particular day. Don was working on a project in the garage. Maggie, well acquainted with their arrangement, walked out to the garage and stood silently by, waiting for the signal that he was ready to be interrupted. When he looked up, she calmly reported, “the house is on fire.”
There are times when one feels justified in being excited, even a bit panicky. When I read the account of the stilling of the storm in the gospels, I am troubled by the fact that Jesus rebukes the disciples for panicking in this life-threatening storm. I have to ask myself how one would approach Jesus to awaken Him, so as not to set his faith aside. If you were one of the disciples, who had just been rebuked for your lack of faith, what would you have done differently in that storm? Would you come to Jesus something like Maggie came to Don? How does one deny their faith in the midst of a storm? How does one practice their faith in the face of a life-threatening danger? These are not easy questions to answer, but they are questions which our text raises.
For some, the stilling of the storm is an easy text to interpret and apply. They would tell us that we “trust Jesus in the storms of our life.” But how is this done? How does one practice faith in the frantic moments of life? How should we have responded if we were in that storm and if we were practicing our faith? It isn’t as simple as it seems. The story of the stilling of the storm isn’t a very extended account, but it is one that requires a good bit of thought and study.
Initially, I must admit to getting caught up by all of the details which were not provided by our text. I intended to approach to the stilling of the storm something like the National Transportation Safety Board would investigate an airplane mishap. A seemingly simple and trivial incident (like running out of gas) is taken very seriously, requiring months of investigation, the conclusions being summarized in multiple volumes. As I began to approach the stilling of the storm from this same point of view, I ended up with many unanswered questions.150
It suddenly dawned on me that I was missing the point of the passage. All of the details which I desired to discover were deliberately omitted, not only by Luke, but also by Matthew and Mark, in their parallel accounts. The reason why all of this information was withheld was so that the principle thrust of the incident could not be lost in a maze of mundane details. Consequently we will not approach the passage in a way that tries to discover all of the facts, but in a way that seeks to interpret and apply the facts which we have been given.
As I understand the account of the stilling of the storm, the principle focus of the passage is on faith, or rather, the lack of faith evidenced by the disciples’ response to the storm. The is no doubt the obvious emphasis on the need for faith, but it would seem to me that this text supplies us with a great deal of insight into the nature of faith. Let us then seek to learn from this lesson what faith really is, how it works, and how its absence can be detected. May God use this lesson to increase our faith.
I will begin by briefly re-telling the story of the stilling of the storm, including some of the details which are added by the other accounts of Matthew and Mark. We will then seek to explore some of the principles pertaining to faith which can be discerned from this incident on the middle of the Sea of Galilee. We will also attempt to show how these principles apply can be found elsewhere in Scripture and how they apply in our daily experience.
The account of the stilling of the storm is the first of three miracles recorded by Luke in chapter 8. The stilling of the storm (Luke 8:22-25) is followed by the healing of the demoniac (8:26-38). The third manifestation of our Lord’s miraculous power is recorded in the account of the raising of Jairus’s daughter, interrupted by the healing of the woman with the issue of blood. All of these precede the sending out of the disciples, to do the very things the Lord has done here:
When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).151
All of these miracles point to the power of our Lord Jesus, as well as to His identity as Israel’s Messiah. They are, for the disciples, as well as for the reader, to be the fuel for faith. The two central threads which run through these miracles are “fear” and “faith.” As we study these incidents, let us seek to learn the relationship between fear and faith, and between Jesus’ power, His person, and our peace of heart and soul.
The miracle of the stilling of the storm is found in all three of the synoptic (synoptic means to see the same way, and refers to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all of which approach the life of Christ in the same general way, as distinct from the approach of John’s gospel) gospels. Each of the gospels contributes some unique facet or element, so that our study of the event from Luke’s gospel is enhanced by a reading of the accounts of Matthew (8:23-27) and Mark (4:36-41).152
It was the day on which Jesus had taught the crowds by means of parables on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The crowds lined the shore, while Jesus taught from a boat, anchored just off shore. It was evening (Mark 4:35), and our Lord had finished His teaching, so He instructed His disciples to cross the lake by boat to the other side. They left the crowd behind on shore, but some of those who were listening from on board other little boats followed as they set out to cross the lake (Mark 4:36). It was during the peaceful part of this trip that Jesus fell asleep in the back of the boat, on a cushion (Mark 4:38).
Without warning, a storm came upon the lake. The winds blew fiercely, whipping the water into mountainous waves. The boat and its passengers were in serious danger. The seasoned sailors on board understood the threat even better than the rest and all were frightened. No doubt they did everything possible to secure the ship and to attempt to weather the storm. The boat was being swamped by the waves, which swept over the bow. Jesus, at the rear of the boat, was least affected. The violent up and down motion of the boat was much more pronounced at the bow of the boat and least at the stern. So, too, with the water which swept over the bow. The disciples were scared to death; Jesus slept.
With some irritation they must have noted His peaceful repose. How could He be so peaceful? How could He sleep? Why was He not even aware of their plight? Didn’t He care? We are only told that “the disciples went and woke Him,” but I would imagine that they were not as gentle as they might otherwise have been as they shook the Lord to rouse Him from His sleep.
The statements of the disciples differ from one gospel to another:
I believe that all of these words were spoken, and probably more. As there were twelve frightened and frustrated men with Him, each may have spoken at once, or perhaps in sequence, or a little of both. Thus, the recording of all of these statements is true to the events, and reveals different emotions and responses. Matthew seems to record a cry for help. Luke seems to give us a statement of doom. Mark records the rebuke of one or more of the disciples for our Lord’s seeming aloofness.
Aroused from His slumber, Jesus stood and rebuked153 the winds and the waves. Instantly the winds ceased. More astoundingly, the raging waters were calm. Normally, considerable time is required for the waves to cease, even though the winds have long since diminished. Yet here, all was calm. The sea was as smooth as glass. Jesus gently rebuked the disciples for their fear and for their lack of faith. The disciples, however, were too shaken by what they have seen to think very deeply about what our Lord had just said. They were totally overwhelmed by what He had just done. Speaking to one another they pondered not only what had just happened, but also who is was who was with them in the boat: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25).
It would seem that their fear at what Jesus has just done differs both in kind and in intensity from that which they had as a result of the storm. What Jesus has just done was even more startling than the life-threatening storm itself.
The story is simply told. There is no embellishment evident in any of the gospel accounts. There are many questions which come to the reader’s mind as a result of the brevity of the text, some of which must be left to the reader for personal study and meditation. Many details which we would like to have been told have been withheld so that the principle point of the passage would be emphatically clear. This incident focuses on faith, or perhaps more accurately, the absence of faith on the part of the disciples. The disciples were afraid, and their words and actions toward Jesus were less than what was expected of them. Jesus spoke to them only about the faith which they should have had. Let us seek to identify the principles taught by this passage which pertain to faith.
(1) Faith is fundamental for those who would be followers of Christ. The Lord sought faith in His disciples in this text, and nothing else. The story of the stilling of the storm is the account of our Lord’s looking for faith in His disciples and not finding it. All of the extraneous details have been omitted from this story so that the importance and nature of faith are glaringly prominent.
Jesus did not criticize the sailing skills of these men, nor did He coach them on the art of bailing boats. He did not expect them to do anything in the midst of that storm but to trust in Him. Instead, they rebuked Him for His lack of caring and activity. The disciples’ lack of faith was viewed by our Lord as a most serious problem. The Lord gently, but firmly, rebuked them for their unbelief154 and for their fear.
Faith is fundamental for those who would be followers of Christ. It is that for which our Lord seeks (cf. Luke 18:8), that in which He delights, and the lack of which causes Him displeasure. Faith is equally important for those who would follow Christ today. It is by faith that we are saved from our sins (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:22). We are to live by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11). Whatever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). Faith is fundamental, not only to our text, and to the disciples, but to everyone. It was faith that saved Abraham (Romans 4), as it was faith that sustained all of the heroes of the faith named or alluded to in Hebrews chapter 11. It is faith from which obedience flows (Romans 16:26). It is by faith that we stand (2 Corinthians 1:24). Faith is the shield which protects us from satanic attack (Eph. 6:16; cf. 1 Peter 5:9). To sum it up, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
(2) Failing to trust in Chrsit dishonors and displeases Him and is detrimental to men. The disciples’ lack of faith does not please our Lord here, nor does it do so elsewhere (cf. Matt. 14:31; 16:8). It was dishonoring to Christ for it showed that the disciples did not view Him as the Son of God and the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (cf. Colossians 1:16-17). In addition, the disciples’ lack of faith caused them much unnecessary consternation and fear.
(1) Faith involves a decision for which men are responsible. Our Lord’s rebuke of His disciples, regardless of how gentle it may have been, indicates that the disciples were expected to have faith, and were held accountable for failing to have faith. While faith is, in one sense, a gift of God, it is also a gift which may be accepted or refused. Faith involves man’s choice.
(2) Faith acts, sometimes by waiting, and sometimes by working. Sometimes faith is a decision which requires man to take action. For example, Abraham’s faith in God required him, on one occasion to circumcise his son. On other, he was required to send away Ishmael. On yet another, he was instructed to “sacrifice his only son.” We might call this the “obedience of faith.” It is doing that which God has commanded, trusting in God to fulfill His purposes and promises as we act in obedience to His command, even though such obedience seems to be foolish, even destructive.
At other times, a decision of faith requires us to be passive. Faith sometimes must passively wait, at a time when we would be tempted to act on our own to bring about a certain result. God promised Abraham a son. By faith, he should have patiently waited. Instead, Abraham produced a son through his wife’s handmaid. This was an act of unbelief, which continues to have its adverse consequences. Faith acts, sometimes by waiting, and other times by working.
(3) Faith is tested and proven by adversity and trails. The disciples’ lack of faith is exposed in their crisis experience on the Sea of Galilee. Faith’s absence or presence is revealed in the traumas of life. Apart from this storm, the disciples would have continued to appear and to feel as though they had control of the situation. Their panic on the lake showed otherwise.
So it is for us as well. It is the crises of life which reveal our faith. God sent trials into Job’s life to show that his relationship to God was a matter of faith, not of mere self-interest, as Satan suggested (cf. Job 1). So, too, James tells us the purpose of trials is to test and to deepen our faith:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance (James 1:2-3).
The tests and the trials of life—life’s crises—simply expose those flaws and failures in our faith which have long been there, but which are only revealed under stress and pressure. If possessing faith is important, then we can be grateful for the tests which reveal our weaknesses.
(4) Faith is the opposite of fear. Jesus cited the disciples’ fear as evidence of their lack of faith. When you stop to think about it, fear (that is, the kind of frantic, panic, fear that the disciples displayed in the storm) and faith are mutually exclusive. Where you find fear, faith is absent. When you find faith, fear is gone. In their fear the disciples made too much of the problem and too little of God’s provisions. They viewed themselves as on the brink of disaster, at death’s doorway. In reality, they were only “beginning to be in danger” (Luke 8:23, NASV). The boat was beginning to fill up, but the disciples saw it as full. Fear maximizes the problem and minimizes God’s provisions and presence.
Worry is an even greater sin than fear in my opinion. Fear is based upon reality—there was a serious storm raging. Worry is based upon the hypothetical possibility of trouble. “What if I lose my job?” “What if I get sick and can’t work?” Fear is being in a boat that is in a storm and is filling up with water. Worry is standing on shore, too frightened to get into a boat, for fear that a storm must might come up, and that it might sink. Fear has more basis than worry, even though it is wrong.
(5) Faith faces danger and risk. Faith does not deny danger nor minimize it. Faith involves “risk” from a human perspective. Faith puts oneself, one’s future, one’s safety on the line. Faith entrusts oneself to God in the midst of danger. While faith is antithetical to fear, it is also akin to fear in that danger will evoke one response or the other. Faith faces danger with peace and tranquillity. Fear faces danger in frenzy. Faith is willing to take risks, based on the promises and purposes of God. Fear avoids danger at all costs. Faith is not gambling, toying with danger, for gambling is based on chance, while faith is based upon God.
(6) Faith is trusting God. Faith focuses on God, its object is God. Since the incarnation of Christ, faith focuses on God incarnate, Jesus Christ. The disciples did not just lack faith, they lacked faith in Christ, the One who was in the boat with them. The words of the disciples, after the stilling of the storm, reveal their utter failure to grasp the greatness of the One who was with them. The disciples did not grasp the greatness of the One who was with them in the boat, and thus they lacked faith in His power, in His presence, in His goodness.
(7) Faith is trusting God alone. True faith is faith in God alone. Faith cannot be placed in both God and man (cf. Ps. 146, esp. vv. 3-4). Faith in God cannot be mixed with trust in ourselves, or in our own actions. The storm of the Sea of Galilee had brought the disciples to a point of absolute desperation. There was nothing which they, or any other human being, could do to save them. If God did not act, and if He did not act in a supernatural way, they were doomed.
In this case, the disciples were painfully aware of their inadequacy, of the futility of anything they might do to save themselves. In other instances, we must come to the realization that even when our actions might seem to save us, they don’t. Abraham’s method of lying about the identity of his wife, Sarah, seemed to work, it seemed to save his skin. In the final analysis, Abraham had to come to see that only God could save Him. When Abraham was called on to sacrifice his only son, he was brought to the point of trusting only in God.
(8) Faith is trusting in God alone to do the impossible. Faith is not trusting in God for those things which will happen in and of themselves. Faith is trusting in the God who miraculously intervenes to do that which is humanly impossible. Faith is not based upon statistics, but on supernaturalism. Faith trusts God to do that which cannot be done. The disciples saw no way out of the storm. Jesus stilled the storm, and all, including the boat, made it safely to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
The Scriptures teach us that we are to walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). In spite of the fact that our bodies are deteriorating, we believe that we will live eternally. While we see that we will die, we believe that we will be raised again. While it appears that those who live according to the Sermon on the Mount will suffer economic disaster, God has promised to provide for our every need. Faith is not based upon statistics, nor upon sight, but upon God’s supernatural power, and upon His promises.
(9) Faith is trusting in God alone for salvation. A study of this text has led me to a starting conclusion: All faith is saving faith. The disciples here, cried out for their physical salvation. Had our Lord not intervened, they would have perished. As you look through the New Testament, you see that many who come to Jesus in faith ask for “salvation.” The woman who believed that she would be healed of her issue of blood literally believed that she would be “saved” (Matthew 9:21), and the Lord obviously confirmed this when He said,
“Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed [literally “saved”] you” (Matthew 9:22).
While she was still alive, Jairus believed that if Jesus came and touched her, she would be healed [literally “saved”] (Mark 5:23). Mark later tells us that all who touched Jesus were healed [literally “saved”] (Mark 6:56).
My point in all of this is that all faith looks to God to “save” us in the sense that according to our human “sight,” in terms of mere statistics, what we do or do not do by faith would seem to lead to destruction. Abraham was commanded to leave his family behind and go to an unknown (as yet unnamed) land, where God promised to bless him. From a human perspective, Abraham was leaving certain prosperity behind while flirting with disaster. Abraham was instructed to take the life of his only son, through whom God had promised to bless him and all the earth. Humanly speaking, this would destroy Abraham’s family. But Abraham, by faith, believed that God was supernaturally able to raise him from the dead (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19). Faith trusts God to save us from disaster, from disease, from destruction, from death, from defeat. All faith is faith that God will save us from something (and to something).
(10) Faith always has a firm foundation. When Jesus rebuked the disciples for their unbelief He said, “Do you still have no faith” (Mark 4:40, emphasis mine).
This term “still” strongly suggests that there was no excuse for their unbelief. It implies as well that the disciples had been provided with more than enough evidence for their faith. It informs us that the disciples’ had a firm foundation for their faith. In the past, their unbelief might have been understandable, even excusable, but not now. There were many evidences, many facts which had been provided the disciples, which were to serve as the basis of their faith. Let us briefly review some of the evidences which the disciples had, which were a firm foundation for their faith in Christ.
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses (Psalm 33:6-7).
God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging (Psalm 46:1-3).
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations (Psalm 65:5-7).
O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them (Psalm 89:8-9).
All of these texts focus on the fact that God is both the Creator and the Controller of His creation, which includes the sea. The New Testament goes even further to identify Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of the creation.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).
The One who was in the boat with the disciples was the Creator and the Controller of the Sea!
When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived (Psalm 106:7-11).
When God created Israel as a nation and brought them out of Egypt, He did so by parting the Red Sea, in such a way as to save the Israelites and to destroy the army of Egypt. The disciples are the beginning of God’s new program the church. If need be, the Lord could have used the winds to cut a path in the Sea of Galilee, and they could have walked to shore, on dry land!
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him (Deut. 18:15).
I have found David my servant; with my sacred oil I have anointed him. My hand will sustain him; surely my arm will strengthen him. No enemy will subject him to tribute; no wicked man will oppress him. I will crush his foes before him and strike down his adversaries. My faithful love will be with him, and through my name his horn will be exalted. I will set his hand over the sea, his right hand over the rivers. He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, The Rock my Savior.’ I will also appoint him my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth. I will maintain my love to him forever, and my covenant with him will never fail. I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as the heavens endure (Psalm 89:8-9,20-29).
Moses had prophesied that One like him, but greater than he, would come. That One was Jesus. He was greater than Moses. Moses brought bread from heaven; Jesus was the Bread of Life, come down from heaven (cf. John 6:30-40). If Moses parted the Red Sea, what could the One greater than Moses do to the Sea of Galilee? Psalm 89, I believe is a Messianic Psalm, speaking not only of David, but of Messiah, the Son of David. This One, we are told, will “set his hand over the sea” (v. 25).
Jesus’ teaching and deeds, up to this point in time, had given ample proof of His identity as Messiah, as well as of His power. In Luke chapter 5, there was a similar “boat incident” (vv. 1-11), in which the Lord taught from on board, and then commanded the disciples to put out to sea. In that incident, He commanded them to put out their nets. Contrary to nature and to good fishing procedures, they made a great catch. The nets began to tear and the boat began to sink (with fish). Peter responded to the power of the Lord with words which closely parallel those of the disciples after the stilling of the storm.
In addition to this miracle in the boat, Jesus had healed a leper and a paralytic (Luke 5:12-26). He had performed many miracles (6:17-19). He healed the nearly dead servant of the centurion and raised the widow’s dead son (7:1-17). There should have been no doubt as to the Lord’s person or His power. All of the statements of the Old Testament about the power of God, and some of the prophecies pertaining to Messiah could be seen as fulfilled in Christ.
(11) Faith is trusting the presence, purposes, power, and character of God, founded on the Word of God. Faith is rooted in our awareness of the presence of God in Christ in our midst. Christ was with the disciples, but they did not know who He was. The disciples’ discussion after the miracle betrayed their lack of understanding who He was who was with them. Knowing Christ, and being assured that He is with us, is the basis of our faith.
The verb form of the term rendered “afraid” in the account of the stilling of the storm (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40) is found once in the New Testament, in a way which addresses the kind of fear manifested by the disciples in the midst of the storm. Noticed how peace can be found in the midst of difficulties, how peace can replace panic, based on the assurance of Christ’s presence with us:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, emphasis mine).
A similar note is sounded in Deuteronomy 31:6, which, in the Greek translation (the Septuagint) uses this same term found in John 14:27:
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
When the Lord was about to leave His disciples, He comforted them with the assurance that He would send His Spirit, whose task is to mediate the presence of Christ (cf. John 14-16). We may have peace in the midst of the storm if we have the presence of Christ in our hearts.
In addition to His Spirit, the Lord Jesus left His Word, which testifies to His presence, His power, and His purposes, which will be fulfilled in us.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy “Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
(12) Faith is founded on the purposes of God. The disciples were frightened in the midst of the storm but had they known who He was, they could have had great comfort in the Lord’s purposes. It was His idea for them to go to the other side. It was His purpose to reach the other shore. It was God’s purpose for Christ to die on a Roman cross, not to drown in the Sea of Galilee. Knowing who it was who was in the ship, and knowing His purposes, could have given the disciples great peace.
One final note, even though the disciples’ faith failed, God’s purposes did not. In spite of the disciples’ fear and unbelief, the ship did not sink, the storm ceased, and all landed safely on the shore. The failures of our faith do not frustrate the purposes of God. As Paul puts it,
If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself (2 Timothy 2:13).
Here is the bedrock basis for our faith. He is good. He is powerful. His purposes will stand. And even when we fail in faith, He will not fail in faithfulness.
150 Some of the questions are: Why did Jesus fall asleep? Did He snore? (How “human” was Jesus?) What caused the storm? Was it, for example, satanic in origin (cp. Job 1:19)? Had our Lord not fallen asleep, would the storm have arisen at all? Would He have dealt sooner or differently with the storm? Why was the storm allowed to happen in the first place (whether by Christ or by the Father)? What is the relationship between our Lord’s sleep and … the storm? fatigue? disinterest on our Lord’s part (as the disciples may have thought)? His faith? the disciples rebuke? Were the disciples wrong for being concerned? Should they not have been concerned? What caused the disciples to be irritated with Jesus, so that they virtually rebuked Him? What did the disciples expect Jesus to do, once He did awaken? What did they want or ask Him to do? Why were the disciples frightened after the stilling of the storm? Why did Jesus rebuke the winds and the waves? Did they do something wrong? Why did Jesus rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith? In what way(s) did their words and action reveal a lack of faith? Why did the disciples’ faith fail? In whom should the disciples had faith, in Jesus as Messiah, or in God? If the disciples were to do it all over again, right this time, what should they do differently? If the disciples had known that Jesus were the Messiah, the Son of God, who made the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, what difference would it have made? What should the disciples have known by this point in time, and how should it have changed the way they acted? What are the evidences of a lack of faith? What are the evidences of the presence of faith? How is faith tested? When is faith needed? How is faith exercised? How can faith be increased?
151 “In 4:31—5:11 we found four miracles climaxed by the call and commissioning of Peter: the miracles functioned as a catalyst for Peter’s response of faith. Now at the end of the Galilean section is another series of four miracles followed by the sending of the Twelve: the mighty works that precede the commissioning demonstrate the authority of the one who gives power and authority to his emissaries.” Charles H. Talbert, Reading Luke: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Third Gospel ((New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1984), pp. 96-97.
152 The words of the disciples to the sleeping Jesus, for example, are different: (a) “Lord, save us! We are going to drown!” Matthew 8:25 (b) “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Luke 8:24 (c)“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38. (d) Mark tells us that there were other boats with them, as well (4:36).
153 It comes as a bit of a surprise to find the word “rebuke” used here. We know from our own understanding of this term, not to mention its use in the Bible as indicated in a concordance, that a rebuke is appropriate only were some wrong has been done. We rebuke people when they are wrong, but why did our Lord rebuke the winds and the waves?
We need to recall that our Lord also rebuked the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:39). In the rebuke of the fever and of the winds and the waves, Jesus has responded in a way that suggests to us that nature was “out of order” and in need of correction. As I understand it, nature has been adversely affected by sin, just as man has (cf. Romans 8:19-22). The winds and the waves perform a very valuable function, but they sometimes get out of order, as in a storm, taking lives and destroying property. So, too, a fever is the body’s means of dealing with infection, but it sometimes gets out of hand, causing serious problems, even death. Our Lord rebuked nature here because nature was out of order with the Creator. Our Lord’s purpose was to die on a cross, not to drown in the Sea of Galilee. Our Lord was to reach the other side of the Sea, not sink in the middle. Nature was out of order. Jesus commanded it to comply. Thus, His rebuke.
154 The term “afraid” (NIV), badly rendered “timid” (NASV), is not one commonly used in the New Testament, as can be seen by consulting a concordance. The same term is used only 3 times in the New Testament, two times in the accounts of the stilling of the storm and once in Revelation: “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death “(Revelation 21: 7-8).
The unbelief of the disciples, for which the Lord rebuked them, is of the same strain as that for which men are eternally condemned. Unbelief is a most serious matter.