A Troubled Sea
J. R. Miller
"That day when evening came, He said to His disciples—Let us go over to the other side." There were marked days in the life of Jesus—days in which He did special things or said special words, days that were made bright and memorable by unusual manifestations of grace and love. "That day"—was one of the great days of our Lord's ministry. It was a day of teaching by parables, a form of His teaching now introduced for the first time. Nothing in nature or in common daily life was left unused by the great Teacher. The light, the darkness, the plays of children, leather bottles, foxes and birds, patched and new garments, and even the homely barnyard hen furnished illustrations for His teachings. Thus He brought the great heavenly lessons down into the everyday lives of the plain, common people.
At the close of this busy day, Jesus said to His disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Probably His object was to get quickly and quietly away from the crowd, that He might obtain rest. The people gave Him no opportunity for rest while He was within their reach. They pressed upon Him ever in rude and unmannerly ways, so that He could not get leisure even to eat, and scarcely was permitted to sleep. That he was very weary that evening, is evident from what follows in the narrative. "Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat." That is, they left at once in the same boat in which He had been teaching, not waiting for any preparations. The object, probably, was to get away unobserved, that none of the throng might see Him departing and follow Him.
"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped!" The storm seems to have come up unexpectedly after they put out to sea. It was one of those sudden storms that so often sweep down from the surrounding hills upon the Sea of Galilee. This storm was very violent. The waves poured into the boat, which seemed as if it would be swallowed up by them.
Notice that the presence of Christ in the boat with His disciples, did not prevent the coming of the storm. Sometimes people think when they are in trouble, that Jesus has forsaken them, or they would not have such hard experiences. If he were with them, they say, He would not permit them to suffer so. But Christ never has promised to keep us out of trouble. When He was about going away, He prayed the Father to keep His disciples—but only from the evil of the world. He did not say evils—but "the evil." There is only one evil. It is not suffering, nor loss, nor persecution—the only evil in the world is sin! If Christ is with us, we shall be kept from sin—but not from storms, from sufferings, from bereavements and trials.
The most remarkable thing in the story of this night, was the sleeping Master. The tempest howled and the waves swept over the boat; but during all the storm—on the cushion in the stern lay Jesus asleep. This tells us, for one thing, how weary He was after the long day's work, so weary that even the terror and the danger of the storm did not awaken Him. He slept through it all. But it tells us also of the peace of His heart, which kept Him in quietness and in confidence in the most trying experiences.
This peace the Master would give also to us. He would have such a peace in our hearts, that we shall not be disturbed nor alarmed by the greatest of dangers or calamities. If Christ is with us, nothing can harm us. That little boat never could have gone down in the waves with the Master on board. The boat was the emblem of the Church. Indeed; the whole Church was in it that wild night. Christ is always with His Church, not only in its days of sunshine and prosperity—but also in its days of trial and in the midst of fiercest storms. Never can the Church be destroyed. "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
The disciples in their terror awoke their Master. They even seemed to chide Him for sleeping when they were in such danger. "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He did care. His heart was awake and watching, while He slept so soundly in His weariness. We need never fear in any time of darkness, suffering, or perplexity—that Christ has forgotten us or that He will allow us to be harmed.
In another storm on the same sea (Matthew 14:25-27), when the disciples were also in great peril, Jesus was absent; He was up on the mountain in the darkness. But while away from them, He kept His eye upon them all the night. He saw them distressed in their rowing. Then, in due time, He came to them, walking on the water, and delivered them. Always we are remembered and thought of, in heaven. We never can drift beyond Christ's love and care.
While with peace in his heart, Jesus slept in quietness and in the fierce storm, undisturbed by its roar and by the sweeping of waters over the boat—He heard the first call of the disciples when in their distress they called to Him. There may come times in our lives when Christ appears to us to be asleep. He comes not with deliverance in our danger. He is not disturbed by the mighty storms, which to us seem so fearful. But in the wildest fury of circumstances, He hears the faintest prayer of those who cry to Him for help and deliverance.
Christ's power over the forces of nature is illustrated in the way He answered the cry of His disciples that night. He arose from the cushion where He had been sleeping so sweetly, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" Instantly the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. It ought to be an immeasurable comfort to us—to know that our Savior is indeed Master of wind and wave, and of all the forces and powers of nature! We need never be afraid in peril of flood or earthquake or storm—for He who is our Friend—is Master of all the elements! No wild tempest ever gets away from His control. A Christian woman who was undisturbed in an earthquake said to a friend who wondered at her composure, "Why, I am glad that I have a God who can shake this old earth!"
When Jesus had quieted the storm on the sea, He turned to His trembling disciples, whose spirits were swept by a storm of fear, and asked them, "Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?" It was time they had learned to have faith. They had seen enough of His power and authority—to teach them to trust and not be afraid in even the most extreme dangers. But how is it with us? Are we alarmed by life's perils? Have we not yet learned to trust?