The sky ﬁlled with clouds so quickly, they had no time to turn back to shore to avoid what was happening. Waves started crashing over the sides of their boat before they could formulate a plan to survive. The crisis had caught them off guard—especially since they had followed Jesus’ direction to be there. When a storm came over this particular lake, it swept in with little to no forewarning—you just had to brace yourself and try to outlast its force.
This lake was known as the Sea of Galilee, and it is where the disciples ﬁshed and boated, so they knew its unpredictable behavior. With high hills surrounding water well below sea level, abrupt temperature changes made sudden storms a common event. Sometimes storms would pass as quickly as they came, but their force could not be contained or regulated. For people in small boats, these storms could be deadly, and this one caused the disciples to question whether they would survive.
In the midst of the storm’s chaos, when they looked at Jesus, He was sleeping. They probably stared at Him for a moment in disbelief, then their desperate cries shook Him awake: “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25).
I don’t know about you, but I have lived this scene in times when God seemed asleep or absent. Something happened in my life that shocked and overwhelmed me, and in that moment, I couldn’t see any sign of God’s help. It’s especially confusing when God seems to be silent and, instead of rushing to our aid, appears to be indifferent. Jesus’ nap during the disciples’ crisis seems to be no accident in the way it speaks to the storms of our lives.
When Jesus was awakened, verse 26 states that He scolded the weather. In Mark’s account, Jesus’ words to the wind and waves are unpretentiously profound: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” (Mark 4:39).
The disciples were shocked and likely scandalized—for their teacher to be commanding the wind and waves, He was taking them a big step forward in what they had experienced from Him. They had been amazed by His healings, but this was their ﬁrst glimpse of His otherworldly force. Even more shocking was what happened next: the wind and the waves responded to Him. With their mouths still open, Jesus addresses His disciples with a question that is recorded in both Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Well, yes, Jesus, we had faith, but this just took our faith to a different altitude. That response is not in the Bible, but I imagine something like it was swirling around in their heads. They couldn’t even respond because they were silenced by His power. Instead, they questioned everything they thought they knew, because of what they had just seen.
“What kind of man is this?” (Matthew 8:27) they whispered, which is an interesting question from people who had already decided to follow Him. The person they were following had grown exponentially larger in their midst.
This is the ﬁrst account from Jesus’ life that exposes the direct connection between God and Jesus. Prior to this, Jesus had healed, taught, and driven out demons, but commanding the weather took the disciples’ understanding of His power to a new height. The disciples now knew they were in the presence of God, and the humble package God had come in took them, and many others, by surprise.
After Jesus displayed this power, the gospel of Mark says that the disciples were terriﬁed, while the gospel of Matthew says they were amazed by Him. These words are interchangeable when we are in the presence of something that leaves us both astounded and aghast. Jesus scared the disciples, as well as thrilled them, with this display and reach of His power. When they got to the other side of the lake after it happened, their faith was changed by what they had seen.
This passage reaches into our crises by illustrating—through Jesus—where God is when it feels like He is absent. When it seems like God is sleeping, it’s because the crisis is well inside His care and command. God may even lead us into crisis, just as Jesus led His disciples into the boat, but God always has a plan for what happens. We can’t see God’s power over a storm unless we are in the storm when it takes place. By sleeping, Jesus extravagantly models the peace we can have no matter what crisis is occurring. Jesus is under the same threat as His disciples in this storm, yet He naps to display His nonchalance. By watching His peace, we can ﬁnd our own.
Laurie Polich Short joins James and Betty this Monday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Faith, Doubt, and God’s Mysterious Timing by Laurie Polich Short. Copyright ©2023 by Laurie Polich Short. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Used by permission.