Sovereign over the Storm

“And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41

Many of us have very busy lives. Jesus did too. When we consider the ministry of our Lord Jesus, we cannot help but be struck by the fact that Jesus was very busy. Jesus gave Himself fully to His labors—teaching and preaching, performing signs and wonders, spending much time in prayer. And the day in which this great wonder of the stilling of the tempest occurred was no exception. Jesus had been laboring along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, very likely near Capernaum. He had been busy preaching and teaching before a great multitude. In this instance, the multitude had so pressed upon Jesus that He had been compelled to enter into a ship, and from there He preached to the multitude on the shore.

By evening Jesus was weary and worn from the labors of the day. He desired to leave the large crowd of people that He might rest. And soon Jesus would be sleeping in the ship as the disciples departed for the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Nevertheless, though physically very tired, Jesus would reveal His divine power to control all things. Mere man cannot control the wind and the sea so that they obey his command. But Christ is Lord of the wind and the sea. And by this miracle, Christ gives His disciples and the church of all ages a marvelous sign. Christ reveals that as our mighty Lord He preserves His people throughout all the storms of life. Christ points us to the day when as the mighty Lord He will finally put an end to every storm!

The Frightening Storm

In the evening of that busy day of teaching, Jesus had said to His disciples, “Let us pass over to the other side.” Jesus needed immediate rest, and in this way He could escape that large multitude. Jesus saw no possibility of rest on that busy western shore of the Sea of Galilee. But, in sharp contrast, the eastern shore with its wild and lonely hills would surely offer Him a secure and quiet retreat. So after they sent away the crowd, the disciples took Jesus “even as He was” into the ship. Jesus had made no special preparations for the voyage, but the disciples took Jesus as He was, exhausted and in urgent need of rest. Very likely, as soon as He had lain down in the stern, the back part of the small ship, Jesus had fallen fast asleep. Verse 38 indicates that Jesus was asleep on a pillow, likely the hard cushion on the steersman’s seat.

Suddenly, a violent storm arose. Literally we read, “And a great storm of wind arises and the waves were beating into the ship so that the ship was already filling up.” Now, the Sea of Galilee was well known for its sudden, violent squalls. But in this case, it was no ordinary storm upon the sea. Bear in mind that several of the disciples were fishermen and experienced sailors. They were well acquainted with the Sea of Galilee. They knew how to handle their fishing boats, even during the storms that frequently occurred. Perhaps, at first, they were confident that they could handle the situation. Yet these experienced seamen soon find that they are unable to manage their ship in this terrible storm. The waves from this great storm were beating into the ship, crashing into it. Their ship was already filling up with water. The disciples were afraid that the ship would soon be swamped or capsized in this fierce tempest!

We must see the significance of this storm. We must remember that the idea of a storm is very important in Scripture. It is clear from Scripture that a stormy sea pictures the wicked world. In Isaiah 57:20 we read: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (see also Dan. 7:2, 3 and Rev. chapters 13 and 17). Therefore, the stormy Sea of Galilee symbolizes the constant opposition of a godless world. That world hates God and His cause. Because they hate God, they hate His people too. That wicked world attempts to destroy the church. And remember, at this time the disciples were the church, the very foundation of the new dispensational church! They, with their Savior, represented the cause of God in the midst of this world. Therefore, this storm constituted a real threat to the church. If this terrible storm succeeded in destroying Christ and His disciples, there would be no more church! The cause of God would be destroyed! We see that the disciples were experiencing figuratively what the church would experience throughout her history in this world.

Now, the fierce storm appears to have no effect upon Jesus. Neither the roaring wind, nor the angry waves, nor the pitching of the rapidly filling boat disturbed His sleep. Jesus sleeps with a perfect trust in His heavenly Father. Though He did not have a cozy, dry place to sleep during this storm, Jesus sleeps peacefully during all the raging of this frightening storm.

But quite a different picture we have of the effect of this storm upon the disciples. What a contrast they present next to the sleeping Savior! The disciples were terrified. And they were not inexperienced seamen. Practiced hands were navigating the boat. Though they were not given to unreasonable fear, in the face of this frightening storm they became timid and afraid. That is clear from the rebuke that Jesus gives them after calming the storm. He asks, “Why are ye so fearful?” Any moment they expect the stormy sea to overcome and destroy them. They feel that they are on the verge of perishing!

Therefore, the disciples, in desperation, appeal to the sleeping Jesus: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” It seems as if they are rebuking the Lord for sleeping in the midst of their dire circumstances. And Jesus later rebukes their unbelief, “How is it that ye have no faith?” Certainly they ought to have known that all was well with Jesus aboard. Nevertheless, we do see a small measure of faith on the part of the disciples. For they turn to Christ in their fear. They do not abandon all hope and huddle together weeping in the bottom of the ship waiting to be destroyed. No, they rush to awaken their Lord who was sleeping. Somehow they know Jesus can help.

The Mighty Lord

We read, “And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.” Christ rebuked the frightening storm. Literally, “Be silent; be muzzled!” These words emphasize that peace and silence must prevail. A graphic picture is presented of a mad dog or a wild animal that must be calmed down and silenced. And it is a command! Christ charges the storm to be still and silent.

Immediately after Christ’s rebuke to the storm we read: “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” The effect of Christ’s words was immediate. The storm did not gradually die down. Miraculously, the violent attack of wind ceased and the sea was calm. The surface of the sea was suddenly smooth as a mirror, quiet as a calm summer evening.

That this was a great wonder was confirmed by the disciples. We read that they “feared exceedingly.” But this word for “fear” is not the same word used by Jesus in His rebuke of them, referring to their cowardly attitude. This word refers to a fear combined, not with cowardice, but with awe and reverence! The disciples more and more realized how great their Master was. We see this too from their words. We read that they said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They knew who Christ was all right, but the point is that they were very impressed by Christ’s divine power and majesty. They were left awestruck by Christ’s mighty power over even the wind and the sea. The disciples were no doubt answering their own question in their minds and hearts, “This man is very God, His only begotten Son!”

Certainly this revelation of divine power was possible because Jesus is the only begotten Son of God in our flesh. God had ordained that in Christ He would reveal His glory through the salvation of His church. God purposed to accomplish that salvation by having us live antithetically in the midst of a stormy world, a world that opposed God and His cause. Christ faced those opposing storms too as He suffered all His life long. The cross itself would be the storm of all storms for Christ! But Christ conquered the storm of the cross. There He gained the victory over all of His enemies. And as the risen and ascended Lord in heaven, all things were put under His feet. He reigns, Lord of lords and King of kings!

The Marvelous Sign

Thus, this miracle is a sign of the fact that Christ preserves His people throughout all the storms of life. The church often is rocked violently by storms—storms of apostasy, storms of strife, storms of persecution. It may seem as if the cause of God will be defeated by the powers of darkness.

And apart from Christ that would certainly be the case! We perish! Our ship sinks!

But the sign of this miracle demonstrates that if we are aboard with Jesus, all is well. When He is Captain, no storm can prevail. He uses all things to serve His purpose—the wind, the sea, and the evil world. But the sign of this wonder also points to the end of the ages, when Christ as our mighty Lord will finally put an end to each and every storm. The storms of suffering and persecution do not continue forever. When Christ returns and has stilled the antichristian storm, He will deliver us from this world of storms. Christ will utter the words, “Peace, be still,” and every storm will be forever ended. In the new heavens and earth only peace and tranquility will reign. And we will forever glory in the Captain of our salvation!

Yet, we must not overlook the fact that Christ put His disciples to shame for their foolish worries and fears. Christ by this sign assured His disciples that because He is Lord of the wind and the sea, they need not fear the storms of life. So Christ rebukes His church, also today, when she becomes afraid because of the storms of tribulation. And Christ assures His church that He is able to calm any storm with which she may be assailed.

The storms of opposition of the unbelieving world arise for us as individuals too. We, especially the younger generations, may suffer at the hands of those who hate the cause of Christ. The sacrifice required will no doubt become greater. We will find less and less tolerance for those who would maintain the truth of Scripture. Trusting in ourselves, we will be filled with doubts and fears. Against such storms of opposition we perish if we are not with Christ!

By this sign Christ teaches us to place all of our confidence and trust in Him who is sovereign over the storm. Trusting in ourselves or in this present world, we surely drown in the tempest. Our calling is to flee to Christ! If we are aboard with Christ, we need not fear. For He is able to utter the words: “Peace, be still,” and calm the stormy seas of life. He is a faithful Captain, who will surely see His vessel, with all its passengers, enter into its heavenly haven. As we sing from Psalm 77:

Thy way was in the sea, O God,

Through mighty waters, deep and broad;

None understood but God alone,

To man Thy footsteps were unknown;

But safe Thy people Thou didst keep,

Almighty Shepherd of Thy sheep.