This Sunday at South Side we are begging a new sermon series entitled “Miracles” and I am so excited to share what God has for us through these messages for the next seven weeks. A miracle is a phenomenal or supernatural event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers, and more often than not cannot be explained by the laws of nature. God never operates contrary to His Word or to the laws of nature which He has established, but He has the prerogative to supersede them.
In three of the four Gospels, the writers record an incident that caused Jesus’ 12 disciples to be astonished and afraid. While crossing the Sea of Galilee, a turbulent storm put them in real peril. Jesus, strangely, was sound asleep. When the disciples awakened Him, He told the storm to stop, and it did. Some scholars assert that the Matthew episode is different from the event recorded in Mark and Luke, because the storm recorded in Matthew precedes Jesus calling His 12, while the Mark and Luke accounts follow Jesus calling them. Further, the Greek word for storm in Matthew is seismos, meaning a shaking, and translated “earthquake” in 13 other places in the New Testament, while the Greek word for windstorm in Mark and Luke is lailaps, meaning a wind and rain storm, more like a hurricane.
Other differences between the story about the miracle of Jesus calming the storm in different Gospels I don’t have time to mention because this emphasis today is on the miracle itself. Certainly Jesus could have calmed two storms. There are no contradictions in the Word of God. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, as 2 Timothy 3:16 states. In the Matthew 8:23-27 account, Jesus and His disciples got into a boat. Being fatigued, Jesus was asleep. It is written that “suddenly a great storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.” His disciples wakened Him and said, “Lord, save us! Don’t you care if we drown!” His words to them were, “Why are you so afraid, where is your faith?” He then got up and “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” The disciples were in awe, and said to each other, “Who is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
As a child I always loved this story. I could easily imagine every picture about it that we are given in the word of God. I can see in my mind after this event when Jesus asked His men “why are you afraid?” We live in a culture of fear. There are so many phobias in the world we live in today that you can barely count them and it seems as if they are growing as new fears arise. The word translated fearful means cowardly or intimidated. These disciples in the boat were losing their nerve, panicking, and coming unglued, so to speak. Jesus questioned their faith, and then rebuked the winds. The wind and waves immediately became still. In the account in Mark 4:37-41, Jesus said, “Peace, be still!” The wind ceased and there was a stillness on the water. Then He asked, “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?” The Gospel of Luke is essentially the same, but Jesus’ question is “Where is your faith?” In each Gospel account, their reaction is the same. “Who is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
What I love about this story is that when Jesus spoke to a raging windstorm it immediately stopped. There was no resistance. We can learn a lot from a storm when it comes to how we respond to the words of Jesus. From Jesus we learn that He wasn’t afraid or worried about His safety. He knew God’s Word and knew what He was destined to do, how He would ultimately die, and that His life and the lives of His men were not in jeopardy that day on the water. Jesus knew the source of the storm and the adversary’s intent to startle and paralyze with fear. Jesus knew the authority and the power He had and He used it responsibly and with wisdom. The disciples had already seen many miraculous healings, seen many people set free from demonic oppression, and even seen a man raised from the dead in Nain (Luke 7:11-15). Jesus had given them power and authority to heal sickness and cast out devils (Mark 3:15). There was no reason at this point to be frightened. However, Jesus used the reaction of His disciples to challenge them and teach them. Don’t panic. Don’t go to pieces when the wind starts blowing. Fear is counterproductive and fear defeats faith. Even faith as small as a mustard seed can literally move mountains when it is focused, not on self, but on God and His mighty ability. This Sunday we will further unpack this miracle. We have a growing children’s ministry, and a cup of fresh coffee waiting at Café Connect. Worship begins at 10:45, and we would love to see you there!
Barry Pettit is lead minister at South Side Church of Christ in Washington Court House.