James David Ford, former chaplain of the United States House of Representatives once told the following story to Leadership Journal,
In the spring of 1976 I sailed the Atlantic Ocean with a couple of friends. In a thirty-one-foot vessel, we sailed from Plymouth, England, to New York—5,992 miles. During the trip, we hit a real hurricane—some of the waves were thirty-five feet high—and frankly, I was scared. My father had said, “Don’t go. You have five children. Wait till they’re grown.”
The hurricane went into its third day, and I thought of my father’s words about the children. I thought, Why am I out here? Was this thing that I thought was courage and adventure really just foolhardy?
The skies were black, and clouds were scudding by. I wanted to pray for God to stop the storm, but I felt guilty ‘cause I’d voluntarily gotten into this. I didn’t have to go across the ocean. . . .
Finally I came up with a marvelous prayer, seven words: “O God, I have had enough. Amen.
Within half an hour of that simple prayer, the sky in the west lifted like a screen in a theater, and there was blue sky.Whether or not we have ever been in the midst of a storm on the open sea I think we can all relate to this next section of Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 8, verses 23 through 34. We will look at the first part today and the second half tomorrow....
Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We're going to drown!”This passage shows us Jesus’ authority over storms without and storms within. First let’s look at the storms without.
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
Storms were common on the Sea of Galilee. This “sea” is small, only 13 miles north to south and 8 miles west to east. The Sea of Galilee is actually 680 feet below sea level, giving it a warm and often gentle climate. However, there are dangers. On the west side of the Sea of Galilee, the side on which Capernaum was situated, there are hills with valleys and gullies. When a cold wind comes from the west these valleys and gullies act like funnels. The wind can rush down these hills on which Jesus often taught thousands of people and cause violent storms on the lake. This storm in Matthew 8 is called a “seismos” which is the word for earthquake. The waves were so high that the boat was hidden by the high waves cresting over it.
The amazing thing is that in the midst of this cataclysmic storm, Jesus was asleep in the boat. It reminds me of a poster I had over my bed when I was a teenager. The words on the poster said, “Sleep in peace; God is awake.” Jesus could sleep in peace, in any situation, because his Father in heaven was awake, and so can we.
The disciples, however, were not sleeping in peace. They were wide awake and terrified. But they went to the right person with their fear. They woke Jesus and said, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Jesus had a gentle rebuke for the disciples, one that was often on his lips, “You of little faith.” And he asked them, “Why are you so afraid?”
That’s a good question. Perhaps you are facing some situation right now that causes you to be filled with fear. Jesus asks you the same question, “Why are you so afraid?” What is your answer?
“Well, Lord, you see I just lost my job, and I don’t know what I am going to do to provide for my family.”
Or, “Lord, my spouse has cancer.”
Or, “Lord, my child is hooked on drugs.”
Jesus understands the things that cause us fear. He faced the greatest fear of all time when he went to the cross. He faced the fear, yes, of knowing he was going to undergo the most excruciating death ever invented by human beings. But even more than that Jesus faced the fear of feeling separated from his Father. If Jesus faced the greatest fear of all time then he can help us to face our fears and overcome them.
We can overcome our fears every time we realize that our heavenly Father has things under control—and Jesus can calm every storm.
When Jesus calmed that storm on the Sea of Galilee his disciples asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Have you ever seen Jesus calm a storm in your life that made you realize he really is God, that he really is real? I faced a situation a few years ago that filled me with fear. It was a couple of days before Christmas and I didn’t know what I was going to be doing for work in the coming year. I didn’t know how I would be able to support my family. I went into my bedroom and prayed to the Lord, “God, I just need to know that you are with me.” Immediately a great peace came over me. Jesus calmed the storm. From that point on Jesus helped us to ride the waves of circumstance and he got us to our destination on the other side of the lake.
The story is told of a little village school in the hill country of Scotland where a teacher had been telling her students this very same story of Jesus calming the sea. Shortly afterwards a terrible blizzard suddenly hit that village and the surrounding region. The school had to shut down and get all the children home. That teacher had to drag some of her children through the storm. And in the midst of that situation one little boy said, “We could be doing with that chap Jesus here now.”
Perhaps you are feeling the same as that little boy today. If so, call out to Jesus. He will be there for you and he will calm the storm.
The really good news of this passage is that Jesus can not only calm the storms that rage outside, he can also calm the storms that threaten to wreak havoc in our souls. We will look at this in greater depth tomorrow....