“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” – Matthew 8:23-27
This study has been so good for me so far. Over the past few weeks, we have learned about the disciples following Jesus into the boat (click here for Part I) and the incredible storm that they have found themselves in the middle of (click here for Part II). In Part III, we will see the disciples’ reaction to the storm and what Jesus says to them. This next section of the passage has convicted me more than any other section. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that this is when Jesus finally wakes up and says something or if it’s because of the combined rebuke and calmness He has when questioning the disciples’ faith but I really learned a lot about the character of Jesus from verses 25 and 26 which we’ll get into later. But for now, let’s jump into what is going on in this passage.
1) What is happening in this verse?
We find out that there is a bad storm in verse 24 and in verse 25, we see the disciples’ reaction to the storm – they were freaking out! Since Jesus was asleep and they probably needed all the hands they could get to help bail water out of the boat, they felt the need to wake Him. But take a look at the words that they say: “Save us, Lord…”. The disciples were either aware of the fact that Jesus could save them or they just needed Him to help them with the water buckets. Either way, they needed Jesus’ help. They recognized His presence as a beneficial resource for them but did not trust that He was in control of the situation. Hence, the alertness in their call for Jesus to wake up.
The disciples were fiercely panicking at this point. After waking Jesus up, they say, “We are perishing.” Now, that’s a little extreme. But it is true. They were on the brink of death when they woke Jesus up. But what the men in the boat didn’t have faith in was the fact that Jesus was in control the whole time. They only wanted Him to wake up and do something about the fact that they were sinking.
Then, Jesus says to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” This probably took the men in the boat a little off guard because the waves were still crashing over the edges causing the boat to sink lower and lower. But Jesus decides to use this moment to teach his disciples. They lacked the faith that Jesus expected them to have at this point in their journey with Him. They had already seen Him perform miracles that proved His identity and power but they did not believe that He had control over nature. Jesus wanted them to know that He had the power to keep them safe from the storm. He was disappointed to find out that the disciples didn’t have much faith in Him.
The phrase that Jesus uses to call them out – “O you of little faith…” – is the same phrase He uses throughout the New Testament when the disciples are not displaying a proper amount of faith in who He is. Jesus begs them to stop worrying because He is in control. He knows that if they have faith enough to believe that He is in control, they will be content in whatever situation may arise.
2) What does this verse mean to me?
The easiest way to determine what this verse means to us as readers is to mentally put ourselves in the boat with Jesus and the disciples. Imagine you are using small buckets to help scoop water out of the boat. Imagine waves are crashing in on every side, causing the boat to toss and turn. Imaging Jesus laying there asleep in the boat after a long day of preaching and teaching. What do you do in that situation? Do you start freaking out like the disciples? Or are you calm, knowing that the Man asleep in the boat has authority over the winds and waves? Would you have trusted that Jesus has the ability to quiet the raging storm with His powerful words?
Our faith in Jesus depends on who we say He is and vice versa. If we believe that Jesus has all authority over Creation, there is no doubt that we would trust His ability to silence the storm. But if we constantly question who He says He is and do not recognize His power in all situations, we will be less likely to have faith in Him while the storm rages around us. I think it is easy to say that we would have that kind of faith looking back at this story, but when we mentally put ourselves in the boat with the disciples, it is harder to admit that we would believe in the authority of Jesus.
3) What does this verse teach me about Jesus?
I discussed a bit about Jesus in the answer to the first question but I want to look at something else interesting that Jesus does here in my answer to question 3: Jesus does not have a “what is going on…” moment after being woken up. He doesn’t freak out, He doesn’t complain about the storm or the water in the boat, He simply asks what the disciples are afraid of.
Notice that He disciplines the disciples prior to calming the storm. If He wasn’t in control of the storm, He would have urgently tried to calm the storm first and then lectured afterward. But, He had time to question their faith before calming the storm. He was in control the whole time and it was important for the men on the boat to see that. Jesus uses this moment to show that He is the founder and perfecter of the disciples’ faith (Heb. 12:2) by calling them out on their lack of faith in the middle of a raging sea storm.
I think it is also important to point out that Jesus does not even get up from where He was laying to address the disciples. He “rose” just before He rebuked the winds and the sea. He was still either laying down or sitting in the boat when He questions the disciples’ faith. This added a more dramatic effect to what happens next when Jesus does finally calm the storm which we’ll get into in Part IV.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!