The One Who Stills the Seas

 Why were Jesus' disciples so wigged out when he stilled the sea? Already afraid of the great storm, you'd think they might have been calmed by Jesus' calming of the waves. But it seemed to have the opposite effect. Mark 4:41: "And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?'"

The disciples now seem to be perplexed about their master's identity. "Who then is this . . . ?" Stilling the sea is such a show-stopping demonstration of power that flooding their souls isn't the happy realization that their buddy Jesus has more power than they had estimated, but the unnerving new awareness that they may have misunderstood his very identity.

Knowing the Psalms, they must have known who it is that stills the seas.

  • Psalm 65:7 identifies God as the one "who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves."
  • In Psalm 89:9, the psalmist ascribes this praise to Yahweh: "You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them."
  • Psalm 93:4 asserts, "Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty!"
  • And Psalm 107:29 claims of Yahweh, "He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed."

The disciples are dreadfully disoriented because they are aware that the one who stills the seas is Yahweh himself. Stilling the seas doesn't reveal Jesus to be a mere miracle-worker with extraordinary powers, but Yahweh himself come in the flesh. God is in the dinghy with them.

"Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" The undeniable response is too unspeakably great, too wonderfully strange, too pleasantly confusing to utter. Being filled with fear is a fitting response, as is marveling (Matthew 8:27). Their Jesus is Yahweh himself, the one who still the seas.

The God-man is their fellow seafarer, and their who-question is yet too terrifically terrifying to answer.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.