Why did Jesus still the storm? Imagine what the disciples might have been thinking a half-hour later.
* * *
The sea was quiet now. And there was just breeze enough to push the boat along.
The disciples were quiet too. Andrew was steering. He had taken over for Peter, who sat wrapped in a cloak, exhausted and lost in thought. He had been soaked to the skin. Others were bailing out the remaining water.
Jesus was sleeping again.
James leaned on the bow gunwale watching reflections dance on benign waves. He was trying to absorb what he had just seen.
James knew this sea. He and John had spent most of their lives on or in it. His father was a fisherman. So were most of his male kin and friends. His mind flashed the faces of some of them who had drowned in unpredictable Galilean windstorms like the one that had pummeled them barely a half hour ago.
A seasoned boatman, James was not alarmed easily. But he knew a man-eater when he saw it. This storm had opened its mouth to swallow them all into the abyss.
Terror had been in John’s eyes when he grabbed James and yelled, “We have to tell the Master!” They stumbled to the stern. How Jesus had remained sleeping while the angry surf tossed the boat around was itself a wonder. They woke him screaming, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”1
James would never forget the way Jesus looked at him. His eyes were at once potent and tranquil. Not a trace of fear. Laying aside the blanket, Jesus rose to full height on the rear deck. James, fearing Jesus was about to be pitched overboard, reached to grab him just as Jesus shouted, “Peace! Be still!”2
No sooner had those words left his mouth and the wind was completely gone! The sudden hush of the howling was otherworldly. The waves immediately began to abate. Each disciple stood where he was, looking dumbfounded at the water and sky and each other.
Jesus’ gaze lingered for a moment on the steep hills along the western shore. Then he looked around at the Twelve and said, “Where is your faith?”3
He had looked right at James when he said “faith.”
Now, as James leaned on the bow, he turned Jesus’ question over and over in his mind.
“Where is your faith?” When Jesus first said it, James felt its intended rebuke. Didn’t he trust God? Wasn’t the Father with Jesus? He had thought he believed this. But the storm proved that all the confidence he felt when the pressure was off was fair-weather faith. The Galilean westerlies had swept it away. He felt chastened and humbled.
But the more James thought about the question, the more profound it became. “Where is your faith?” Where is it, James? When the storm hit, what did you trust? I trusted what my eyes saw. I trusted what my skin felt. I trusted the violent force that was tossing the boat like a toy and would have rolled us over any minute. I trusted the stories told by my father. I trusted the tragedies I remember. I trusted the power of the storm because storms kill people.
Up until a few minutes before, this would have merely seemed like common sense. But Jesus had changed everything.
As James looked back to the sleeping Jesus, the Psalmist’s words came to mind:
For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all the deeps.
He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,
Who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.4
Who then is this?5 Someone who can command a killer storm to die when he pleases. Holy fear washed over him again. However, this fear didn’t produce panic, but a deep, unnerving, reverent joy.
* * *
When the storm was raging and Jesus was sleeping, which looked more powerful?
This is an important picture to remember, because when the storms of life hit they almost always appear stronger to us than God’s word. And the important question to ask at that moment is, where is your faith?