This is our third week in the series on “The Questions of Jesus.” We’re taking a look at several questions that Jesus asked His disciples and others to help them grow spiritually. It’s not always information that we need to help us grow. Sometimes we need introspection. Sometimes we need someone to interrupt us and challenge us to think about where we are, how we got there, and why we thought the trip was worth it. Sometimes thinking through answers to questions about life and faith become our opportunity to grab hold of something new in our walk with Jesus.
Mark 4, Luke 8, and Matthew 8, all tell the same boat story about Jesus and the disciples. In Luke’s telling of the story, he says in Luke 8:22 that Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” Where were they going? To the other side of the lake, right? Are you ready for point one? This is unprecedented! Never before in the history of one of my sermons has point one been in the first paragraph, but here it is:
When Jesus told his disciples to get into a boat with Him, it’s because Jesus had a destination in mind.
Jesus never set His sights on a destination He did not reach. He was never kept from accomplishing what He had set out to accomplish or kept from going where He had decided He would go. He didn’t need a contingency plan because He always knew where He was headed and wherever He purposed to go, there He went, and He was taking His disciples with Him.
Matthew’s rendering begins with verse 23 and says, 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
The disciples had already made a decision about the trustworthiness of Jesus. If He said, “It’s time to move,” they followed. If He climbed a mountainside to preach, they followed. If He stopped along the seashore, they didn’t question His decision. If He went into someone’s home, they were along for the ride. So, when He said, “We’re going to the other side of the lake,” they simply demonstrated their trust in His leadership once again. They knew they could follow where He was leading them. They didn’t even question His decision.
Friends, Jesus has a destination for you. He has a plan for your life. It isn’t random. He knows where He is taking you; at least He knows where He wants you to go. Discipleship, at its core, is followship. You can trust when He gives you direction about where He is taking you. You can follow it. You can get in the boat. Tell your neighbor, “Get in the boat with Jesus.” Now, don’t get in the boat without Jesus, but if Jesus climbs into the boat, you can absolutely get in behind Him.
24 Suddenly (say, “suddenly”) a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.
The “lake” they were on was actually the Sea of Galilee. It is a relatively small body of water. It is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. What makes it unique is the fact that it is 150 feet deep and the shoreline is 680 feet below Sea Level. It is surrounded by mountains. At times the wind comes off the Mediterranean Sea to the West, comes over the mountains and down into the valleys and suddenly turns the Sea into a turbulent and dangerous place to be. Usually, the storms took place during the daytime, but they were typically unpredictable. You couldn’t pick the safest time to be on the Sea of Galilee because things could change in a hurry.
How many here can testify this morning that sometimes storms come up suddenly? Sometimes, you don’t get the benefit of seeing clouds gather. Often, you don’t have any indication that the winds are going to appear in an instant because there is no warning that trouble is about to swirl around you. You go for a check-up and the doctor says, “There is something suspicious going on inside you.” You feel fine. It’s hard to consider that something could even be wrong, but more tests are being ordered. You show up for work, and there is an unexpected meeting called where news of downsizing is shared. You were in the last batch that was hired. Your security is suddenly threatened. Someone gets a hold of your identity, your credit card information, your social media account, and all kinds of havoc is created in a hurry. One minute, things are good, and the next you are left to deal with a complex and anxiety-producing situation. That relationship, the one you were sure was “the one” ends abruptly, and you never saw it coming. We live in a world where things can change suddenly.
What I want you to understand is that Jesus purposely led the disciples into a situation that would require them to go through a sudden storm with Him.
Some of you may be thinking, “That’s not cool! Why would He do that? Isn’t He supposed to protect them?” Yes, He was their protection for sure. That’s why He was with them when the storm came up. Yes, Jesus can protect us FROM storms by diverting us from trouble and even by diverting the storm out of our way, but there are times when storms are part of His plan for us so that we can experience Him in ways we cannot when life is simply smooth sailing. We seek Jesus differently when we are in a storm, and we see Him differently when we are in a storm.
When Jesus protects us FROM storms, we learn He is all-knowing. We learn He is omniscient. We learn He knows what is going to happen before it happens and can divert us away from impending trouble. That is a great level of understanding about Jesus. That is great revelation about Jesus, but when Jesus protects us IN the storms of life, we experience Him as all-powerful. That’s a whole other level of knowing Jesus. That’s a completely different experience. We need to gain the confidence that when we go through a storm, He can protect us in it, that even though the ride is bumpy, we WILL make it because Jesus has said we are going to the other side of the lake! If you are experiencing a storm this morning, God has a word for you…You are going to the other side of the lake because Jesus is in your boat!
We also see in this story that it’s not a little storm. The text calls it a “furious” storm. The Greek word is “seismos,” from which we get the word, “seismic.” It’s a huge storm. The waves are sweeping over the boat. Things are unstable and chaotic. Even though many of the disciples are experienced fishermen and have had storms come out of nowhere before, like they often did on the Sea of Galilee, this one seemed different. This one threatened their wellbeing. They had met their match with this one. It wouldn’t take too long before their boat was under water.
Next, we see a huge contrast in the text. Matthew wants us to know that even though there was a raging storm, at the same time, there was a restful Savior.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, maintained a posture of peace no matter what the situation looked like.
Matthew 8:24b says, “But Jesus was sleeping.”
I love this scene. The storm was raging, but Jesus was asleep. Do you know people who can sleep through anything? Some of y’all just looked right at your spouse! Jesus was one of those people! Why was He asleep? Well, He was tired. Ministry was demanding. Preaching, teaching, taking care of the needs of crowds of people, traveling…it was all exhausting. We know Jesus was fully human, and here is a glimpse of the humanity of Jesus. He needed to sleep.
But I would submit to you, however, that Jesus wasn’t only sleeping because He was fully human. He was also sleeping because He was fully Divine. Follow me. Jesus knew what was next, and it wasn’t His death. He had more ministry to perform. His time to die for the sins of the world hadn’t come, and He wasn’t going to die at sea in a random accident. He would die on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. He knew He was going to the other side of the lake, so that’s why He could sleep. He didn’t need to panic because of a storm. He could be at rest even while a storm swirled because He was fully Divine, and He knew God’s plan, and He knew that every storm would be subject to Him.
Every storm is subject to Jesus. That ought to give us both comfort and confidence. The One to whom all storms are subject is in the boat with us, and He isn’t panicked about the rate at which water is rushing into our boat.
25 The disciples went and woke him,
I like the strategy. Waking Jesus was a smart move. He had proven to be helpful, resourceful, and powerful in previous moments, but notice what they didn’t do when they woke Jesus. They didn’t express a confident faith.
The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
How often do we think we know how the story is going to end? How often do we assume the worst possible scenario? How often do we speak doom and gloom? Notice that their words had an element of faith to them, with the phrase, “Lord, save us,” but they quickly negated their faith by announcing their demise. “We’re going to drown!”
You could argue that they were saying, “Lord, if you don’t save us, we’re going to drown,” but that isn’t the way Jesus interpreted their words. 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
They were talking out of both sides of their mouth. “Lord, save us. Lord, deliver us. Lord, we need You,” was followed with, “We’re doomed. We’re not making it out of this alive. We’re toast.” That is double-minded thinking. That is wishy-washy faith. I’m not sure you can call it faith when it is mixed with doubt about how it would all end. James chapter 1 and verses 6-8 speak to this idea of being double-minded. It says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is doubled-minded and unstable in all they do.”-James 1:6-8 To be double-minded means to have doubt.
They were in turbulent waters, but their main problem was that they possessed a turbulent faith. The condition of their faith impacted the way they experienced their storm. Their faith was small. Their doubt was great, and because of that, their fear took over.
As disciples of Jesus are we ever guilty of being double-minded? Do we live with a double-minded confession? Do we express belief that Jesus can save us but then go on to confess the worst possible scenario? Do we raise our hands in worship and sing, “I Speak Jesus” and “I’m Gonna See a Victory” at the top of our lungs, only to walk out of the sanctuary to speak negatively about our lives? Do we pray to unload our burdens only then to pack them back up and carry them around in hopes that we can figure a way out of whatever is threatening us at the moment? Would Jesus ask us the same question He asked His disciples that day? “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Do you see in this story that before Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, He rebuked His disciples? In that moment, the storm wasn’t the most pressing thing for Jesus. It was dealing with His disciples’ spiritual lives. He called the condition of their faith into question, and He asked them why they were so afraid? Maybe Peter looked at Jesus and said, “Really?! You are asking us why we are so afraid? Do you hear the wind howling, Jesus? Do the thunder and lightning signal anything scary to you? Can you feel the water rising around Your ankles? We are going down, Jesus. This isn’t time for a lecture about faith. We don’t have time for a parable, Jesus. We need a plan, and we need it now.” The truth is, Jesus had a plan. He had communicated the plan. “Boys, we are going to the other side of the lake,” but the disciples had forgotten the plan in that moment. Listen Church, the sudden storms of life don’t alter God’s plan for your boat, for your life.
I submit to you that fear gets a hold of us when we forget that God has a plan for us. God literally spoke that into my spirit as I typed that sentence, and guess what was happening at the time? I was flying back from Houston as this part of the message was developed and the captain turned on the seatbelt sign because we were experiencing turbulence. Not a little turbulence, a lot. Not for a few minutes, but for 20. Not my favorite thing to experience! How about you? There is nothing quite like being at 30,000 feet in the air inside a metal contraption weighing tens of thousands of pounds, in some cases over 100,000 pounds and shaking like Chubby Checkers doing the twist. It doesn’t lend itself to peace, but guess what? God has spoken to me about plans for my life that are yet ahead, so in those turbulent moments, I was at peace. I knew I didn’t have to worry that something catastrophic was going to happen because I have had a word from the Lord about more ministry I am to do, and in addition, He was on board that plane with me. The plans and presence of Jesus are game changers when we face troubling times.
So, Jesus addressed them before He addressed the storm. He asked them to check themselves. Where was their focus? It was on their circumstances. I like that He didn’t just ask them why they were afraid, but He inserted the two-letter qualifier, “Why are you SO afraid?” It is human nature to be afraid. Right? We were created with a fight or flight instinct when we sense danger. Our blood pressure immediately goes up when we feel threatened. It’s one thing to feel pressure. It’s another thing to panic. Believer, you never have to panic. Ever!
The problem wasn’t that they were afraid. The problem was that their fear had been elevated over their faith. You see all throughout Scripture that fear and unbelief often go together. Where you find unbelief, you will find fear. A small faith will give way to magnified fears. There is a correlation here between faith and fear. You see the quality of our faith in God’s Words and in His plans for us will impact the way we experience life’s storms. It’s interesting to trace the phrase, “You of little faith” in Matthew’s Gospel. It shows up in three other places. The first appearance of the phrase is in Matthew 6, the chapter where Jesus was teaching His disciples not to worry about what they would wear or about physical provision. They didn’t have to worry because He had a plan to take care of them and had demonstrated a commitment to do so. We can also trust the plan of God!
The second occurrence of the phrase, “You of little faith,” is observed in chapter 14. It’s the famous water-walking passage where Peter stepped out of a boat to walk on the water at Jesus’ invitation. It was Jesus who spoke the words to tell Peter to come to Him on the water, but when Peter got focused on the wind, no rain, no thunder, no lighting, but some wind, when he turned his attention to the wind, he became afraid and began to sink. Jesus took him by the hand, took hold of him and said, “You of little faith, Peter, why did you doubt?” We can trust the Word of God.
We see the third time the phrase is used in chapter 16. The disciples were on the move, and they were concerned because they didn’t have any bread with them. Jesus said to them, “You of little faith, why is this the topic of your conversation? Have you already forgotten I can multiply five loaves of bread to feed over 5,000?” He had provided for them many times before, why would this time be any different? We can trust the promises God has made to take care of us.
But we’re not so different from the disciples, are we? Sometimes we forget God has a plan. Sometimes we forget the promises God has made to us. Sometimes we forget how God has provided for us in the past, and we let fear override our faith.
Had the disciples exercised faith in that moment instead of giving in to fear, they would have had a different reaction during the storm. They would definitely have had a different confession. They would have been able to see the peace of Christ as He was asleep in the boat and could have taken note that if the storm wasn’t overtaking Jesus, it wouldn’t overtake them because they were with Him. They would have had security in the way things would end because of Jesus’ presence and because of what Jesus had told them about where they were headed.
Fear is natural. Faith is supernatural. Fear is what comes upon us because we are human. Faith is what we can exercise because we follow Jesus, the One who cannot fail. When we are following Jesus, when He is in the boat, we can choose the supernatural response of faith over the natural response of fear. I’m not so sure Jesus really wanted them to talk about their fears as much as He wanted to point them to their need for faith. Listen, if you don’t believe the outcome for every situation in your life is victory, you aren’t walking by faith. I know we can have a realistic and logical bent, and at times we need to. I know God has given us a mind that can process facts and predict outcomes, but the Bible says that God leads us into victory. Jesus asked them about their fear to get them to contemplate their faith.
Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
In this story, Jesus wasn’t teaching His disciples about storms; He was teaching them about Himself and why they didn’t have to be afraid of anything, ever. In that moment, it was plain to them that every area of existence was totally under the authority of Jesus.
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in all three accounts, the disciples went from this storm experience with Jesus where they were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ absolute power over nature right into another situation that could have left them drowning in fear. There were demons to rebuke on the heels of rebuking the wind and waves. With every fearful encounter they were learning that Jesus was in complete control of every storm they would ever face. Whether it was a natural disaster, a pervasive and isolating sickness, a demonic spiritual attack, a mob of angry and powerful people, they had nothing to fear if they were with Jesus.
Are you living with fear? Fear that isn’t just part of the human experience, but fear that has overshadowed or maybe even canceled your faith? Here is why you can choose faith over fear this morning:
You can choose faith over fear because Jesus knows when the storms of your life will come, and He has a plan.
You can choose faith over fear because if you are following Jesus, He is in the boat with you and everything you face is subject to Him.
You can choose faith over fear because Jesus has the power to calm every storm or to take you through it unharmed.