Today we are going on a boat trip with Jesus and His disciples. Jesus had been teaching the crowds, in parables, for several hours. It is now evening and He is ready to leave. “Let us go across to the other side” (verse 35). One wild ride coming up!
A couple of things caught my attention as I read this story today. The first was the statement, “they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was” (verse 36). What is meant by “just as He was?” Does it simply imply that Jesus was hungry and tired when He got aboard and they didn’t take the time to eat or rest before setting off on this trip? We know for a fact that Jesus was tired because He fell asleep on the ride over to the other side. Was Jesus already in the boat because that was where He was teaching from? Had Jesus left something on shore, like His coat, and they didn’t go back for it before setting sail? I’m still wondering about that phrase.
The second thing that struck me is the statement that “other boats were with Him” (verse 36). I have a feeling that this was one of the messages Jesus taught from a boat, so these other boats were part of the crowd. Did they set sail with Jesus on His boat or did they remain in the harbor while He set off for the other side? What happened to them when the storm came up? Were they taking on waves like Jesus’ boat or did they turn back earlier? If they were caught in the storm with Jesus and His shipmates, what did they think about the sudden calm? Could they hear Jesus when He spoke to the waves? Were they also looking to Him to help them?
So let’s get aboard Jesus’ boat and see how the action plays out. We are going to join them just before setting sail.
The sun is setting and Jesus has been teaching all day. He is visibly tired. “I want to thank you all for your staying with me this long day. I do not wish to overtax you or Myself, so I believe we are going to call it a night. I have been with you for quite a while now, but it is time for me to move on. Go in peace and be blessed by our Father, Jehovah”
Most everyone is tired too but they would gladly stay on if Jesus wasn’t leaving. Their hearts and minds are full of the teachings Jesus shared earlier, along with all the miracles they have witnessed. This day is one they will not soon forget.
The crowd is breaking up. You can hear bits of conversations from several small groups. Many of the people are heading towards their homes. Some of those who have traveled from greater distances have decided to check into one of the inns in the city. A few groups break off and gather wood for fires they will build on the beach, as they intend to camp by the sea tonight.
There are about ten other boats on the water around the boat Jesus and His disciples are on. During the day as fishermen would come in, they would stay to listen to Jesus’ teaching. The shore was so crowded that they simply stayed in their boats in the harbor. When Jesus said that He was going to leave several of the other boat crews decided to follow Him.
One boat that was docked when Jesus began teaching had even taken on paying members from the crowd who wanted a closer “seat” to hear Jesus speak. This boat full of passengers is eager to follow Him on the next leg of His journey. Among those in this boat are some Pharisees. They don’t want Jesus out of their site for a moment. Who knows what He might be up to next!
The weather is calm when Jesus’ boat heads out across the water with seven boats trailing behind. Jesus is hungry and exhausted. John brings out some bread and fish for everyone to share. During the meal conversation is subdued but centers on all that happened earlier today. Peter and James want to ask Jesus to explain some of the parables He just shared with the crowd, but they can see by the droop in His shoulders and eyelids that this is probably not the time.
As soon as He finishes eating Jesus moves to the back of the boat. There He finds several cloaks piled up that can be made into a comfortable cushion. Jesus lies down on the pile and is soon fast asleep. Right after Jesus falls asleep three of the boats following Jesus’ boat break off and head out to sea for their nightly fishing trip.
Another half hour goes by and the sky begins to darken. Two of the remaining boats following Jesus decide to head to a closer port to avoid the storm. Jesus had given His destination to the captain earlier, so they sail on. The captain is sure they will make landfall before the storm hits.
Ten minutes later the wind picks up and the sea becomes a bit choppy. Jesus’ disciples, many of them experienced fishermen and sailors, recognize the signs of a big storm brewing so they start helping secure the boat. They know the Sea of Galilee and its unpredictable nature. Better to be safe than sorry. At this point they are about midway through their trip and far enough away from any port to make altering their course any kind of advantage. They are not worried at this point, just cautious.
The leveling off of wind they were expecting hasn’t happened. The wind and waves continue to increase at a rapid rate! The captain has lowered the sails as they are in danger of being ripped to pieces in the wind. The captain calls for the crew to fasten themselves to the masts with ropes and grab buckets to bail water. Peter calls for the disciples to do the same. This is an “all hands on deck” situation!
Peter takes up a position near the back of the boat and ties himself off. Just then he notices Jesus sleeping a few feet away. “How on earth can He sleep through this?! Doesn’t He know what is going on? We need every hand we can get if we are going to survive this!”
Peter grabs the railing and works his way to where Jesus is sleeping. Peter shouts to be heard above the sound of the crashing waves, “Jesus get up, we need You! We are in serious trouble! Don’t You even care that we are about to die?”
Jesus sits up on the cushion and looks around for a few seconds. He then gets to His feet and in a loud voice says, “Peace! Be still!” (verse 39). As if someone switched off the wind and waves, everything stops. The whole sea is instantly calm.
Bailers stop in mid bail. Those shouting to be heard are nearly knocked over by the silence. All eyes on Jesus’ boat turn towards Him. Jesus shakes His head and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (verse 40). No one answers Him.
The crew and Jesus’ disciples weren’t silent though. They talked among themselves. “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (verse 41) This is one trip that NONE of them are ever going to forget.
The other boats that were following Jesus’ boat experienced the same wind and seas. The boat operating as a passenger ship for some of the crowd fared the worst. Those on board were not acquainted with violent storms at sea and were therefore of little use to the crew in battling for their lives. On the second boat, two people were washed overboard during the height of the storm. When Jesus spoke to the wind and waves, the other boats experienced the calm too. They had not heard Jesus’ words but several recognized the immediate abatement of the storm as a miracle. Any thinking and reasoning man on board believed Jesus must have had something to do with their miraculous survival.
The captain of the “passenger ship” had had enough excitement for one night so he headed to the nearest port available, against the wishes of the Pharisees. Those nuts would just have to find some other way to catch up with Jesus. He wasn’t risking his boat or crew any longer.
The other boat also decided it was probably best to head home. First though they had to try and recover their missing crew members.
In Jesus’ boat, did He go back to sleep? We know the disciples and those on board were “filled with great fear” (verse 41), but how did they behave during the rest of the journey? They talked about Jesus and this AMAZING miracle, but did they discuss their experience or thoughts with Him? Did they feel invincible? Or did they walk on eggshells around Him during the rest of the journey?
I truly believe that Satan sent that storm to stop Jesus from reaching the other side of the sea. Satan would have loved for Jesus to perish in that storm. He wouldn’t even have had to worry about getting Him onto the cross. Problem solved. But more immediate than that, Jesus was going to mess with one of the people Satan had enslaved for years. He had to put a stop to that. Jesus was seriously making a dent in Satan’s kingdom and he didn’t like it one bit.
Tomorrow we will get to see who Satin fought so hard to keep, and who Jesus valued so much that He crossed the sea just to meet him.
Father God, thank You for Your protection. We don’t need to fear the wind and the waves either. You are in as much control of them today as You were on that night on the Sea of Galilee. Thank You Jesus that just by being in Your presence I have safety. This doesn’t mean that I will never face trouble or that You will keep me from dying but that You promise to keep me safe, even if that safety comes in the form of going to heaven to be with You personally. There is no better place than in Your arms. “Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). Thank You for that promise!
It amazes me how much You will go through just to meet the needs of Your children. The man You sailed across the sea that night to meet with wasn’t even one of Yours. He was a Gentile, yet You came anyway. Thank You that You cared that deeply. Thank You that You still do care just as much today as You did on that stormy night.