The Stilling of the Tempest

Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.

And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.

And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish.

And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?

Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus had spent the greater part of the day teaching the people in parables near Capernaum. As evening approached, Jesus instructed His disciples to go with Him by boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. As they crossed the sea there arose suddenly a great storm which not only frightened the disciples but threatened their very lives! 

And Jesus was asleep in the boat.

Responding to the cries of the disciples for help, Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the storm. Suddenly there was calm.

What a great miracle! The disciples marveled. What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

All of Jesus' miracles served as signs of the great work of salvation He came to accomplish for the church. In this miracle we are taught how Jesus keeps and preserves His church as she passes through many storms on the sea of life.


As the disciples made their way across the Sea of Galilee by night, a great storm arose.

Such storms were very common on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is a rather large lake, measuring thirteen by seven miles. The surface of the lake is 60 feet below sea level, making for very hot and humid temperatures, almost a tropical climate. However, the sea is entirely surrounded by mountainous terrain. When the cool air of the mountaintops comes rushing down and hits the humid air of the lake surface, violent storms suddenly erupt. 

The disciples found themselves in such a storm. From the various gospel accounts of this incident we learn that there was a violent attack of wind, floods of rain, gigantic waves. And the little ship carrying the disciples and Jesus was quickly filling with water. They were about to perish.

The desperate situation of the disciples is representative of the desperate situation of the church in the world.

We must bear in mind that the small band of disciples on the Sea of Galilee is representative of the church of the New Testament era. For not only were the disciples part of the church; but their teachings as apostles form the foundation of the church. The NT is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20).

If the disciples are representative of the church of the NT era, then the violent storm that the disciples encountered looks ahead to the spiritual storms the church will have to face.

The church of Jesus Christ has encountered and will continue to encounter many storms. This is due to the constant attacks of the powers of darkness. The powers of darkness are the devil and his host of fallen angels. They are also the world of the ungodly, who are under the spiritual control of Satan. These evil powers are the enemies of Christ and therefore also of His church. And they constantly attack the church, seeking her destruction. These attacks come in various forms: false doctrines, persecution, allurements to sin and worldliness. As a result, the church is buffeted by one storm after another. 

These repeated storms threaten to sink the little ship of the church. For the powers of darkness are overwhelming in numbers, in resources, in experience. And the church has no spiritual strength of her own. Humanly speaking, the church has no more chance to weather the spiritual storms that come upon her than did the disciples the natural storm in their little ship on the Sea of Galilee.


In desperation the disciples called out to Jesus for help.

Jesus was sleeping. How could He be sleeping through all this? Perhaps He was exhausted from the many hours He had spent ministering to God's people. Certainly His sleep showed a complete trust in His heavenly Father to care for Him and the disciples. May our sleep be reflective of this.

When it became apparent that the ship would founder, the disciples awoke Jesus, crying, "Lord, save us; we perish."

Jesus arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.

What a great miracle! Certainly this was no natural occurrence. It is true that the storms that rage on the Sea of Galilee subside as quickly as they come. But Jesus' word brought instant calm. One moment the seas were crashing in upon the disciple's boat. At Jesus' word there was instant calm. 

In response the disciples marveled. What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him! This is a rhetorical question in which they express that Jesus is no ordinary man. Look, even the winds and the sea obey Him!

This miracle serves as a sign of how Jesus saves the church as she encounters the storms of life during the New Testament era.

From this miracle we learn, first, that Jesus has power over all things. He certainly has power over the wind and the sea. He demonstrated that through this miracle. And what is more powerful than the wind and the sea? Nothing stands before the onslaught of these two powers. If Jesus has power over the wind and sea, He has power over all things.

This power Jesus has as the Son of man. The disciples asked, "What manner of man is this?" The answer is that He is the Son of man. This is the term Jesus used most often in referring to Himself. It is a term with a very definite meaning. It identifies Jesus as being human, the son of man(kind). But it also points to the humiliation and shame Jesus would endure on earth, culminating in the cross. Finally, it speaks of the exaltation and glory that awaited Jesus as a result of His humiliation. 

Through this miracle Jesus demonstrated the power that would be His as the exalted Son of man. He would be given power over all things, even over the winds and the seas.

From this miracle, however, we also learn how Jesus will use His great power as the Son of man. He will keep and preserve His church as she encounters the many storms of life. Again and again storms have broken out upon the little ship of the church. The very first was a storm of persecution. It raged off and on for over a century. But the Lord used His great power as the Son of man to preserve the church. And then He brought the storm to an end. By this time another storm was brewing, a storm of controversy. The truth of the triune character of God was being denied, as well as the truth of the divinity of Christ. By the power of Jesus Christ the church weathered also this storm. And there have been many other storms, one after another. Through them all, Jesus kept the church, even causing the church to prosper.

At the end of time there will be a storm the likes of which the church has never faced. The powers of darkness will succeed in establishing the kingdom of the antichrist. This will be a worldwide kingdom, embracing all the nations of the world, in which unheralded peace and prosperity shall be enjoyed by all. Except that there will be no place in this kingdom for the church. She will be persecuted as never before. But even then the Lord will preserve His church. And then He will return to the earth to bring an end to this storm and all storms for the church. For at that time He will destroy the wicked forever and bring the church into the glory of the new creation to enjoy the rest and peace of salvation eternally.


Jesus rebuked the disciples for their little faith. "Why were ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?"

No, the disciples were not unbelievers. They definitely had faith. Their faith was seen in that they cried out to Jesus for help when they saw their peril. Their faith was evident also when they marveled at Jesus' miracle.

But their faith was little. It was small and weak. The smallness of their faith was evident in that they were afraid in the storm. Jesus was right there with them all the time. But they were afraid.

And so Jesus rebuked them. 

Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?

We must not be of little faith, as the disciples were. We must have a strong faith as we face the many storms that must yet break out upon the church.

Jesus performed this miracle exactly to strengthen the faith of His disciples — not just the 12, but His disciples throughout the ages.

Through this miracle we are taught very powerfully that Jesus is with us as we encounter the raging storms of life. He has power over all things, even over the wind and the sea. And He uses His power to preserve us to the end.

Let us look to this miracle and believe. 

In the strength of faith let us look to Jesus, who has power over even the wind and the sea. 

Let us call out for His help and protection. 

But let us do so in the confidence that all is well.