Why Are These Water-logged Disciples Afraid?

The Son of God. Utterly exhausted.

Mind-boggling. And directly tied to the most amazing truth in the universe. God is not an impersonal “force.” He is not a Creator who creates, sets in motion, and backs away.

In the Grand Miracle, as C. S. Lewis has called the Incarnation, God sends his “only begotten Son” into this fallen world. A virgin’s womb. A manger. A divine rescue.

Jesus Christ will teach and heal and show us the Father as only the Son could. One amazing day, he will allow himself to be nailed to a cross. Literally take on himself all of our sin and guilt. As only God could do. And die. As only a human could do.

And then, the Resurrection.

But in an amazing scene, on a boat, on a lake turned into a maelstrom of wind and waves and white water, when no one else aboard can see anything at all but looming destruction, we get a glimpse into, well, everything.

The Son of God is exhausted, utterly spent, as only a human could be. He is asleep in the stern of the boat, his head on a cushion. Once that head lay perhaps on a blanket, certainly cradled in a manger. Soon that head will be pierced by a crown of thorns.

But now the storm rages, and Jesus, Son of the One who “never sleeps, never slumbers,” is deep in sleep.

The disciples crewing the boat are far from asleep. Watching the waves breaking over their craft, they know that the boat will soon be swamped. What dreams swirl gently in the Prince of Heaven’s head as his terrified friends are watching their lives sinking away? No one will ever know. But for these sailors, this is nothing less than their worst nightmare. Surely, all is lost! And Jesus sleeps.

Until they shake the Lord awake: “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re about to drown?!”

Roused, he gazes straight into the full fury of the storm and then issues a stern “rebuke.” The word indicates a “chastening,” an “admonishment.” As I believe others have noted, it’s almost as if Christ is correcting an unruly and boisterous child: “Quiet! Be still!”

The Lord of the wind, the waves, and all of creation makes his will known and his power felt. And we’re told that “the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

Imagine the scene just moments earlier. The howling wind. The crashing waves. The screaming disciples.

And now, complete calm. The sudden silence is as loud in its own way as was the storm just moments earlier.

Out of the quietness comes another rebuke. Or maybe that word is too strong? But Jesus’ words are certainly a bit of a chastening as he pointedly asks his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Mute, they are still afraid. No longer afraid of the storm, they are “terrified” and awestruck: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Who indeed? No better question was ever asked. None more important. Then and now. For us all.

A near-death experience and straight-up honesty pair well together. While the disciples are drying off, we might as well admit that no answer, even the “non-answer answer,” is available that doesn’t require some sort of “faith.”

Are the water-logged disciples quaking in fear and awe because they don’t know the answer? Or because, more clearly than ever before, they do—or are beginning to? The “baptism” that might well have drowned them has opened the way into a washed off world and a sun shining through so brightly they can hardly stand it.

What’s left is that question.

An utterly exhausted man, so spent that he sleeps through a storm. The Son of God, so powerful that he scolds the mightiest forces of nature, and creation itself cowers and retreats into silence.

Fully human, this Lord. Fully divine, this Lord. The truth will soon be written large as he willingly hangs on a cross, suffers and dies. Creation will darken and wail as the heavens weep torrents of rain. The universe has never seen such a sacrifice.

But that day on the Sea of Galilee is a fitting prelude.

Lessons are more abundant even than the water, but as the storm fades, one thing remains, washed into blinding brilliance and refusing to be ignored. That question.

It will do us good, though it’s not for the faint of heart, to spend some time in that boat with the disciples and their Master.

And answer.

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2022 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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