Storms can be scary. They are unpredictable and wild. They are tempestuous, angry, rampaging forces. No matter how advanced our radars and equipment, we are still constantly surprised. No matter our efforts we cannot control them. All that we can do is to take shelter the best we can; to huddle in basements; to amass ourselves into hallways; to camp out on the rooftop until the rescuers come; to park under the overpass until the deluge passes. Yes, storms can be scary. Now, imagine facing a raging storm, not in the shelter of your home, but in a fishing boat out in open water. I’ve been told that parking lots alongside the Sea of Galilee, which is not a sea at all, but a freshwater lake, have signs warning drivers that the area is known for sudden squalls complete with huge waves that sweep over the parking lot. So, park your car here with an eye to the lake and a hand on your keys. Better yet, don’t park here at all because you won’t have time to save your car.
Luke 8:22-25 is a tale of a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee. But really it is a tale of faith and faltering faith; a tale of chaos and calm. It happened on one of those days – one of the days that Jesus was traveling around preaching about the kingdom of God – Jesus and his disciples got into a boat. The group is made up of the Twelve and possibly also the women who were traveling with Jesus during this time. Surprisingly, Jesus said, “Let’s go over to the other side.” This was surprising, because the other side of the lake was comprised mostly of Gentiles. There may be a hint here of Jesus preparing his followers for the idea of an expanding kingdom; a kingdom whose doors are opening for Gentiles as well as Jews. They may not have thought of this at the time. Maybe they thought Jesus wanted to find a quiet place. But there is also a concept of crossing over the Lake. Water was often considered to be chaos or even an abyss. And it doesn’t take much imagination to understand the connection. The open water was dangerous. Crossing the Lake of Galilee could be extremely dangerous.
But hey, Jesus said “Let’s go” so they went. They are his followers after all. And Jesus? Well, Jesus falls off into sleep, which is kind of an emphatic way of saying it. And as it was known to happen on Lake Galilee, a fierce gust of wind descended on the lake. Luke’s phraseology is descriptive. The wind would rush down the face of the hills surrounding the lake and assault the water and anything unlucky enough to be on its surface. The ship began to take in water and everyone was in danger. Some of these disciples were seasoned fishermen. Maybe Peter told Luke about how near disaster they really were. This is a real danger. This is not merely a boat full of superstitious scaredy cats. Sure, they were terrified, but this was a justified, about to die, terror.
They woke Jesus up with a panicked, “Master, master we are being destroyed!” My guess is that they didn’t wake him up so that he could do anything about the problem. Their reaction to what Jesus did seems to negate that motive. We seem to want to share our distress. And who better to share their distress with than the one they have given their allegiance to? This is a very human response. They love Jesus. They believe that they are all about to die and they want to share this final moment with their master.
I picture Jesus bolting awake, standing against the wind, and shouting with force and authority, “Calm down wind! Stop it waves! Now!” And like that, the wind and the waves become calm. Chaos is averted; death is thwarted. Jesus speaks peace and the winds and the waves obey. Wait a minute! Do we grasp the significance here? Only God has authority over the storm. Jesus asked them, “Where then is your faith?” Where do you place your trust? Is it in the power of the storm or in the power of the one who commands the storm? And their response? They were overwhelmed with fear and awe. They were stunned. Who could this be? Psalm 107:25 tells us about God speaking up a raging storm. They should have known that no matter what happens, God holds all things in his control.
Storms can be scary. And I mean more than wind, waves, and boats taking on water. Life sometimes whips up spiritual storms. The winds tear at our souls; the waves crash against our faith; the chaos threatens our lives. Where do you put your trust? In the power of the storm? Or, do you put your trust in the God of Creation? I don’t know if God will speak peace into our storms. I do know that no matter what, I want to have faith in the one who commands the winds and the waves; who can calm the chaos. Peace.