And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A gale arose on the lake, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’
Man shouts at cloud is a modern and slightly glib euphemism for pointlessness. Here we have this story of Jesus doing just that. In fact, he rebukes the storm that is causing such chaos. Rebukes: severely tells off or expresses extreme disapproval of. And the winds and the sea do indeed listen and shut up!
Most commentaries on this passage see its main message as Jesus demonstrating his divine nature and challenging the disciples to fully grasp this fact. That is certainly true. But for me, it also shows Jesus’ full humanity.
He is seeking respite from a punishing healing tour among the villages close to the Sea of Galilee. The previous verses end on something of a down note with Jesus articulating the wearying nature of discipleship; He seems oppressed and burdened. It is no surprise then that he sleeps in the boat as it progresses out from the shore.
Archaeology suggests that the typical fishing craft of the time would have been quite small. Yet so shattered is Jesus that He can fall asleep among the likely shouting of instructions and general hubbub of those steering the boat. In this manner, Jesus experiences the constraints and frustrations of being human. He gets it.
But He then complements His humanity by His reaction to the turbulent meteorological conditions. I think it is telling that He first of all responds directly to the frightened men. Even though He is challenging the disciples to think about their faith, He is also showing love by putting them first. Only secondly, does He deal with the winds and the sea in giving them clear instructions to cease and desist.
The promise of Jesus, enshrined in His life, death and resurrection, shows the trajectory we must all take from being fully human to being one with Him. He understands what it means to be human, is always with us during the storms of our lives and in the end will calm our fears.
Lord of all through the wearying storms of life we look to you for love and empathy. Give us the confidence where necessary to make a stand and rebuke the elements that frighten others. Amen!
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