Last Sunday I preached from Luke 8:22-25, a short but intense passage in which Jesus exercised his divine power over creation, an act that both saved and terrified the disciples.
As Jesus and his followers sailed across the Sea of Galilee, a sudden, violent storm began to churn the waters. The waves crashed against the sides of the boat, rapidly filling the vessel with water. The disciples were in real danger of drowning (remember many of these men were experienced fishermen – only the gravest threat on the waters would have provoked such fear in them). In the words of the hymn, they were “in peril on the sea.”
We may be landlubbers, or at least restrict our seafaring adventures to a giant cruise ship, but if we take the disciples’ journey across the Sea of Galilee as a metaphor for life, then we all experience “peril on the sea.” Just by virtue of belonging to a fallen race living in a world broken and cursed by sin, we are vulnerable to all kids of dangers, trials, and afflictions. And as the squall overcame the disciples without warning, life’s storms often take us by surprise. A loved one dies suddenly. Or you are unexpectedly laid off from work. Or your child gets into serious trouble. Or a routine blood test reveals a disease. We never know when such a tempest will upend our lives.
What’s more, as Christians we must expect trouble as we follow Jesus in this world. The Bible promises as much: “… through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Jesus never said the way to heaven would be smooth sailing. Have you thought about the fact that, had the disciples not followed Jesus that day across the sea, they never would have been in danger? Their obedience to Christ brought them into the storm! In the same way, faithfulness to Christ will bring trials and struggles unique to the Christian: we are in constant conflict with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
But this passage offers tremendous encouragement as we see ourselves in the disciples’ place, “in peril on the sea.”
First, they had the presence of Jesus. While the disciples were at their wits-end with fear and panic, with the winds howling about them and the waves pounding against them, Jesus was sound asleep through the commotion. When they woke him (“Master, Master, we are perishing!”), Jesus stood and “rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (v.24). Who can speak a word and bring the forces of creation to heel? Only God can. Jesus revealed his divine power and authority in doing what only God can do. No wonder the disciples feared and marveled, saying, “Who then is this…?” (v.25). They were in the presence of the incarnate sovereign Lord! And for that reason they were safe. And as long as Jesus is with you (and he promises he is always with those who belong to him by faith), you will be kept safe through every danger and affliction. His presence guarantees not your physical safety, but something better – the salvation and eternal life he has given you.
The disciples also had the promise of Jesus. Did the Lord not command his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake” (v.22)? Why, then, did they think they wouldn’t make it to the other side. His command implied a promise: “I will bring you safely to the other side of this lake.” For that reason, even in the midst of the storm that threatened to drown the disciples, they were in fact, at that point in time, in the very safest place in the entire world. There was absolutely no way the storm would do them in, because Jesus had promised to deliver them to the other side.
And if your hope is in Christ, you have the promise of Christ that he will bring you safely to the other side of your earthly journey. Jesus will bring you to your heavenly home. No storm, no danger, no trial, no suffering can prevent him from accomplishing his loving purpose for you.
But this is where the question Jesus put to the disciples becomes very personal: “Where is your faith?” (v.25). Do you believe that Christ is with you in every circumstance of life, shepherding you along to the eternal glory he has promised you? Trust in the promise of Jesus to bring you to the other side, safe and sound. Only then can you weather with patience, hope, and joy, whatever tempest or trial comes your way.
Soli Deo Gloria!