For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. (The Bible, Psalms 107:25, NIV)
Disciples on the Sea
I see the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stayed behind to dismiss the crowd after teaching all day on the mountainside. He decided to take a break to rejuvenate and commune with His Father. He sent the disciples in the boat to the other side of the sea and told them He would meet them there.
They used their oars – strong men, some fishermen who were used to fishing at night. They’d had lots of practice in battling wind and waves. But this night was different than all the others. This was one storm they couldn’t fight against. They tried, but the rain and the wind and waves were too strong. What made this storm so different? Jesus was in control of the wind and waves. Did He breathe the storm into existence, a storm designed to teach a lesson to His followers?
How to Make Jesus King
They wanted Jesus to be king. They were strategizing how to make that happen. They probably expected to see Him on the other side the next morning. They were eager to greet Him with their brilliant scheme – rise up, assert Yourself, declare Yourself King of the Jews, the people are on Your side after all the miracles You’ve done. You fed thousands with only a few loaves and fish. You can take down the army of Rome with only a few words. You can command anything and anyone. We’d be honoured to be part of your inner court. There’s just the small problem of who gets to be number one advisor to You.
But in the darkness of the night with the howling wind screaming in their ears, they caught glimpses of fear in each other’s faces, as lightning flashed across the sky. How could the night end so badly after such a great day with Jesus? Doubts crept in. Even those known for their strength and prowess in navigating any kind of waters were trembling inside even if their faces didn’t portray the terror they felt. They had not fought a battle against the sea like this one – it seemed almost supernatural. Where did the storm come from? One minute the water was calm, the next the waves were crashing over the bow.
Where was Jesus when they needed Him? Why did He leave them to cross the sea alone? They had spent so much time with Him, stayed close to Him daily, put their own lives on hold to walk with Him just because He said, “Follow Me.” Why? What did He say or do or how did He look at them that made them throw away their livelihoods to follow someone who had abandoned them now?
Here they thought they were in a good place, going somewhere, soon to be courtiers with fancy robes, worth it to leave other things behind to have that kind of reward – rich foods, fancy clothes, beautiful women (yes, I know, said some, I guess I’ll have to bring my wife along, wish I was single like John).
Now, all they had invested was likely to be lost – they were going to die. The waves were going to take them down to a watery grave. They deserved better than this. They didn’t choose to die. Where was Jesus? Why wasn’t He there? “Oh Jesus, we need You,” they cried. “Help us, we perish,” they cried.
A Strange Light on the Water
What? Was that a light across the darkness? Or was it just another lightning flash? No, it was a light travelling across the top of the water. Some reflected light from somewhere? Hard to see as the waves kept crashing over, as they kept bailing out the boat, some trying to keep the boat upright with the oars, others bailing faster and faster, terror in all their eyes. But John said, “Look. What is it? Something strange on the water. Can you make it out?”
James, at one of the large heavy wooden oars, glanced up quickly and said, “I see it too. It’s getting closer. A spirit? Is it an evil spirit coming to take us down – is it the spirit of death? Is this the end? Oh Jesus, where are You?”
Peter, another oarsman, looked up, a wave splashing over him, drenching him completely. As he came back up sputtering, there was more than water coming out of his mouth – vile words, filthy words, cursing words raging at the sea as it raged at him. Peter, the giant, the man with a raging temper, how fitting to have him facing the raging sea. The form drew closer. Even Peter trembled inside – his words belied his fears. Someone suddenly shouted, “It’s Jesus.” What? It couldn’t be. But it was. How could He be walking on water?
Look at Me, Walking on the Water!
Peter called out, “If it’s you, Master, let me come out and walk to you.” “Come on out,” Jesus called back, a glint in his eyes and a smile on His face. Peter, bold façade, stepped out, and then started walking with his eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. What was happening? “Hey, I am really walking on water. This feels kind of like walking on a firm piece of wood. Let me just check back with the brothers.”
He turned and looked back, taking his eyes off Jesus. Something changed. It seemed that the firm board was slipping away and he began going down. It would have been laughable if it wasn’t so scary. Going down, toes slipping under, then ankles and knees and now up to his waist. “I’m drowning,” he screamed. “Jesus, save me, I’m not going to make it, I can’t swim in this kind of storm,” gasping and choking, he screamed.
Then suddenly, Jesus’ strong arms pulled him up, looking into his eyes of terror. He was back on top walking with Jesus, his eyes only on Him. Who was this man? Who was this man that even the winds and the waves obeyed Him?
Peace, Be Still
Jesus smiled again, a smile that went deep into Peter’s heart. He felt warm though he was physically shivering from the cold. “Peace, be still,” Jesus said. And the peace was not meant only for the wind and the waves and the storm, it was for the heart of Peter. Jesus’ eyes gave peace and stilled Peter’s raging heart, stilled Peter’s terrified heart, stilled the soul of a man who had seldom known peace in his life.
If Jesus could bring that kind of peace to Peter, can He give the same kind of peace to you and me? Right now a lot of things are raging around me. I feel like I am in the storm and drowning like Peter and the other disciples. It’s one of those few times in my life when I have felt almost completely helpless, not knowing how to deal with the situation I’m dealing with.
It’s a good lesson for me because I am often so independent I don’t look to God as quickly as I should – I try to solve my challenges on my own. But right now I have decided, like Peter, to call out, “Lord, save me, I’m drowning.”
Already His words are coming back to me, kindly, gently, lovingly, “Peace, be still. My child, I’m not talking only about the storm. I’m talking about you. You don’t have to carry this one alone. In fact, you don’t have to carry it at all. Give this one to Me and let me do the heavy lifting for you. I’ve promised you that I am with you always and I will give you peace.”
And the challenge for me is let it all go and let Him take over, knowing that if He could lift Peter out of the storm, He can lift me too and give that peace that can only come from Him. And I’m looking forward to those words continuing to remind me as I deal with my current challenge, “Peace, be still.”