When the King Came: Stories from the Four Gospels - George Hodges

The Stilling of a Storm

Another time, our Lord had been teaching all day long, and as the sun began to go down he was very tired, but the people would not go away. They begged him to continue speaking; and he knew that if he walked away they would all follow him. But the place where he was teaching was by the side of the lake. Probably he sat in a boat anchored near the shore, as he often did. His favorite pulpit was a boat. There was one way to get apart from the crowd, and that was to row out into the lake. Our Lord beckoned therefore to Peter or John and told him to take up the anchor and row out; though even then the people ran down and got all the boats which were fastened there, and rowed out after him. But they were all so interested in our Lord's great words, and so intent on keeping as near him as they could, that not one of them looked at the sky. So when the storm came, it took them unawares.

The water is a bad place for a storm. Up comes the fierce wind and blows and blows, and the sky is black with hanging clouds. Up come the threatening waves, each with its white cap, blustering about. And the boat rolls and tosses, and turns this way and that. And sometimes the water gets into it and down it goes; and sometimes the wind tips the boat over, and throws the people into the water so that they never come up again. But all this is very dreadful indeed when the danger appears suddenly, because nobody is ready for it. The waves are peaceful and pleasant, and the boat is going quietly along, when all at once the wind comes leaping down from some opening in the hills along the shore, as if it had taken a quick run to get a start and then had jumped right over into the middle of the water. And before the people have time to think twice, the wind is shaking them as a giant might shake a body. This is the way in which storms often behave on the Lake of Galilee. And thus did the storm conduct itself that evening when our Lord and some of his disciples had launched out into the deep.

I said that he had been teaching all the day and was very tired. Boys and girls do not understand that teaching is hard work. They do not realize that their teachers get tired. It seems to them that the only persons in the school who have a hard time are those who have to study and recite. Teaching is not so bad when everybody is interested and responsive. Sometimes children are asked, "What do you pay for coming to this school?" And the right answer is, "We pay—attention!" Teaching is easy when all the scholars pay attention. All the people to whom our Lord spoke paid attention; there was no trouble about that. The things that he said were so interesting, and he said them in such an interesting way, that everybody was interested. But his hearers did not all like what he said, as we shall see by and by. They did not even like what he did, as we have seen already. So in every company of listeners, there were enemies; and as the months went by, the number of them increased. Our Lord saw their objecting faces, and heard them whisper one to another, and it was very hard.

So that day, after hours of this hard work, the first thing that he did as the boat began to move through the water, and the crowd was left behind, was to go into the stern of the boat and lie down with his head on a cushion. There he fell asleep; and no sooner was he fast asleep than the storm came. Black clouds hastened from their hiding-places behind the hills, white waves pushed and pulled and clutched at the boat, and pretty soon there was so much water in the bottom of it that some of the men had to stop rowing and begin to bail. Still the wind blew harder and harder, and the waves roared louder and louder, and rose higher and higher, and the boat rocked faster and faster, and farther and farther. And at last the disciples were very much afraid. They had been on that lake every day since they were little boys, and had weathered many a storm: but it seemed as if they had never seen a tempest like this. The water poured in faster than they could bail it out. It began to look as if the boat, and all who were in it, must go to the bottom.

Meanwhile, our Lord was still asleep. The howling of the wind had not awakened him, nor the pitching of the boat, nor even the cold water splashing over him. It shows how tired he was.

Finally, the disciples called to him with loud voices; "Master, Master," they cried, "we perish." And some said, "Master, we perish; save us." Who ever heard anything like that? A crew of fishermen, who knew all about a boat and all about a storm, turned for assistance to a carpenter! Of what use is a carpenter in an open boat on a high sea? You remember that Jesus was brought up in a hill town, where the only water was in the bottom of the village well. It is not likely that he had had any experience in boats. And the fishermen knew that. This is what makes it so remarkable that they should have called for help from him. It shows that they had already come to see that he was the wisest and the strongest and the best man they had ever known. They felt that only God could save them; and that Jesus was very near to God. So they cried, waking him out of his deep sleep, "Master, Master, we sink! save us!" And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still." And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?" Then they were almost as much afraid of him as they had been of the sea, saying one to another as the waves went down, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"

Afterwards, when they told this story, there was another which they liked to tell with it; about how one time some of the disciples were rowing by themselves one evening on the lake, having left our Lord on the shore; and suddenly the wind began to blow and the waves began to rise, and they rowed and rowed and got no nearer to the shore; and then they saw a dim light out across the water, and it seemed to move and to draw near to them, and there in the middle of the lake was a man walking on the water; and they were filled with great fear, and cried, "It is a ghost!" but the man spoke in a voice which they knew, saying, "It is I, be not afraid;" and there was our Lord walking across the wet waves as if he were walking through the grass of a meadow. So he got into the boat, and the wind ceased to blow. That is what they said; and some added that Peter, seeing our Lord coming over the lake, said, "Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water;" and he told him to come. So Peter began to walk on the water; but the wind was boisterous, blowing hard against him, and the water was rough, and Peter was afraid, and as he began to fear he began to sink, so that he cried, "Lord, save me;" and immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and said unto him, "O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

These wonderful stories have never been explained: but thus much is plain,—that if we have Jesus in our company no storm shall ever bring us to shipwreck. The winds of disaster blow, and the waves of misfortune rise, and Jesus seems far distant, asleep or on the shore. Even when he comes to our assistance across the troubled water, the sight seems too good to be true, and we cannot believe our eyes, thinking that we see only a vision. But it is he himself, who has promised to be with us and to help us, everywhere and always, till all storms are stilled and all our boats are safe on shore.