The Calm After the Storm
And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” (8:24b–25a)
Awakened by the disciples’ desperate pleas, Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves. His exact words according to Mark 4:39 were “Hush, be still.” Instantly obeying the voice of the Creator, the wind and waves stopped, and it became calm. Skeptics, determined to deny the miraculous at all costs, have pointed out that storms on the Sea of Galilee often stop as rapidly as they start. But while the wind might have died down almost at once, it would have taken much longer for the waves to subside. When Jesus commanded the wind and waves to stop, both did so instantly, and it became absolutely calm (both Matthew and Mark use the adjective megas [“great”] to describe the glassy calm).
Having calmed the storm, Jesus used the incident to teach His shocked and astonished disciples the lesson He wanted them to learn. As they sat in their boats on the now perfectly still surface of the lake, He said to them, “Where is your faith?” (cf. 12:28; Matt. 6:30; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20). They had seen Him perform countless miracles, so their lack of faith on this occasion was distressing and inexcusable. On the other hand, this was the first time that one of the Lord’s miracles had directly involved them, and beyond that reality their lives were at stake. That made it far more difficult for them to remain detached and objectively analyze the situation. Paul, in contrast, was able to remain calm throughout the two-week-long storm that ended in shipwreck (Acts 27:14–44). But he had already faced persecution and death many times before and been delivered by the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 11:22–33).
The lesson for the disciples was clear: they were to trust the Lord even in the most severe and threatening circumstances. They were, as Peter would later write, to cast all their anxiety on Him, knowing that He cared for them (1 Peter 5:7). Paul expressed his confident trust in the Lord’s care when he wrote triumphantly, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). Summing up the lesson Jesus wants all believers to take from this incident, David Gooding writes,
We live in a universe that is lethally hostile to human life: only the miracle of creation and divine maintenance preserves our planet and its wonderful adaptations and provisions for the propagation of human life. Within our earth itself wind, wave, lightning, storm, flood, drought, avalanche, earthquake, fire, heat, cold, germ, virus, epidemic, all from time to time threaten and destroy life. Sooner or later one of them may destroy us. The story of the stilling of the storm is not, of course, meant to tell us that Christ will never allow any believer to perish by drowning, or by any other natural disaster. Many believers have so perished. It does demonstrate that he is Lord of the physical forces in the universe, that for him nothing happens by accident, and that no force in all creation can destroy his plan for our eternal salvation or separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (see Rom. 8:38–39). (According to Luke [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987], 143)
Sometimes the Lord will bring a storm into believers’ lives for chastening; other times to increase their faith. Jonah ended up in a storm because of his disobedience, while in this incident the disciples’ obedience put them into the storm. In both cases God was there to deliver them.
Epilogue: The Storm After the Calm
They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (8:25b)
Having witnessed an astonishing, unparalleled display of supernatural divine power, the disciples understandably were fearful and amazed. The only thing they found more terrifying than the storm outside their boat was having the Creator and controller of the storm in it. The trauma of realizing that only God could do such a miracle caused them to say to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” (cf. 8:37, 47, 56). The obvious and only answer to that rhetorical question is the one they gave later after Jesus stilled another storm on the Sea of Galilee: “Those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’ ” (Matt. 14:33). By then they had a firm answer to their question here.
In response to Christ’s earlier miracle on the lake, Peter had exclaimed, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8)—a response that is typical of those who experience God’s presence. Abraham described himself as “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27); Job humbly said, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You; therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6); after encountering the preincarnate Christ in the person of the Angel of the Lord, Samson’s father “Manoah said to his wife, ‘We will surely die, for we have seen God’ ” (Judg. 13:22); exposed to God’s presence on Mt. Sinai, the Israelites “trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die’ ” (Ex. 20:18–19); overwhelmed by a vision of God in His heavenly temple, Isaiah cried, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isa. 6:5); Ezekiel fell on his face when he saw a vision of God (Ezek. 1:28); after seeing the glorified, exalted Christ, the apostle John “fell at His feet like a dead man” (Rev. 1:17).
This brief vignette of Christ’s life reveals Him in His divine glory as the One who controls all of the natural forces of the universe. But not only does it reveal His power, but also His compassionate care for those who are His. This storm, as do all of life’s storms for believers, served to increase the disciples’ faith in His willingness and ability to deliver them from any situation, no matter how hopeless it may seem. Having experienced God’s gracious care for him throughout his long and difficult ministry, the apostle Paul could say confidently as his life drew to a close, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).
Who Is This Guy?
He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25)
There was something strange about the breeze: not only its extraordinary heat, like the breath out of an oven, nor its uneasy, unsettled gusting but something else that he could not define. The young sun blazed clear in the pure eastern sky, terribly strong already, but over there in the west there was a lowering murk, and all along the horizon, rising some ten degrees, an orange-tawny bar, too thick for cloud.
“I do not know what to make of it,” he said to himself.… “Of course,” he reflected, “they expect me to know what to make of it. A captain is omniscient.”
… at this moment a squall struck the Niobe, laying her over almost on her beam ends.… As the ship righted Jack recovered his feet, making his way through the tumble of chairs, table, papers and instruments. The moment he passed the cabin door he was enveloped in … a fine scene of confusion. Sailcloth was threshing wildly, the wheel, spinning round, had broken the helmsman’s arm and flung him against the rail, the booms and the boats were all abroad, and a ghostly maintopmast staysail, blown almost out of its bolt-rope, streamed away to leeward. The situation was critical.… Some were running about the forecastle and … still more were swarming up the main and fore hatchways. Many of those on deck clung to the running rigging … another squall must lay her down, perhaps for good, certainly with great loss of life.
Thus Patrick O’Brian describes a storm at sea in one of his splendid novels about the British navy during the time of the Napoleonic wars. Even for an experienced old sea captain, a sudden squall can be a terrifying experience, bringing not only chaos and confusion, but also the fear of death.
The Perfect Storm
There was once a storm like that on the Sea of Galilee. Like many stormy adventures at sea, the voyage started calmly enough, with Jesus deciding to go out for a leisurely sail. Luke tells us, “One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake’ ” (Luke 8:22). At first the water was calm, as it usually is on the Sea of Galilee: “So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep” (Luke 8:22–23). But then the weather started getting rough, and the tiny ship was tossed. As Luke tells it, “a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger” (Luke 8:23).
It was the kind of storm that sometimes blows in to churn the waters of the Galilee. Although the sea is usually calm, when storms do come, they are usually violent. As one commentator explains, “The lake of Galilee is subject to sudden storms, situated as it is some 700 feet below sea level and adjacent to mountainous regions. Cold air from the heights is apt to sweep down through the precipitous gorges to the east and it can whip up the seas in a short time.” Galilee was the perfect place for a perfect storm.
This particular storm was as powerful as any that the disciples had ever seen. And remember, Peter and Andrew and James and John were fishermen by trade and had spent most of their lives in these waters. Yet they had never experienced anything like this. The storm hit them with a sudden and violent fury. Luke calls it “a windstorm” that “came down on the lake” (Luke 8:23). Matthew implies that it struck without warning (Matt. 8:24). A seaman would call it a squall—a sudden and violent gust of wind, usually accompanied by heavy rain.
The disciples did everything they could to deal with the situation. Their sailing vessel was rising and falling through the swells, riding to the top of one crest and then suddenly crashing down through the waves—as it seemed, almost to the bottom of the sea. The boat was filling so rapidly with water that it was in danger of getting swamped. The disciples pulled down their sails and began to bail for dear life. But they were still in danger, and soon they lost almost all hope of ever making it to shore. “We are perishing!” they said (Luke 8:24).
What a thunderous storm this must have been, for salty old sailors like Peter and John to give themselves up for lost. And what a picture this is of the sudden and dangerous storms that threaten us as we sail through life. Going back to the Old Testament, the Bible compares the troubles of life to the perils of the sea: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.… Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up” (Ps. 69:1, 15). As Jonah testified, “you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me” (Jonah 2:3).
What the disciples went through on the Sea of Galilee is something we all go though in life: seas of difficulty and storms of trouble. People lose their jobs or suffer some other financial hardship, and they get tossed by waves of worry. They receive an unfavorable diagnosis or struggle with some chronic illness, and they are flooded with fear. They have painful interpersonal conflicts at home, in the neighborhood, at work, or in the church, and they feel as if they are sinking. They lose someone they love, and they are drowned in sorrow. Or perhaps they are simply swamped with all of the little duties and difficulties of everyday existence. We all must pass through the heavy seas of life’s troubles. As the apostle Peter said—the same Peter who had been in the boat with Jesus—“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12 niv).
Often danger comes the way it came at Galilee: suddenly and unexpectedly. There the disciples were, sailing across the lake, without any sign of difficulty. Lulled into a false sense of security, they never imagined that within a few short hours, they would be fighting for their very lives. The same thing can happen to us. Although the seas of daily experience are sometimes calm, they are swept by sudden storms. Like the disciples, we are in a situation that we think we can handle. But then, completely unexpectedly, we are afraid that we are in danger of drowning. And then, most of all, we endure the testing of our soul.
Master and Commander
What should we do when trouble comes? How should we react in times of difficulty and danger, whether physical or spiritual? When the disciples were in danger—as the Bible says they were—they reacted by crying out for Jesus to save them: “And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ ” (Luke 8:24).
There was a problem with this response, as we shall see, but at least the disciples knew where to get help. Whenever we are in danger of drowning—or at least think that we are—we should cry out to Jesus. If we are burdened with our sins, we cry to him for mercy, asking him to save us through his cross and the empty tomb. If we are struggling to make ends meet, we cry to him for our daily bread. If we are buffeted by physical pain, we cry to him for patience and endurance. If we are torn apart by conflict, we cry to him for the peace of his Spirit. If we are overwhelmed with sorrow, we cry to him for the comfort of his presence. In every rough and stormy squall, even to the point of death itself, we call upon Jesus.
When we call upon Jesus, he is able and willing to help, as the disciples discovered. In times of trouble, there is no one better to call on than Jesus, because no one is better equipped to save us. When the disciples cried out to him, Jesus “awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:24). The disciples were all in confusion, but Jesus was fully composed. Very calmly, and simply by the word of his power, Jesus told the storm to be still. He was not only the Master, but also the Commander—the commander of the waves and the storm and all the deadly power of the sea.
This was a genuine and immediate miracle. One moment the disciples were almost drowning in the heavy seas; the next moment they were floating serenely on the smooth surface of the Galilee. The storm ceased. The sea was calm. And there was no merely natural explanation for this. One commentator calls it “a mysterious, supernatural calm that testified to the sovereign power of Jesus but also the deep peace and security that belong to those who follow him.” The storm was stopped by the command of Christ. Jesus delivered his disciples—as he delivers everyone who calls to him in faith—by the divine power of his mighty word.
Where Is Your Faith?
In the stillness after the storm, two crucial questions were posed. The first was a question Jesus asked, a question that we all need to answer about ourselves: Where is your faith? The second was a question the disciples asked, a question that everyone needs to answer about Jesus: Who is this man?
The first question comes at the beginning of Luke 8:25, where Jesus says to his disciples, “Where is your faith?” This was a rebuke—a gentle rebuke, but a rebuke nonetheless. The obvious implication was that the disciples were not really trusting in Jesus. Kent Hughes points out the irony here: the storm did not wake Jesus, but the unbelief of his disciples sure did!
To be sure, the disciples had cried out to Jesus for help. But there was something rather desperate about the way they did it. The boat was not the only thing getting swamped that day; the fear of the disciples overwhelmed their faith. They looked only at the danger, forgetting that they were safe with Jesus. They asked for help only as a last resort, and when they did, they were frantic, almost hysterical. Rather than trusting God to take care of them, they immediately assumed the worst. “We are perishing!” they said (Luke 8:24). In other words, “We’re dying out here!” Their assumption was that Jesus did not know and did not care about their situation.
We can sympathize with the disciples in their lack of faith. In fact, most of us can probably empathize with them. It is only natural to be afraid of death, and it is easy to panic in a crisis. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the wind and the waves of life’s troubles. When the water is high, and the storm is rising, it is easy to think that we are going down for the last time. It is also easy to think that God does not know and does not care that we are drowning. If he did, then obviously he would wake up and do something about it, right?
Yet no matter how desperate our situation is, we should always trust God to bring us safely back to shore. The story of Jesus calming the storm gives us three strong reasons to trust God in every rough and stormy gale. Each of these three great truths is like a life preserver for the soul, lifting us up to a faith that will not go under at the first sign of danger.
We should trust Jesus, first, because even the storms of life are under his sovereign control. Here we need to go back to the beginning of this episode, where Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake” (Luke 8:22). The disciples were in the storm because Jesus himself told them to go out on the lake. As Michael Wilcock comments: “We cannot avoid the fact that Jesus was altogether in control of the whole chain of events in this passage. He took his disciples across the lake, where a storm was going to burst upon them.”
Having a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ does not mean that somehow we will escape all of life’s troubles. On the contrary, Christians suffer the same natural disasters, the same sinful abuse, and the same daily misfortunes as everyone else. In fact, sometimes knowing Jesus takes us right into the storm, especially when in some way we suffer for our faith. We can be “in the center of God’s will,” as people say, and yet still find ourselves at the center of the storm, as the disciples did.
This does not mean that God is always the cause of our suffering (some of our sufferings are caused by the sins of others, or by our own sin), for he can never be the author of evil. But it does mean that our sufferings never catch God by surprise. He always knows when we are headed for stormy troubles. Sometimes, in order to accomplish his work in our lives, he even guides us into them. That was certainly true in this case, because Jesus was the one who told the disciples to cross the lake. This was for the testing of their faith and the training of their souls.
Whenever we are tossed about by life’s troubles, we need to remember that God is still sovereign. He is never taken by surprise. Whatever troubles we are facing, God has brought us to this point in our lives, and he is using our present experiences to make us more like Jesus, shaping us into the glorious image of his Son. “By affliction He teaches us many precious lessons, which, without it we should never learn. By affliction He shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from the world, and makes us long for heaven. In the resurrection morning we shall all say, ‘it is good for me that I was afflicted.’ We shall thank God for every storm.”
In the meantime, we can pray that God will use our troubles for spiritual gain. We can ask him to teach us through our afflictions, praying that our suffering will help us to grow in grace. It was with this thought in mind that Ruth Graham prayed, “Dear God, let me soar in the face of the wind: up … through cold or the storm with wings to endure. Let the silver rain wash all the dust from my wings. Let me soar as He soars … let it lift me.… Let it buffet and drive me, but, God, let it lift.”
All in the Same Boat
A second reason for us to trust God—even in stormy troubles—is that Jesus has set the perfect example.
One of the most surprising things about this episode is that somehow Jesus managed to sleep his way through most of it—on the cushion, as Mark tells us (Mark 4:38). This testifies to the true humanity of Jesus Christ. To stay asleep in such a storm he must have been completely exhausted. No doubt he was weary from the heavy demands of his teaching ministry, worn out by the constant demand to help people. Jesus needed a nap badly—so badly that he could sleep anywhere. He was as prone to fatigue as anyone else, and his physical weakness was a sign of his genuine humanity. To see Jesus asleep in the boat is to know that he had a real body, with all of its needs and limitations.
But it is also to know this: that Jesus had complete confidence in the loving care of his Father. How was Jesus able to rest easy during such a violent storm? Partly because he was so tired, but also because he had faith in his Father. If Jesus had to look after his own life, undoubtedly he would have awakened when the first wave crashed over the stern. There is a way to sleep, and yet remain alert. But Jesus slept as if he did not have a care in the world. In a way, he didn’t, because he was resting in his Father’s arms. Deep down he knew that no harm could come to him, that his Father would wake him when he needed to be awakened.
When Jesus said, “Where is your faith?” he was challenging his disciples to live with the same kind of trust, to rest in their Father’s care. In the words of Keith Nickle, Jesus “modeled for them the tranquility that comes from perfect trust. He went to sleep in the shalom of God. It was not that he had overlooked the gale warnings in the weather reports, nor that he was such a landlubber that he did not grasp the perilous vulnerability of being out on the sea in an open boat. It was, rather, that he knew God was in control, and he was willing to rely on that knowledge absolutely.”
Jesus calls us to live by the same kind of faith, believing that God is in control, and absolutely relying on him. So often we feel that we need to stay alert for every danger. We worry about our finances. We are afraid of what might happen to our children. We agonize over situations at work. These and many other concerns keep us up at night. Somehow we always feel that we need to keep an eye on things, just to be safe. But this quickly becomes exhausting, and it is all because we are not trusting God to look after us. We do not rest in our Father’s care the way that Jesus did.
A third reason for trusting God through wind and wave is the most comforting of all. We have this trust because Jesus is with us in the boat. The first thing Luke tells us is that Jesus “got into a boat with his disciples” (Luke 8:22). He was with them when they sailed across the lake. He was with them when the wind began to rise and the waves crashed over the bow. He was with them when they cried for help. So why were they so afraid? Norval Geldenhuys asks the question like this: “How could they have feared that they would perish as long as He was in the ship? Even although He was asleep, He is the Almighty Lord who watches over the safety of His followers. How could they have feared that God would allow His Son, the promised Redeemer, and His disciples to perish?”
Jesus is on board with us as we ride out the storm. He has given us the promise of his everlasting presence, and we can depend on him in every desperate situation. If ever we find ourselves in any difficulty, we have this promise as an anchor for the soul: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.… For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa. 43:1–3). And if anyone asks us, “Where is your faith?” we can tell them: “Our faith is in the God who rules the universe, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, who has died on the cross for our sins.”
What a difference it makes, especially in treacherous waters, to know that Jesus is in the same boat with us. This is true not only for the individual believer, but also for the church. Since the time of the New Testament, Christians have often used the boat as a symbol of the church of Jesus Christ. This idea goes all the way back to Noah and the ark, but it is also based on what happened to Jesus and his disciples out on the Sea of Galilee. Charles Spurgeon said, “I scarcely know of an apter picture of a church than a ship upon the treacherous Galilean Sea with Jesus and His disciples sailing in it.… Every sail of the good ship which bears the flag of the High Admiral of our fleet must be beaten with the wind, and every plank in her must be tried by the waves.”
This is a great encouragement, because it guarantees that even when the storm tide is rising, the ship of God’s church will not sink. Jesus is on board, and no matter how fiercely the storm rages, we can trust that our Master and Captain will see us safely through. Therefore, whenever we feel that we are drowning, we need to ask ourselves, “Now what difference would it make in this situation if I were really to trust in Jesus, believing that he is in the same boat with me, and knowing that he is able to save me? Where is my faith?”
This was the question that Jesus asked his disciples, and he asked it because he knew that they had every reason to trust in him. We have even more reason to trust in Jesus. We have seen his love in the cross; we have experienced his power through the empty tomb; and we have been given his Spirit to stay with us wherever we go. Therefore, when the storms come, we trust Jesus to get us safely back to shore.
Who Is This Jesus?
For their part, the disciples also had a good question to ask, a question about the true identity of Jesus Christ. When they saw that the sea was calm, the disciples “were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’ ” (Luke 8:25).
The disciples had been afraid of the storm, but now they were even more afraid—not in the sense that they thought Jesus would harm them, of course, but in the sense that they were in awe of what he had done. Jesus had just proved that he was even more powerful than the mightiest storm at sea. This overwhelmed them with feelings of reverent fear and transcendent awe.
It also made them wonder who Jesus really was, after all. And this would seem to be the main point of this passage. The goal of Luke’s Gospel is to help us become more certain about the person and work of Jesus Christ. Each episode expands our understanding of who Jesus is and what he has come to do for our salvation. Here in chapter 8, the disciples raise the question that is really the central concern of the whole Gospel: “Who is this Jesus?”
Ironically, the disciples also provided the answer, although they seem not to have fully recognized it themselves. They said, “he commands even winds and water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25). “Command” was just the word for it, because Luke tells us that Jesus “rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased” (Luke 8:24). Jesus spoke to the storm as if it had to answer to his authority. Apparently, the storm did have to answer to Jesus, because it obeyed what he commanded.
Now who, do you suppose, has the right to speak that way to the sea? This question may have been a real stumper for the disciples, but the answer is obvious to anyone who reads Luke’s Gospel: Jesus is God. His miracle on the Sea of Galilee was proof positive of his divine nature and omnipotent deity.
This becomes especially clear when we read the story against the background of the Old Testament, where God alone had the power and authority to rule the chaos of the sea. We encounter this motif throughout the Psalms, where God is praised as the one “who stills the roaring of the seas” (Ps. 65:7). “You rule the raging of the sea,” wrote the psalmist, “when its waves rise, you still them” (Ps. 89:9). Psalm 106 goes so far as to say that God “rebuked the Red Sea” when he saved Israel out of Egypt (see Ps. 106:7–9; cf. 104:7). But perhaps the most striking parallel comes in Psalm 107, which sounds very much like what happened to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee:
Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed. (Ps. 107:23–29)
The commanding power that Jesus had over the wind and the waves was a clear demonstration of his deity. Jesus Christ is Lord of the sea, which makes perfect sense, because he created it. Key passages throughout the New Testament testify that Jesus is the Creator God. At the beginning of his Gospel, John tells us, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). “For by him all things were created,” Paul tells us—“all things were created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16; cf. 1 Cor. 8:6). Or again, the book of Hebrews tells us that it was through Jesus that God created the world (Heb. 1:2). And the book of Revelation praises Jesus as the God who made all things, and by whose will they were created (Rev. 4:11).
So when Jesus calmed the storm, he was claiming his right to rule the world that he made. Creation’s Creator is also creation’s Lord. The disciples witnessed this firsthand when their Master stood up in the boat and rebuked the sea. Who is this Jesus? He is the Lord of the storm, the Ruler of nature, and the God of all creation.
This same Jesus—who has the power to save—calls us to have faith in him through the winds and the waves of every storm. This does not mean that we will never suffer any harm. But it does mean that Jesus will see us through. David Gooding’s comments are worth quoting at length. He writes:
We live in a universe that is lethally hostile to human life.… Within our earth itself wind, wave, lightning, storm, flood, drought, avalanche, earthquake, fire, heat, cold, germ, virus, epidemic, all from time to time threaten and destroy life. Sooner or later one of them may destroy us. The story of the stilling of the storm is not, of course, meant to tell us that Christ will never allow any believer to perish by drowning, or by any other natural disaster. Many believers have so perished. It does demonstrate that he is Lord of the physical forces in the universe, that for him nothing happens by accident, and that no force in all creation can destroy his plan for our eternal salvation or separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It was the love of God in Christ that led Charles Wesley to write his famous hymn “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” Charles had joined his brother John on a mission to Georgia in the colonies of America. The trip had been a disappointment in nearly every respect. As the Wesleys sailed home to England in the fall of 1736, both of them disillusioned by the sufferings of ministry, they were caught in a frightening storm out on the Atlantic Ocean. When it appeared that all would be lost, Charles did not pray for deliverance, but for the faith to trust in God and to encourage the other passengers on board. The sea grew calm, the ship was saved, and many people gave their lives to Jesus Christ. Afterwards, Wesley wrote:
Jesus, Lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high;
Hide me, O my Savior, hide
Till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide;
O receive my soul at last!
Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ has this comfort. Jesus has saved us through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. He is sovereign over everything that threatens to harm us. Now by his Spirit he is on board with us through all of life’s troubles, until at last he will receive us into the haven of his everlasting love.
Calming the Storm (8:22–25)
Luke resumes the sequence of narratives illustrating the powerful, authoritative word of Jesus (notice esp. 8:25, 29, 32, 54; cf. 4:36). Jesus exercises his power against natural forces, demons, illness, and death. Then he delegates this power to his disciples (9:1–2). Schürmann, 1:472–73, groups the incidents in 8:22–56 as a trilogy of “great miracles” that are “almost Johannine signs.”
The story itself is noteworthy for its vividness and for its portrayal of the Lord Jesus as in complete control of himself and his environment. The climax comes not with the miracle itself but with the question of the disciples (v. 25) concerning the identity of the Master. It is a nature miracle marking the first time in Luke that Jesus applied his power to a non-living object rather than to a person. Jesus is affirming sovereignty over storm and sea as God did in the exodus. Some have further pointed to Jesus’ command over the sea storm as signifying his control over the evil and chaotic power. This is supported by the Jewish (and other ancient cultures’) understanding of water as symbolizing evil forces (cf. Jon D. Levenson, Creation and the Persistence of Evil [New York: Harper & Row, 1988]). This would fit Luke’s interest here, but he does not further develop this particular theme.
22 Luke omits some of the details found in Mark, including a specific reference to the time of day. His words, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake,” should have assured the disciples that they would indeed complete their trip across the water (as the Jews did in the exodus).
23 Luke uses vivid language, as does Mark, to describe the fury of the storm. Luke mentions the wind three times (vv. 23–25). This was an intense “squall” (lailaps anemou, lit., “windstorm of wind”), such as characteristically swept down on the Sea of Galilee, which lies in a shallow basin rimmed by hills. Luke mentions earlier in the narrative than do Matthew and Mark that Jesus was asleep. This placement heightens the contrast between the turmoil of the storm and Jesus’ peaceful rest.
24–25 The fear and unbelief of the disciples is in contrast not only to the calm of their Master but also to the endurance they themselves should have had in “the time of testing” (cf. v. 13). Even so, in Luke’s account Jesus does not say, “Do you still have no faith?” as in Mark 4:40, but only, “Where is your faith?” (v. 25). The double “Master, Master” (v. 24) expresses both respect and terror (contrast the less respectful question in Mk 4:38). The fear of being lost at sea is a common human fear and typifies the sense of helplessness in the immensity of life (cf. Ps 107:23–31). In its wider context, this miracle of Jesus would have had special meaning during the unsettling and threatening conditions the church encountered through persecutions during its early period of existence.
The question of the disciples, “Who is this?” serves to show not only their amazement but also the slowness of their apprehension of the “Master’s” true identity. This question not only marks the climax of this story but is also a key question in Luke. In fact, because Luke omits a large amount of material found in Mark (6:45–8:26, which otherwise would come between vv. 17 and 18 of Luke 9), he can move quickly from the next occurrence of this question (9:9) to the question at Caesarea Philippi: “Who do you say I am?” (9:20).
25 As in v 24 the disciples are treated more gently than in Mark, but the implication is still that they have not shown faith. It is faith in God which they had failed to exercise, the faith to which Ps 107:23–32 should have called them, and which Paul was later to exercise (Acts 27:13–44, esp. 25, 34). The effective control God exercises over his world has taken concrete form for the disciples now in Jesus’ act of stilling the storm. But for Luke it is not particularly the presence of Jesus that guarantees the safety of the disciples (though it is the concrete form of Jesus’ act that should give them confidence for the future).
Luke makes it clearer than the Markan text that the fear language here indicates an encounter with the presence and activity of God (he deletes Mark’s use of fear language in connection with the danger of the storm and links amazement language to that of fear [for the third time in the pericope Mark’s “great” disappears]). cf. at 1:13, 30; 2:9, 10; 5:9–10, 26. As at 5:9–10, 26 the divine is encountered in an activity of Jesus (cf. also 8:37).
Luke repeats much of Mark’s wording for the final section of the verse. In the interests of generalization Luke uses the plural “winds”; as in v 24 “sea” becomes “water”; Luke makes explicit the activity of commanding (note the generalizing present tense) that calls the winds and water to obedience. The pressing urgency of the disciples’ question “who then is this?” comes from the recognition that such power over the elements is the prerogative of God himself (Pss 65:7; 77:16; 89:9; 104:7; 107:23–29; Job 26:12; Jer 5:22).
While this pericope undoubtedly has links with Paul’s journey to Rome, Léon-Dufour (NRT 87  920) makes altogether too much of these in the way that he takes 8:22–25 as a proleptic journey to the Gentiles (on the basis of the Gerasene destination). Paul’s journey to Rome is not in Acts his journey to the Gentiles. Nonetheless, in light of the Gadarene healing to come and the clear purposefulness of Jesus in v 22, we may indeed see here a foreshadowing of the mission to the Gentiles. Léon-Dufour’s additional reflections on Jesus’ journey across the waters of death to reach the Gentiles have no Lukan basis.
Those who have been accompanying Jesus since 8:1 now experience an event that provides a major impetus to a probing of the identity of this man to whom they have linked themselves. This is the first of a series of four mighty works (8:22–9:17), the first and fourth of which are especially focused on the question of Jesus’ identity, while the middle two also provide a pattern for the activity of the Twelve (9:1–2).
Despite a widespread ancient conviction that great kings and wise men could exercise power over the elements, there does not seem to have been preserved in Jewish, Greek, or Roman traditions of the period any actual account of such a figure using his own supernatural powers to still a storm. (There are accounts of storms stilled in answer to prayer.)
The problem posed for the disciples is not only the life-threatening storm but also the effective absence of Jesus in their time of crisis. In such a situation the disciples ought to have been able to trust God as the one who is able to control the elements (Ps 107:23–32). Jesus’ own trust in God is reflected by his continuing to sleep. Paul would later exercise such a trust (Acts 27:13–44, esp. vv 25 and 34).
The disciples could not rise to such trust in God (see v 25), but they are exemplary in coming to Jesus with their problem. In using the term “Master,” they recognize Jesus’ authority over their lives. Their next statement, “we are perishing,” however, expresses the inadequacy of their faith at this point.
Jesus deals at once with their problem. With immediate and direct authority he rebukes the rising of the elements and they are at once subdued. The likeness to Old Testament descriptions of God’s action should not be lost on us (e.g., Pss 104:7; 106:9; Nah 1:4).
The fear and amazement with which the disciples respond is exactly what is to be expected in the presence of an act of God. God is being encountered in something that Jesus does, as at 5:9–10, 26. This situation presses the question of Jesus’ identity. Such power over the elements is the prerogative of God alone (Pss 65:7; 77:16; 89:9; etc), but here it is being exercised by Jesus.
The disciple of Luke’s day is called upon to recognize in faith the security of his life in all danger. The effective control which God exercises over his world now finds its concrete expression in the activity of Jesus, the Lord. He exercises God’s personal mastery over all the forces of destruction.
 Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, pp. 160–161). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.