Some of the crowd that had gathered near Peter’s house had followed Jesus to the lakeside (v18). As preparations were made to get to the other side, two of the followers peppered Him with additional questions. No doubt Jesus was tired from a long day of ministry, but ever kind and gracious, Jesus had taken time to address those individuals. Having overheard the questions and His responses, those who remain are a bit clearer as to what a disciple is. We know this because when Jesus gets into the boat they follow Him in boarding. “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.”
The disciples to this point include a number of people we haven’t met so far in Matthew’s narrative, but we do know Peter, Andrew, James and John (4:18-22). These four were experienced fishermen who made their livelihoods on this very lake. They would’ve known the lake and the weather of the lake quite well. One would expect they would’ve been able to spot a potentially troubling circumstance and would’ve at least commented on it prior to setting out to cross the lake. Yet they do not, meaning it is likely that it looked like clear sailing. Perhaps for that reason Matthew notes that the storm appears without warning. “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”
Anytime circumstance appears to be against us we are unsettled. This is especially so when that circumstance is completely beyond our control, and our own sense of exposure is simultaneously aroused. Being on a boat in a large body of water during a storm is absolutely terrifying. At least for us it is. For Jesus – who knows the Father and knows the Father’s love for Him, it is not. “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” The disciples have to wake Jesus – He is sleeping, completely untroubled by what appears to everyone else as certain disaster. There is both irony and comfort in that. He hasn’t left the disciples. He hasn’t abandoned them to their own devices or imaginations. He is both present and available. He can and will respond when they do appeal to Him. They are as safe as He is.
Jesus is always there, never leaving or forsaking us – so we can know that our response to circumstance says more about our faith (or lack of) than about Jesus’ care for us.
That fact brings to mind the reality that following Jesus ensures at least two outcomes beyond our own experience of His peace and presence. Firstly, that Jesus will use every occasion to reveal more of Himself to you. Even when you are not expecting Him to. Sometimes especially when you are not expecting Him to. Secondly, that from time to time you will have an adventure! God – who is sovereign over every circumstance – seems to delight in arranging circumstances in ways that allow us to see Him at work in them. Sometimes that’s through a long slow progression, and sometimes it is in sudden unanticipated change.
Both outcomes sound wonderful and refreshing and exciting, but the reality of them is usually disturbing, and sometimes quite frightening. We forget that throughout the Scriptures, the appearance of an angel absolutely terrified those who recorded it. How could we expect less when we see the hand of God? The reality of God is so much more real, so much more overwhelming, so much more awesome than we could even imagine.
Nature fears in the presence of God.Charles Spurgeon
In the midst of terrible circumstance, remember that our Father is yet watching over us.