Text: Luke 8:22-25
The Gospel of Luke is obsessed with one question. It is a simple, sublime, life-changing question. “Who is this man?”
The question is asked by sceptics, such as the Pharisees, who asked (5:21), “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?”
It is also asked by the curious (7:49), who enquired, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
It is asked by a king: Herod, (9:9) who demanded to know, “Who is this I hear such things about?”
And then, even Jesus himself poses the question (9:18-20): ‘he asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”‘
The same question features in this miracle of the stilling of the storm. It is late afternoon. It has been a busy day. Jesus has been preaching to vast crowds down by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He then asks his disciples, some of whom were fishermen, to sail him across to the other side of the sea. They set off on their voyage, but before long a violent storm blows up. Giant waves start crashing down over the boat and it starts filling with water. The disciples are terrified. Jesus, however, is sleeping peacefully in the stern. They wake him up, and then start shouting at him: “Help us! We’re capsizing! We’re all going to drown!” (I wonder what they expected him to do!) He gets up and rebukes the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsides, and all is calm. Then he turns to his astonished disciples, and says, “Where is your faith?” Then comes that question again, v25: “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
WHO IS THIS? – Good Question! In the musical ‘Godspell’ he is a clown. In ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ he is, well, a superstar. To some people, he is a ‘pale Galilean’, to others, a kind of Che Guevara revolutionary figure. But according to this passage,
1. This is a man who sometimes leads his friends into danger, v22. Curious, isn’t it, that it was Jesus’ idea to sail across the lake? Surely, he who had to power to still a storm could have forseen the storm in the first place, and they could have all remained safe and secure on dry land?
But that isn’t the way it works in the kingdom of God. We must never imagine that being a disciple of Jesus means that you can immediately kiss goodbye to all your problems. It has been truly said that trials drive us to the realities of our faith. ‘How could history record victories if there were no battles? How could we define light if there were no darkness? How could we describe a mountain if there were no valleys? How could we appreciate shelter if there were no storms? How could we enjoy a cool drink if there were no thirst? How could there be faith if there were no doubts? How could we hope for a glorious resurrection if there were no grave?’ (J. K. Gressett)
2. This is a man who sleeps during a howling storm, v23. Mark tells us Jesus has been busy all day. Now it is late afternoon, and there is further work to be done on the other side of the lake. The storm strikes. What is Jesus doing? He’s curled up in the back of the boat, fast asleep. Not even at the height of the storm, when the waves are crashing over the bows and the boat is on the point of capsizing, does he stir.
What does this tell us about Jesus? Whatever else we may say about him, this is a man who, weary after a long day’s labour, is in need of rest. The human side of Jesus was, and is, just as real as his divine side. ‘I do not think of Christ as God alone, or man alone, but both together. For I know that he was hungry, and I know that with five loaves he fed five thousand. I know that he was thirsty, and I know that he turned water into wine. I know that he was carried in a ship, and I know he walked upon the sea. I know that he died, and I know that he raised the dead. I know he was set before Pilate, and I know that he sits with the Father in his throne. I know that he was worshipped by the angels, and I know that he was stoned by the Jews’ (Chrysostom). If Jesus shared our human nature so completely, it means that he understands our own human weaknesses and frailties: ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.’ Heb 4:15.
3. This a man who rebukes his friends for having so little faith and so much fear, v25. There is amazement in his words when he asks, “Where is your faith?” They should have known better than to be afraid in Jesus’ presence. And so should we.
How often do we give Jesus cause for amazement? Our fear, so natural to ourselves, is incredible to the Son of God. I recall a story about a man who had to cross a wide river on the ice. He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hands and knees in great trepidation. He thought he might fall through at any moment. Just as he neared the opposite shore, completely shattered, another man glided past him sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. How like some Christians! Headed for Heaven, we tremble at every step lest the divine promises break under their feet.
A young boy was out for a walk with his father. They had walked a long way, and the father turned to his son and said, “Do you know where we are?” “No.” “Could you find you way back home from here?” “No.” “So you’re lost then?” “No, I ‘m not lost. I’m with you.”
4. This is a man who has authority over the winds and the waves, v25. The miracle was complete, and instantaneous. One moment there was a violent tempest; the next complete calm. What kind of person could have that sort of power over the elements? Who has power even over the winds and the waves? Only God himself!
Perhaps life for you is uncertain, even frightening. Possibly you feel lost and alone. I hope with all my heart that you will come to know, more and more, who Jesus is. He may sometimes lead you into difficult times. But he understands the weakness of your human nature, because he shares you human nature. You may sometimes cause him to be amazed at your own fearfulness and lack of faith. But the same Christ who once spoke peace to a storm can speak peace to our souls today. This same Jesus who has authority over the winds and the waves is here, right now. This is the one who said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
‘Tis the Lord, O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord, the King of glory!
At his feet we humbly fall,
crown him, crown him, Lord of all.