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Sermon about Jesus stilling the storm

Jesus stills the storm
Luke 8:22-25

One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A gale swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’

This is ‘Storm Sunday’ a really important miracle story which we have this morning about Jesus stilling the storm on Galilee. All three of the synoptic gospels record the episode, the church has taken to heart the picture of itself as like a ship in which we are held together safe with Jesus. Churches have a nave, a word which is taken from the Latin ’Navis’ meaning ship. Often you will see the roof of the church like a vessel.

The miracle happens on Lake Galilee, known by different many names such as the Sea of Tiberias or now as Lake Kinneret  or Kinnereth.  It is a lake which is 13 miles long and up to 7 miles wide and so it is like a sea. Galilee was and still is prone to sudden storms. It is worth remembering for quizzes that this is the lowest freshwater lake in the world, and the second lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea which is most certainly not freshwater, it is so full of salt and minerals you can float on the surface. It lies like a low bowl surrounded by mountains subject to extreme weather as the warm air from the Mediterranean and the desert meets cold air coming down from the mountain like the Golan Heights. It is like a natural wind tunnel.

Perhaps no surprise then that the Greek word which Matthew, Mark and Luke all use for and which we translate as ‘storm’ doesn’t really do justice to the severity of condition of the wind and waves. It could be translated as a ‘tornado, or hurricane’, such was the power of the turbulence caused. These were really bad weather conditions, Mark says it was a ‘mega storm’ the lives of the disciples were in mortal danger.

It is worth reflecting just for a few moments about Lake Galilee. It is still a place prone to sudden storms in what is a geographical wind tunnel with cold air coming down from the mountains.

We perhaps know something about the boat which they were travelling in. One has actually been found revealed by low water on the lake, a fishing boat which is 2,000 years old, which has been named the Jesus boat. It is made from different woods, perhaps by a carpenter like Jesus. The boat is 9m long and 2.5m wide. This is a pretty flat boat and so the disciples had little protection from wild waves and heavy winds.

The three gospel writers have different takes on the story but they all agree on the major points of the story. If we put the accounts side by side the essential points made are as follows

It was dark and they were all tired

Mark tells us that the episode happens in the dark, ’when evening had come’  Jesus and the disciples had been through a full day of teaching and crowds and they would have been tired

A storm comes

Mark tells us that it was a great storm a ‘mega’ storm and we all know what that word means

Matthew says that it was a ‘seismos megas’. Seismos we understand; a seismic event of mega proportions. Now, that’s really basically the word for earthquake, seismos, so this is of massive proportions, like a violent shaking of the earth, this violent shaking of the water, generated by hurricane-force winds.

The boat was starting to sink

The waves were beating the boat and water was coming in. Matthew tells us that the boat was swamped. The fishermen among the disciples were used to the sea and they knew that time was limited, they were about to sink, this was a life and death moment.

Jesus was asleep

Mark tells us with eyewitness details which traditions tell us he was told by Peter that he was asleep on a cushion. 

The disciples panic and wake Jesus 

He is not aroused by the storm. Tradition held that great prophets were calm at such times. Jesus isn’t just calm he out of it! They however panic in the face of death and they say something like

1. Save Lord we are perishing - Matthew

2. Teacher do you not care if we perish - Mark

3. Master, Master we are perishing - Luke

I suspect that since there were a dozen disciples then there would have also been a few more words used. What they all have in common is that the disciples believed that they were about to die.

It is interesting that at least four of the disciples were fishermen who would have know the lake like the backs of their hands. Peter, James, Andrew, John.  These disciples did not turn to Jesus because they wanted a carpenter to help them, they turned to Jesus because they knew that Jesus was special. He had shown his powers over demons over illness. They knew he had a special relationship with God but they were still struggling to come to terms with who Jesus really was.

Jesus woke up and calmed the storm with his words

All the gospel writers say that Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea . We are told that Jesus rebuked the wind using the same words with which he had rebuked the demonic powers (1:25, 3:12). Jesus uses the same words to calm the sea ass he uses to cast out demons !   This is Jesus taking charge. 

The sea was calmed

Mark told us that there was a mega storm, now he tells us that there was a ‘mega’ calm

Jesus rebuked the disciples

If you were a disciple at this point you might be a little upset. You do as Jesus says and sail the boat, get into a terrible storm, fear for your life and now you are told that you have showed a lack of faith and get shouted at !  

Mark and Luke then tell us that after calming the sea Jesus turned to the disciples and  asked them why they had been afraid. Their fear showed a lack of faith

Jesus says

1. Why are you afraid O men of little faith?  Mathew

2. Why are you afraid have you no faith?  Mark

3. Where is your faith ? Luke

The disciples were left in a state of awe

Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him

So what do we make of this story?


So what lessons do we take form this today?

1. There is no escape from storms - they will come to us all

The Gospel writers show that even with Jesus alongside them they were not immune from personal danger. Even Jesus was subjected to the storms of life. No immunity. The disciples followed to the letter the instructions of Jesus and it led them into troubled waters.

2. The Christian is challenged by this episode to question whether when faced by storms will Jesus stop them if we wake him up?

This is really difficult because we could read this passage and believe that when we get into the storms of life, be they physical, spiritual or otherwise, that all we have to do is wake Jesus up and he will do something about it.

Give me a new job, make my leg better, 

There are times when we all might think God is asleep on the job because things just seem to be out of control. The psalmist expressed this feeling that God had gone asleep and needed to wake up and help out.

Psalm 44: “Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord? Why do You hide Your face?”

There are times when each one of us might think that we are sinking.

· Do you ever think that God is deaf to your prayers?

· Do you think that Jesus takes lots of naps and doesn’t care, that he must have gone to sleep?

The honest answer is that no matter how much we call on Jesus we are not promised that we will be immune from the storms of life. Matthew, Mark and Luke when they wrote their gospels knew that the church was filled with obedient Christians and they were facing terrible persecutions. We must never lead people to believe that Jesus is like a Genie in a bottle.

These persecutions and tribulations came not because they were unfaithful. It was not that their faith was defective and somehow brought about suffering, the concern was whether they kept their faith despite the suffering which they endured. Their faith was tested in how they responded to the troubles or ’storms’ which befell them. 

The message from the story is that no matter how bad it gets, even if you are up to your neck in water, keep the faith, do not panic, faith will drive out fear. Faith enables us to put our trust in God’s hands, no matter how fierce the storm. It ensures that we will never judge God's love by the condition of the sea.

The disciples asked

teacher don’t you care

That must have been a bitter blow to Jesus who had determined to give of his own life for theirs.

The answer which Jesus gives is an unequivocal yes, he really does care


Faith does not pretend that a storm does not exist. It does not exempt us from efforts to take care of ourselves and others. What faith does is to ensure that we are not overcome with anxiety, stress and worry. Faith enables us to trust that God does care even when our weakness causes us to think that God has given up and isn’t bothered anymore.

His disciples will be buffeted and tossed about, they will be persecuted and tortured and killed. Yet Jesus is absolutely resolute that despite all of this they should trust, have faith and be a people without fear because he is with them and assures them of God’s love.