We might assume the storms would have stopped. Jesus was on the earth, after all. He made the planet. He invented storm systems. He created the whole idea of atmosphere, wind, and rain. We might assume, for the time he was on his earth, that the world would have been storm-free, that God would have suspended the laws of nature and spared his Son the discomfort of slashing rains and howling winds.
Or at the very least we might suppose that Jesus would have walked around in a bubble. Like the one the pope uses when he drives through the crowds. Encircle our Savior with a protective shield so he doesn’t get soaked, cold, afraid, or windswept. Jesus should be spared the storms of life.
And so should we. Lingering among the unspoken expectations of the Christian heart is this: Now that I belong to God, I get a pass on the tribulations of life. I get a bubble. Others face storms. I live to help them. But face my own? No way.
To follow Jesus is to live a storm-free life, right?
That expectation crashes quickly on the rocks of reality. The truth of the matter is this: life comes with storms. Jesus assures us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Storms will come to you, to me. They even came to Jesus’ first disciples. “Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. . . . Later that night . . . the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (Matt. 14:22–24).
Sometimes we create our own storms. We drink too much liquor or borrow too much money or hang out with the wrong crowd. We find ourselves in a storm of our own making.
This wasn’t the case with the disciples. They were on the storm-tossed sea because Christ told them to be there. “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat.” This wasn’t Jonah seeking to escape God; these were disciples seeking to obey Jesus. These are missionaries who move overseas, only to have their support evaporate. These are business leaders who take the high road, only to see their efforts outbid by dishonest competitors. This is the couple who honors God in marriage, only to have an empty crib. This is the student who prepares, only to fall short on the exam. These are disciples who launch a boat as Jesus instructed, only to sail headfirst into a tempest. Storms come to the obedient.
And they come with a punch. “The boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it” (v. 24).
Cool air surrounding the mountains east of the sea mixes with the warm tropical air near the water. The result is a tempest. Storms can be fierce on the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus dismissed the disciples at the evening hour. “When they had rowed about three or four miles” (John 6:19), the storm hit. Evening became night, night became windy and rainy, and before long their boat was riding the raging roller coaster of the Galilean sea. The five-mile trip should’ve taken not much more than an hour, but by the fourth watch (three o’clock to six o’clock in the morning) the disciples were still far from the shore.
They deserve credit. They did not turn around and go back to the shore; they persisted in obedience. They kept digging the oars into the water and pulling the craft across the sea. But they fought a losing battle. The storm left them too far from the shore, too long in the struggle, and too small in the waves.
Let’s climb into the boat with them. Look at their rain-splattered faces. What do you see? Fear, for sure. Doubt? Absolutely. You may even hear a question shouted over the wind. “Anyone know where Jesus is?”
The question is not recorded in the text, but it was surely asked. It is today. When a ferocious storm pounces on obedient disciples, where in the world is Jesus?
The answer is clear and surprising: praying.
Jesus had gone “up on a mountainside by himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23).
Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives on the Promises of God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).
I have just completed a 7 Week Bible Study Lesson Series on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book.