35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
The force of the rebuke to the storm was somewhat lost in translation for me. Today as I read the passage I tried to imagine what it would be like on the boat. The fresh water lake looks fairly meek when you see it. I remember thinking that the ‘storm’ must be exaggerated. I have seen storms on the Atlantic and the Pacific and they can look brutal. When I saw little Sea of Galilee, I was kind of disappointed that Jesus probably just calmed a ripple or two and went back to sleep. However, when I saw the small size of the ancient fishing boats and heard how the lake sits in a basin where winds sometimes suddenly converge, I changed my opinion. To be on a small boat tossed by the waves and in very sudden danger of being swamped would be terrifying.
Jesus’ calming of the storm should also be seen in light of ancient near eastern cosmology. The primal cosmos in ancient thought consisted of the waters above and the waters below. They were conceived of as a sort of anti-creation. The waters in the Bible often work against creation in the narrative. There is a harmony or a design for the way the world is meant to be and the forces of Chaos work against that harmonious design. Jesus does the same work as the Spirit of God in Genesis one. He brings order to the chaotic ‘deeps’. This is a powerful demonstration of why a person would pay attention to him and make him their teacher and absolute authority. He calms chaos. When creation seems like it is in rebellion, he reestablishes the order of God, showing in the process that he is God.
The disciples’ fear seems reasonable because it is hard to grasp that your teacher from Galilee is God. If the person you walk with is God and you put your faith in him, even a little faith will reap huge results. So, the disciples’ question is the one we should answer: Who is this?
Who are you, Jesus? Help me to spend time enough with you to get who you are.