He rebuked them. Though they were following Him. Despite the fact that this storm was one for the record books, a great tempest, a water-topped earthquake. Seemingly not considering that while they bailed water, He appeared remarkably disengaged as He slept. Even though, as they justifiably feared for their lives, they turned to Him for their rescue. Ignoring for the moment that they were being swamped, straight up He called them on their “little faith.”
And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
(Matthew 8:26a ESV)
It wasn’t that they over-assessed the gravity of their situation. But that they were gripped with fear because they had under-assessed who was in the boat with them.
Caught in a great tempest? Then bail with all your might–appropriate response. Overwhelmed by a raging storm? Cry out to Jesus–where else would you go but to the Lord. But be afraid? Be consumed with dread? Cower in fear? O you of little faith.
There’s no way around it. Diagnosis rendered, rebuked tendered. Faith wanting. Because you’ve forgotten who’s in the boat.
Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?”
(Matthew 8:26b-27 ESV)
Seeing the waves subside was but a secondary need for Jesus’ disciples. Their primary need was to see Jesus.
While they knew He was in the boat with them, they didn’t really know who was in the boat with them. Had they, though they would have still bailed, and though they would have still cried out, they would not have been overwhelmed with fear. For with them, in the boat and amidst the storm, was the Lord over the tempest.
In the boat with them was the Good Shepherd, the One who would lay down His life for sheep. The One who came to “give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). And though He seemed disinterested at the time of their perceived greatest need, He was not unaware of the trial, nor caught by surprise by the sudden upheaval, nor disengaged in their struggle. He was with them in the boat. He would speak when it was time to speak. Theirs was to trust and not be afraid.
I start my readings most mornings by praying, “Lord, open my eyes that I might see wondrous things in Your law” (Ps. 119:18) and “Lord, speak to me through Your word.” And honestly, I’m not really looking for a rebuke. Guessing that no one really likes to be called on behavior less than befitting.
But sometimes you need the sting of correction in order to focus again on the Savior. You need a word that turns your gaze away from the tempest and causes you to marvel afresh that your “traveling companion” is the sort of Man that even the winds and sea obey Him. You need the rebuke in order to be reminded who’s in the boat.
And then you marvel. The fear subsides as the awe sets in. And you worshipfully declare, “What sort of Man is this?”
Because of all-sufficient grace. Always for His everlasting glory.