Who’s in your boat? What a strange question — I don’t have a boat, don’t need a boat, don’t want a boat. As we shall see, it’s a vital question to ask if we are to grow in our Christian walk. The stories in the Gospels about the apostles present more than history; they illustrate lessons we should learn. Taking the time to study them in detail provides many lessons for us. The story you’re about to read is real; none of the names have been changed because only one was innocent. We’ll pick up the story on a typical day after Jesus finished teaching the multitudes following Him, as Jesus and the disciples are left alone to travel to their next location.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. (Mark 4:35–36 NKJV)
Jesus tells them to cross over to the other side with Him. Matthew’s record of this event says “He gave a command to depart to the other side (Matthew 8:18)” — this was not a suggestion. When Jesus gives a command, you can be sure there is a purpose — in this case an opportunity for the disciples to grow (an offer they couldn’t refuse, you might say). And to their credit, Luke says “they launched out”. There was no question of Jesus’ authority here; they simply did what they were commanded to do. How many times do we miss this point? When you get a command from the Lord, how do you handle it? Do you immediately obey, or put it off? Recall when Jonah decided to ignore the command of God — he got a little one-on-one tutoring from the Lord, and the time needed to digest (pun intended) the lesson!
That’s the first problem we encounter — obeying the voice of God. Frequently we don’t want to follow where He commands us to go. Or we start arguing and debating with God, like we know better what to do. It is better to do what the disciples did; follow His command. But just as He spoke to the disciples — “let us” — He says the same to us. Wherever He directs us, He goes with us. We don’t have to fear going alone.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. (Mark 4:37 NKJV)
It’s important to know these were professional fishermen. They spent their life on this lake and knew it well. Severe storms on this lake appeared frequently and caused by the specific geography in the region. Most likely, they had seen many storms before — but this one was different. So when they panic, you can be sure it’s a big and unusual storm.
But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. (Mark 4:38a NKJV)
Ever think God is asleep? Here I am sinking in a storm, my boat filling with water, and He’s sleeping! That’s not true, of course. The good shepherd is always watching over His flock. But notice He is with them. At no point did He ever leave them. With Jesus with you, are you ever in danger? That’s our lesson. If the creator of the universe says to cross over, you’re going to make it! As the storms come, it’s easy to forget this simple point. In the midst of trials, we often forget God has not abandoned us, and is where He’s always been (and always will be) — on His throne watching over His people.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills; From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. (Psalm 121:1–3 NKJV)
It’s important what Jesus didn’t say — He didn’t say it would be smooth sailing; so many times we only hear what we want to. Many so-called “Bible teachers” skip promises in the Bible like “In the world you will have tribulation (John 16:33)” — no promise exists of smooth sailing in life — just the opposite.
Did Jesus know about the soon to come storm? Of course. But He also knew the boat would make it to the other side. The question is (if He knew), why would He deliberately send them into the midst of it? It’s a heresy to believe if you’re sick or broke or in a trial it’s because God doesn’t love you or isn’t watching out for you. In this case, Jesus knowingly sends them into a storm. Why? Perhaps it’s because a lesson must be learned that can’t be learned any other way. No pain, no gain.
And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38b NKJV)
They wake Jesus up, believing they are dying! More than that, they think Jesus doesn’t care. It’s a problem we often find ourselves in — thinking God has forgotten us, or worse doesn’t care about our present situation. But not a bird can fall to the ground without His knowledge. We can be sure He is aware of everything going on. The problem is we don’t understand what is going on, and our lack of understanding leads to a doubt of His looking out for us. God NEVER promises we will understand everything going on, but does promise that “all things work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28 NKJV)” — and that includes storms.
Remember, these were professional fishermen; it was their livelihood to navigate on this lake. The fact they feared for their life meant this was no average storm. It was fiercer than anything they had ever seen — this storm was real, and their perceived danger was real. Yet they were never in any real danger; nothing can happen without the consent of God. If He doesn’t approve it, it ain’t gonna happen. Jesus said not to fear anyone who can kill the body, but fear God (Matthew 10:28–31).
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39 NKJV)
There is a great picture depicting this exact moment I’d love to have. The storm clouds are still visible, and there are the disciples in this old boat, with Jesus standing up with His arms outstretched, as if giving a command. The sea is smooth as glass. Wow. In any event, He says three words, and everything is calm. It doesn’t matter how fierce the storm is, a few words from Jesus and it’s gone. Remember that.
Jesus of course knew they were in no real danger. How could they be with the creator of the universe in the boat with them? Yet we travel each day with the same advantage they had — and forget it as easily as they did. If Jesus is in your boat, are you in any danger? Do you remember that? *”I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20 NKJV)”.
But it’s curious the phrase Jesus uses — He rebuked the sea. Strange. You wouldn’t rebuke something inanimate would you? But this storm was particularly fierce; could it be that satan had his hand in this? Perhaps. How many of our trials are due to our own stupidity, and how many are caused by forces aligned with satan? I don’t know. But if this storm (or a storm you are going through) is satan’s doing, how much effort did Jesus expend in eliminating satan’s storm? Three words. How big is your God? Can He take care of all of your needs? “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27 NKJV)”.
But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40 NKJV)
Why indeed. If the creator of the universe is in your boat, what can go wrong?
We assume they lacked faith in His deity. But if that were true, why would they wake Him up? If you or I were in the boat sleeping, would they wake us up? No. Why? Because we don’t have the ability to help the situation. Waking Jesus up was an admission they knew He had the power to help them. Why then this rebuke? What faith did they lack? They lacked faith in His plan. Earlier He said “let’s go to the other side”. They doubted His plan would be carried out.
Faith is important to God. In fact, it is impossible to please Him without it. (Hebrews 11:6). But like anything else, how do you acquire faith? By exercising your spiritual muscles. It’s easy to talk about faith, but just like your physical body, faith diminishes without being exercised. It’s not something you can acquire without using, or just say “Today I’m going to have faith”. And just like your muscles, when you exercise your faith, sometimes you get sore and tired. This storm was a way for the disciples to have the opportunity to grow — they were never in any real danger, just exercising their spiritual muscles.
And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41 NKJV)
It’s amazing the guys who lived with Jesus didn’t grasp fully who He was until later.
The more you think about this small story the more it reveals the nature of God, our frequent lack of trust in Him, His love, and His provision. Just like the disciples, we also face severe storms, but we have the same advantage the disciples did — the creator of the universe is in our boat as well! How often do we panic during a storm, instead of realizing who is riding with us?
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJV)
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5 NKJV)
And David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God; my God; will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 28:20 NKJV)
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NKJV)
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20 NKJV)”
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? (Jeremiah 32:27 NKJV)”