One evening, after a day full of preaching to crowds, Jesus said to His disciples, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake” (Mark 4:35). Along the journey, a ferocious storm picked up and started swamping all the boats. The disciples in the boat with Jesus started to get panicky—it must have been quite a squabble to distress seasoned sailors! They woke up Jesus, who had been sleeping, and cried, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are about to die?!”
Well, the storm did not come from God, because Jesus stood up and rebuked it. Mark 4:39 records that He “shouted to the sea, ‘Hush! Calm down!'” And of course, the water calmed and the demonic winds ceased. Then Jesus asked His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Haven’t you learned to trust yet” (4:40)? You may be familiar with different translations, which render His question, “Have you still no faith?”
A timeless narrative, indeed. Here are a few observations I made.
1. Jesus promised the disciples they would reach the other side.
Look at it. Jesus had every intention of arriving at His destination with His disciples. He didn’t say, “Come along; we are going to go drown in the sea.” No, He said, “Come along; we are going to the other side.” It didn’t matter that a storm struck. It wouldn’t have mattered if ten storms struck! Jesus was taking His disciples to the other side.
2. The disciples didn’t believe Jesus was going to keep His word.
The reality of the hurricane, the threat of death revealed what the disciples actually believed. They believed Jesus didn’t care about their condition; they believed Jesus didn’t care whether they lived or died. Isn’t it amazing that after witnessing the impeccable character of Jesus and His extraordinary miracles, that the disciples’ internal belief system still had not changed? Perhaps the tribe of twelve thought they trusted in Jesus—but the storm proved they did not.
3. The storm did not come from God.
Jesus would not rebuke something that came from God. He is perfectly unified with the Father. On earth He only did what the Father did (John 5:19), and is in fact one with the Father (John 10:30). To rebuke what His Father did would be utterly contrary to the nature of Jesus. To take it a step further, perhaps the storm was not an ordinary storm but in fact demonically charged; Dr. Brian Simmons, a theologian and pastor, proposed in his footnotes in The Passion Translation that “the devil knew that if Jesus crossed to the other side, He would cast out the demon horde that had long terrorized the entire region” of the Gadarenes (see Mark 5), and therefore was trying to prevent Jesus from entering the region.
4. Jesus wanted the disciples to have faith.
Had the disciples trusted Jesus, He would not have corrected them. But what would faith have looked like in this scenario? Continuing to paddle? Bailing out water? Curling up next to Jesus and sleeping alongside Him? Doing nothing? Jesus didn’t explicitly say what the alternative to despair would have been… only that their lack of faith concerned Him.
Now, what do these four observations mean for us?
First, Jesus keeps His promises.
There are many promises God has given us in the Bible. He promises to never leave us by ourselves (Hebrews 13:5), and He assures us that when we walk through violent storms, He will be right there with us (Isaiah 43:2). I have recently been feasting on a lyric from the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” which rings out, “There is no shadow of turning with Thee!” Yes, there’s not even a thought in His mind of loosening His grip on us. Nothing will ever stop Him from loving us with much joyful thoughtfulness and without conditions (Romans 8:38-39)!
And there are specific promises God has given to you. Maybe He gave you the promise that you would receive a particular career opportunity. Maybe He said you would have a child. Maybe He said your dear family member would find salvation in your lifetime. Friend, a mere storm won’t distract Jesus from keeping His word. Even a terrifying, demonic, life-changing hurricane will not stop Jesus from seeing His precious promise all the way through to its glorious fulfillment. He is taking you to the other side of the lake! He will not be found unfaithful.
Second, we must believe that Jesus keeps His promises!
What we believe always, always, always determines how we respond. A man can say over and over again that he’s not scared of flying, but suddenly when he’s on an airplane, he’s openly terrified. Or, the disciples can say that they trust Jesus, but the moment they get a little wet, they accuse Jesus of letting them drown. Storms have a funny way of proving to us what we actually believe.
We can sing and preach and declare left and right all day long that Jesus keeps His promises—but actually believing it is quite a different kind of song, sermon, and declaration.
What is your storm? A financial difficulty, a loveless marriage, barrenness, rejection, aloneness, betrayal? Have you been fighting the waves at the helm for a long time? Has your crew abandoned you? Is water spilling into your boat, even as you read this? Worst of all, does it feel like Jesus is actually sleeping through your hour of greatest need?
Here’s a litmus test for Christians: does the way you’re responding to life reflect the fact that Jesus always keeps His promises?
I know, I know… that’s terribly confronting. But it’s such an important question. Sometimes, even my thoughts don’t always indicate that I believe Jesus will do what He said He will do.
Listen, all my friends who feel alone on a sinking boat: Jesus keeps His promises. Always. And believe that Jesus keeps His promises. Always.
Our Jesus is good. Our Jesus thinks wonderful and happy thoughts about you, His beloved. Our Jesus is convinced of your potential to accomplish great things with Him. Our Jesus silences the storm. Our Jesus is bringing you from glory to glory. Our Jesus will take you to the other side of the lake, just you wait.