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§ 131. Christ subdues a Storm on the Sea.—Character of the Act as a Miracle.—Its moral Significance.

The disciples had many opportunities, on the Sea of Genesareth, of contrasting their own spiritual feebleness with the calmness of the Saviour’s soul; an experience that was useful, not only at the time, but as a preparation for their own subsequent calling.

On one occasion,318318   Luke, viii., 22-25; Matt., viii., 23-27; Mark, iv., 36-41. The connexion of this history with that of the Gadarene in the text of the Evangelists is a proof of historical reality, no causal ground of such a connexion exists. sailing from the western to the eastern shore of the sea, in a vessel with a number of his disciples and others, he sunk into sleep, probably worn out with his previous labours in supplying the physical as well as spiritual necessities of the people. While he was asleep, a storm arose, so violent as to threaten the destruction of the vessel. The disciples, full of consternation, and always accustomed to seek his aid in distress, now roused him from sleep. In a few short words he commands the winds and the waves to “be still,” and is obeyed; a calm is spread over the face of nature. He mildly rebukes the disciples: “Where is your faith? what sort of trust in God is this, which can so easily be shaken?”

Not only the disciples, but the other persons in the ship, were deeply impressed by this miracle. One of the strangers319319   The expression οἱ ἀνθρωποιin Matt., indicates that these persons were not disciples. (for the disciples had seen too many of his wonders to ask such a question) exclaimed. “What kind of man is this, that even the elements obey him.”

The question has been started whether this occurrence cannot be explained from the subjective apprehension of the men themselves, e. g., as follows. When Jesus awoke, and spoke calmly to them, his composure quieted their perturbed minds. A calm in the elements ensued; and they transferred the impression made upon their minds to Nature. Interpreting the few words uttered by Christ in this way, they involuntarily altered them a shade in repeating them afterward.


Now, even if this theory were admitted, it would leave the Divine image of Christ untouched in its sublimity. He that, on awaking suddenly from sleep, could impress men’s minds with such a belief, by a word and a glance, must have been the Son of God.

But the theory cannot be admitted. Christ must have known that the observers looked upon his words as the cause of the calm that ensued, and would not have employed a deceit to confirm their faith in his sovereignty, which, resting upon the foundations of truth, needed no such props as this. He would rather have taken occasion, from such a misunderstanding (had it occurred), to convey a useful lesson to his future Apostles. He would have told them, probably, that his work was, not to subdue the storms and waves of nature, but of men’s souls; that to souls full of his peace and joy no powers of the world could bring terror.

In short, our interpretation of the event will depend upon the general view of the person of Christ with which we set out. Were an achievement like this attributed to a saint, we should be entitled to give it such an interpretation as the above; but it is ascribed to Jesus, the Son of God, who revealed, in the history which we have of his life, powers adequate to such a deed.

The moral design of the miracle was, partly, to impress his sovereignty upon the minds of certain persons who had before seen no exhibitions of it; and, partly, to confirm the faith of the Apostles in his power to subjugate nature, and make her operations tributary to the kingdom of God. And this sensible miracle was an image of that higher spiritual one which Christ works in all ages, in speaking peace to the soul amid all the tempests of life, and in bringing to obedience all the raging powers that oppose the progress of his kingdom.

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