At the bidding of their Master, His fishermen-disciples launched forth upon as calm a sea as ever the sun shone upon. They had sent away the multitude and taken Him “even as He was in the ship” and put Him in the hinder part of it—which was the helmsman’s seat. It did not call for much confidence in His skill to entrust the steering of their boat to Him on that fair evening, but they had scarcely settled down to their oars when there roared upon them a great tempest such as the Galilean sea is famous for. But never in all their experience had those well-seasoned boatmen seen anything like this one; it looked like a battle for life, and only by skillful steering could they hope to outride that storm, and lo, the helmsman was asleep. Perfect peace in the storm!
But what now? If the helm had been in the capable hands of one of the sons of Zebedee, or if wide-awake Simon had had control they might have had hope of reaching a safe anchorage, but what hope could there be for them while the helmsman slept? As the tempest grew in violence their terror increased, until at last they awoke Him with that cry of anguished unbelief. “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” And in that cry their Master’s power over the storm and His love for them were alike questioned.
At the cry of His disciples the Lord rose up from His sleep and there shone forth a gleam of His glory. With tender compassion in His heart for their weakness and with the quiet of an eternal calm in His wondrous eyes, and with omnipotence in the words of His mouth, He spoke to the storm and the great billows fell at His feet in mute submission as a spaniel cowers at the feet of its master.
It is not the Lord’s power over the storm that I want to stress but His peace in it. “His head was on a pillow laid and He was fast asleep.” His peace was as wonderful as His power. Why had those men who followed Him no faith? How outrageous their doubts of Him were! They might have stretched themselves beside Him and shared His rest. They might have known the wonder of untroubled peace in the greatest tempest they had ever experienced and made that night memorable by their confidence in Him.
Those disciples were safe when that great calm spread itself out upon the sea, but they were just as safe when the billows thundered down upon them, for the Lord was with them in the boat, and His presence was the pledge of their safety. And what of us? We have spoken of safety in Him in fair weather; we have professed to trust Him in pleasant circumstances; but what now in the raging of the storm? Verily, we are sailing on a tempestuous sea and our confidence in Him is being tested. Is He with us? Have we taken Him even as He is into our boats and committed the steering of our lives to Him? If so, shall we fail as these men failed?
Suppose He allows the trial to deepen in its intensity, and is apparently asleep as to it, can we still trust in Him? When Paul was in the great storm at sea, he said “I believe God,” and later when in prison and facing martyrdom he wrote, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” We are not to seek for trouble, for the Lord taught His disciples to pray “deliver us from evil,” and it is right that we should desire that conditions should be such that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all honesty and godliness. And with this in view we are invited to let our requests be made known unto God with thanksgiving, and the result shalt be that the peace of God shall garrison our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
But suppose the storm continues, and it is the will of God that we should be greatly tested. What then?
The Lord slept in the storm, and that sleep was the evidence that He was indeed a man, knowing weariness through labor and the rest that sleep gives; and it is remarkable that the only time that we read of Him sleeping was in the storm. What was the secret of that wonderful repose? Upon what pillow did He put down His head? The secret was His perfect confidence in God, and His pillow was His Father’s changeless love. We know that He was more than man, His command of the elements proved that and He guided and controlled the boat even while He slept; but He was man, and never used His divine power for His own advantage or comfort. He lived in absolute dependence upon His Father whose word He obeyed day by day. His Father’s will was His will and He knew that His Father’s will for Him was always right; He laid Him down to sleep in the knowledge that God would keep His beloved in all His ways; the ever-blessed and absolutely dependent Jesus rested there.
Christian, He gives that pillow to us, and we may find sweet repose in the midst of trouble. He says, “My peace I give unto you…not as the world gives give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27); He also said, “My Father and your Father, My God and your God” (John 20:17). Knowing this we may say, “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety” (Psalms 4:8). And if fear arises in the heart and the cry breaks forth, “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” the answer is “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).