Following Jesus

Jesus Calms The Storm

Luke 8:22-25

Teaching t21078

Introduction

We are studying what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus.  Jesus called his disciples to follow him, and he calls each one of us to do the same.  What will this involve?  What will Jesus ask us to do?  What lessons will he want us to learn?  We get many of the answers to these questions by pondering Lk.8-12, which narrates Jesus’ training of his disciples.  This morning we learn several lessons from an event recorded in Lk.8:22-25.

Read 8:22.  We learn later why Jesus gave this command.  He was going to deliver a man who was possessed by many demons (8:26ff.; NEXT WEEK).

Read 8:23.  Sudden, violent night-time storms like this one are known to occur on the Sea of Galilee.  Because it is ringed by mountains, it is normally very calm.  But cool air sometimes rushes through the ravines and collides with the warm lake air to produce instant storms in the confined area.

Read 8:24,25.  The language is very specific.  The storm did not gradually dissipate; it went from a raging wind and high waves to total calm the instant that Jesus rebuked the storm and uttered the command: “Hush!  Be still” (Mk.4:39).  Notice that Jesus did not pray to God, asking him to calm the storm.  He uttered this command directly; the storm obeyed his authority.  Only God, who created nature, has the authority to make it obey (Ps.107:23:30).  The answer to the disciples’ question (8:25b) is “He is God”—which is why their fear of the storm was replaced by a fear/awe of Jesus.

This is obviously the main lesson Jesus wanted them to learn—that he is the Messiah, God-incarnate who has authority over the forces of nature.  But it also teaches us four other lessons about following Jesus...

Following Jesus does not mean immunity from “storms.”

The first lesson we learn is that following Jesus does not mean immunity from “storms.”  Jesus explicitly told them to go to the other side of the lake.  It was because they were following his leadership that they got into this storm!  And it was because they followed his leadership after this storm that they ran into another terrible “storm”—a confrontation with a demoniac.  So whatever is involved in following Jesus in this life, it is not a “storm-free” existence.

The time will come (when Jesus returns) when there will be no more storms.  Jesus will eradicate all evil and bring lasting peace to humanity and restore nature itself to perfect submission to him and his followers.  But until then, Jesus is headed into an evil, abnormal, broken world to redeem people that he loves.  And until then, following him means that we will have storms break suddenly upon us.  Not only are we not exempt from the storms that everyone faces (e.g., SICKNESS; NATURAL DISASTERS; JOB LOSS; FAMILY HEART-BREAKS).  We will also have additional storms because we are following him to help lost and needy people (e.g., DISCOMFORT & INTERRUPTIONS ; HUMAN OPPOSITION; SATANIC ATTACK).

Unfortunately, some versions of Christianity teach that if you are following Jesus, there will be no storms in your life.  Some preachers explicitly claim that if you have enough faith in Jesus, you will surely have health and wealth.  Others misuse passages like this to teach that if you are following Jesus, he will quickly calm every storm.  Such teaching is false, and because it is false it is harmful to Jesus’ reputation and to those who believe it.  The good news about following Jesus is not that there will be no storms; the good news is when the storms come, Jesus is in your boat!  Yeteven when we expect storms, they still expose the weakness of our faith in Jesus...

Storms expose our “little faith” in Jesus. 

After he calmed this storm, Jesus asked them: “Where is your faith?”  In Matthew’s account, he calls them “little faiths” (Matt.8:26).  Their reaction during the storm exposed the weakness of their faith in Jesus.  What did Jesus see that revealed this?

Mark says that they were very afraid (Mk.4:40).  The word here is deilos, which means “filled with dread” or “cowardly.”1  This is different than the normal emotion of fear that arises in danger (which is not the opposite of faith, but rather its context).  This is letting fear seize you and take control of you so that you start believing and acting on lies.  In their case, they started believing that Jesus didn’t care whether they perished (Mk.4:38).  That’s why he said they were “little faiths.”

Can you relate to the disciples?  I sure can!  Storms far less threatening than theirs can expose me as a “little faith.”  Just last week, a relatively minor storm hit me through a conflict with a co-worker.  Suddenly, I was besieged by dread and nameless fears.  My heart raced and I felt so downcast that I could hardly lift my head from my desk.  I felt like the disciples—like I was all alone before an overwhelming storm.  I prayed, but my prayer was not a confident expression of trust; it was a desperate plea: “This is terrible—where are you?”  My faith was exposed as pathetically “little”—yet Jesus taught me another lesson that he also taught his disciples...

Jesus responds to our “little faith” in him.

Re-read 8:24.  They had “little faith”—yet they called out to him.  And Jesus didn’t say: “Too bad your faith is so weak—come back when it’s stronger.”  He graciously responded to their “little faith” by helping them. 

This same lesson is even clearer in an encounter between Jesus and a man with a demon-possessed son (recount Mk.9:20-25).  Jesus sounds cruel as he exposes this man’s “little faith” (9:23).  The man freely admits that he has “little faith” and humbly asks Jesus to help him with his unbelief.  And Jesus doesn’t rebuff him for his “little faith.”  He graciously responds to his “little faith” by delivering his son.

Do you understand this lesson?  It is critically important.  When we need help from Jesus, we instinctively think that only our strong faith will incline him to help us.  But the truth is exactly the reverse: the object of your faith (Jesus) is far more important than the strength of your faith.  This is true in other important areas of life...

You can have very strong faith that some quack therapist can heal you of your appendicitis, and the placebo effect may alleviate your symptoms temporarily—but you will not be healed.  On the other hand, you can submit yourself as a “little faith” to a competent surgeon, your hand shaking as you sign the permission papers and feeling panic as they wheel you into the O. R.—but you will be healed just as fully as one who had strong faith.  It’s not the strength of your faith that heals you; it is the competence of the surgeon.

This lesson is so important when it comes to following Jesus:

It is so important with regard to becoming a Christian.  What does it take to become a Christian?  It takes entrusting yourself to Jesus to forgive your sins and give you eternal life (Jn.3:16).  “But,” you may say, “I have so little faith and so many doubts about this—certainly far less faith than these Christian friends who are urging me to believe in Jesus.  I must wait until I have much stronger faith before I could become a Christian.”  Don’t you see that you are making the strength of your faith more important than its Object?  Bring the “little faith” that you have to Jesus and ask him to forgive you and give you eternal life!  He will graciously respond to your “little faith”—just as he did with me (TESTIMONY).
It is also important with regard to following Jesus as a Christian.  You will never get to the point where you have perfect faith—you will almost always have fears and doubts when storms hit you.  Don’t beat yourself up for this, or listen to Satan’s accusation that this disqualifies you from Jesus’ help.  Just go to Jesus, freely admitting your fears and doubts, and ask him to help you.  He will not reject you because of your little faith; he will help you.2 
Sometimes he will instantly deliver you from your storm, as in this passage.  More often, he will provide you with strength to get through the storm—and then send it away later.  And sometimes he will not take the storm away until you die—but he will give you the strength to flourish in it (2Cor.12:7-10).  Leave the way of his deliverance to him; come to him and cast yourself upon him.

Jesus challenges us to grow stronger in our faith in him.

There is one more lesson in this passage.  It may sound contradictory to the previous lesson, but it is actually complementary.  Jesus graciously responded to their “little faith”—but afterward he asked them a searching question: “Where is your faith?”  Implicit in these questions is a challenge to grow stronger in their faith in him.  Why?  Not so that Jesus will be more inclined to help, but so that they become less fearful and more confident in his authority, and so that they will represent him better to others.  (This is why you want your young child to trust you.)

Jesus will challenge you and me in the same way and for the same reasons.  How can we grow stronger in our faith in Jesus?  This goes beyond this passage, but here are three key biblical answers to this question:

First and foremost, you can memorize and meditate on God’s promises.  Faith in Jesus is nourished and strengthened by the promises of God’s Word (quote Rom.10:17).  When you memorize and meditate on God’s promises, they strengthen your faith like a good diet strengthens your muscles.  And when a storm comes, they are near at hand for you to grab onto.  Here are three storm-related promises to start with:

1 Cor. 10:13 – God will not allow this storm to be too big for your faith, and he will provide a way to get through this storm.
Rom.8:28 – God is at work through this storm for good in ways that go beyond the strengthening of your faith (EXAMPLES: perseverance; spiritual depth; ability to help others in the future; demonstrating Jesus’ reality to onlookers).
Rom. 8:18 – This storm will not last forever; Jesus is returning to end all storms and usher in God’s glorious eternal kingdom.  10 billion years from now, you will only be on the threshold of the beginning of eternity.  Then this storm will seem like a long-past bad dream.

You can ponder previous examples of Jesus’ faithfulness.  The disciples had never seen Jesus calm a storm, but they had seen him heal others of sickness and raise someone else from the dead.  If they had seen his authority over these things with others, it was reasonable to conclude that he could rescue them from this storm.

This is one of the great benefits of following Jesus over time.  What storms has Jesus already rescued you from/through?  How can you connect that to this storm?  
This is one reason why living in Christian community is so important.  You can talk to people who have been through storms like this one.  Their account of God’s faithfulness can be very fortifying and insightful.

You can choose to act on your faith in some way during the storm.  After affirming God’s promises and asking for help, ask him: “Is there some active step of faith I can take?”  Often, this step will involve serving someone else in the midst of your storm.  This may not take the storm away, but it often does release God’s power to replace fear with peace, confusion with clarity, etc.

Conclusion

SUMMARIZE these lessons.  QUESTIONS & COMMENTS.


1 See Deut.20:8 LXX; Judges7:3 LXX for this meaning.

2 “(The father of the demon-possessed boy) declares that he believes, and yet confesses his unbelief.  Although these two things seem inconsistent, in fact there is no one who does not experience much the same thing inwardly.  A perfect faith is nowhere to be found . . . yet in his kindness, God pardons us and reckons us to be believers on account of our small portion of faith . . . (So) we must flee to him for comfort . . .”  John Calvin.