In Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8:22-25 we see the story of Jesus and his disciples, who get into a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee. From Matthew,
When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He says to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
The three accounts in the Matthew, Mark and Luke vary only in detail, but there is one more parallel passage in Psalm 107:25-30.
For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind,
Which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths;
Their soul melted away in their misery.
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man,
And were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brought them out of their distresses.
He caused the storm to be still,
So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
3Then they were glad because they were quiet,
So He guided them to their desired haven.
Here, “He” is the Lord, which we carry over from previous verses, most explicitly in verse 21:
“… give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness,
And for His wonders to the sons of men!”
“They” in verses 26,28,28, and 30 refers to those who “go down to the sea in ships” within the Psalm (cf. v.23), and “they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders” (v. 24).
There is no record in the three Synoptic Gospels of Jesus speaking to cause the wind to arise, but it certainly did:
- “behold, there arose a great storm on the sea” (Mt. 8:24)
- “there arises a fierce gale of wind” (Mk. 4:37)
- “a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake” (Luke 8:23)
It is God who controls all natural events including weather, so it was no accident that at the very moment Jesus fell asleep “in the stern… on the cushion” (Mk. 4:38) the stormy gale arose.
Here, the wild ride experienced by those in the boat is described; it seems “rose up into the heavens” and “went down to the depths” describes the movement of the vessel, up to the wave crests (“they rose up”) and down into the troughs (“they went down”). “They reeled and staggered like drunken men” attests to the violence of the wind—moving about the ship is difficult as it is tossed around.
That they were “at their wit’s end” we can see in all of Matthew, Mark and Luke. When “the boat was being covered with the waves” (Mt. 8:24) and “filling up” (Mk. 4:37) and ” they began to be swamped and to be in danger” (Lk. 8:23), those on the ship wake Jesus, saying “we are perishing” (Mt. 8:25, Mk. 4:39, Lk. 8:24).
As we have seen, when the storm became overwhelming they woke Jesus as Matthew’s account records in verse 25: ‘they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”’
In all three accounts, the men come to Jesus at the end, although it is not recorded explicitly in Mark or Luke that they called on Jesus for help.
- “Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.” (Mt. 8:26b)
- “And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.” (Mk. 4:39)
- “And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm.” (Luke 8:24)
In Psalm 107 we see that the Lord “spoke and raised up a stormy wind” (v.25a), here we see Jesus rebuking the wind—and notably in Mark we see that Jesus also speaks to the sea, commanding it to be quiet and still.
Matthew and Luke both record that the men were “amazed”, and it is implied also in Mark by the words that the disciples speak to one another. The amazement was also accompanied by fear—but fear of a different sort than before.
In all three accounts, Jesus questions the disciples, chiding them for their little (Matthew) or lacking (Mark, Luke) faith. Mark records that after Jesus spoke then “they became very much afraid” (v. 41a), and you can sense the awe and amazement in their voices as they say to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mk. 4:41b).
So we see that while they are now no longer afraid of the raging wind and turbulent sea, they now see the power of Jesus’ word, and are rightly afraid of him.
Finally, Jesus had spoken earlier that he wished to cross the lake (cf. Mk 4:35, Lk. 8:22), but didn’t say precisely where. Matthew 8:28, Mark 5:1, and Luke 8:26 record that they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes (Matthew says Gadarenes—Garada and Garasa were both to the South and East of the Sea of Galilee, in the same region, cf. map of the Decapolis). There, he performs a single miracle, and then returns back over the lake.
The parallel isn’t perfect, but there is certainly enough detail shared between the accounts of this episode of the calming of the storm (the other is found in Mt. 14:22-33: Mark 6:45-51; John 6:15-21) and that of Psalm 107 to be worth noting.
As we read the Psalms, there is a constant reminder that God works in all things—even the writing of songs. I suspect Psalm 107 was written by David—did he know that the stanza he wrote about the calming of the sea would one day be prophetically fulfilled by the Messiah he longed to see? I think not, but what joy must he know now, having seen it!