“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
On March 18, 1990, two thieves disguised as police officers, broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, and pulled off the biggest art theft in history. In a real-life Thomas Crown Affair heist, the thieves brazenly removed thirteen priceless works of art from their frames. They made two trips to their car with the stolen loot and then vanished. Among the stolen pieces was Rembrandt’s only seascape, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” which depicts the terrified disciples on the raging sea, fearful they were about to die.
A Great Windstorm Arose
Mark 4 tells us the story that inspired Rembrandt’s masterpiece. After an exhausting day of teaching, healing, and crowds pressing in on every side, Jesus and his disciples climbed into a boat to travel to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. In the story, we see a glimpse of Jesus’ humanity prior to an undeniable display of diety. The disciples, who were seasoned fishermen and used to the unpredictable nature of the sea worked tirelessly to keep the ship from sinking. Somehow, through all the temptest, Jesus, exhausted from ministry, was fast asleep on a pillow in the stern of the ship.
The Sea of Galilee is a unique body of water because it sits below sea level and is surrounded by mountains. When the winds come down from the mountains, they create a whirlpool effect of violent and unpredictable water. Even though many of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen by trade, and had undoubtedly weathered many storms, this one was different. They were quickly taking on water, and their situation went from bad to worse.
In their panic, they woke Jesus up and cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).
Then Jesus did the unthinkable.
A Great Rebuke & A Great Calm
He rebuked the wind and said to the sea and said, “Peace! Be still! And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).
You’ve probably experienced wind that suddenly stops, but can you imagine water that did the same? Unlike the wave pool at the amusement park, where the water gradually increases and decreases,when Jesus rebuked the waves, they didn’t just settle down, they completely stopped and became smooth as glass. The instant calm averted the crisis on the outside of the boat, but an internal crisis kicked up in the disciples’ minds.
First there was relief, followed by greater fear. In a moment, they realized that what was more terrifying than the storm outside their boat was that God himself was inside their boat.
“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for the disciples to one minute fear the storm and the next minute fear the one who calmed it with a word? Their relief of being delivered was quickly overshadowed by a greater fear, being in the the unmistakable presence of God. How often do we, in the midst of our storms, focus on the power of the wind and waves, and not on the power of the one who controls them?
What can we learn from this story when we’re facing our own storms? We’re supposed to draw the same conclusion the disciples did. Our focus should not to be on the size and scope of the storm itself, but on the one who controls it. By having a bigger view of God, our storms shrink down to their proper size.
The disciples began by asking Jesus, “Do you care that we’re perishing?” Not only does he care, but he’s provided his Word to help us see our storms in light of who he is. God is our comfort and peace in the midst of our storms.
10 Comforting Bible Verses to Help You Find Peace in Your Storm
In the storms of life, the best anchor we can hold on to is God’s Word. Here are 10 Bible verses to find peace and comfort in the midst of your storm.
- Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
- Isaiah 54:10
For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
- Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Romans 8:28
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
- Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
- Isaiah 26:3
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
- Psalm 23
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
- 1 Peter 5:10
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
- John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid
- Psalm 107:29-30
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven
An Awe-some & Fear-some Reality
We love that the Lord can calm storms with a word, and we stand in awe at his power over creation.
But how can you rightly see God at work in the storms of your life, even if the waters are lapping over into your boat?
The questions Jesus asked his disciples apply to us too.
- Why are you afraid?
- Have you still no faith?
Rembrandt must’ve known something of the peace that comes to those who ride out life’s storms with God in their boat. Look a little closer at his painting.
There’s an extra character among the twelve disciples in the scene that resembles the artist himself. Rembrandt pictured himself in the uncertainty of that stormy sea. He looks out to the viewer as if to say, “Hold on to your hat, you’re gonna like how this one ends.”
Are there storms raging in your life today? Do you feel the turbulent sea beneath your feet, and see waves lapping into your boat? Storms are scary, and when we’re in the middle of them, we can’t help but focus on the storm’s strength, but more fearsome than any storm, is the one who commands the wind and the waves to “be still.” Who is this man that even the wind and waves obey him? It’s Jesus, and he’s always with you in your boat.
Because he cares for you,
P.S. To this day, the stolen art remains missing. However, the museum reminds patrons of its absence with an empty picture frame still hanging in its original place.
P.P.S. If you’re curious about holy leisure, I invite you to check out this free download From Quiet Time to Holy Leisure Time. It’s designed to help you reframe this most important part of your day — time with the Lord.