“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 seeing the display of his diety. The seasoned fisherman worked tirelessly to right the ship, but 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, who undoubtedly had weathered many storms, this one was different, and they were quickly taking on water.
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, “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 the water falling and settling into place instantaneously? Unlike the wave pool at the amusement park, which gradually increases and decreases the strength of the waves, this time the water didn’t just settle down, it completely stopped and became smooth as glass. The crisis on the outside of the boat was averted, but soon an internal crisis in the disciples’ minds began to stir as the gravity of what they had just witnessed began to sink in.
Relief, followed by greater fear filled their hearts. In a moment, they realized that more terrifying than the storm outside their boat was God himself 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?”Mark 4:41
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 midst of 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.”
Friend, you and I may feel the turbulent sea underneath our feet, and see the waves crashing inside our boat. We don’t know how long the storm will last, or what the final outcome will be. But we can trust that the one who can command the wind and waves to “Be still,” is greater than whatever storm you face.
Because He’s always in your boat,
P.S. To this day, the art that was stolen from the museum remains missing. However, the museum reminds patrons of its absence with an empty picture frame that still hangs 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.