What comes to mind when we read the story of the disciples in this passage is that they are desperate and in a high degree of panic. We can understand why: they are in a life-threatening situation beyond their capabilities. It is a storm they cannot handle. I’m sure all the physical symptoms are there – the sweaty palms, the tension headaches, the clenched jaws, the rapid breathing. Have you ever been in a desperate situation like that? Most of us have had a few of those.
There are three things that intensified the fear factor for the disciples in this situation. First, the storm itself, described as a great storm. Matthew, in his gospel, describes it as a sea quake. It is a killer storm, somewhat common on this sea, situated so that wind came down across the lake in a funnel. Often this sea became a watery grave for sailors. The disciples are caught right in the middle, unable to get off the sea. Second, Jesus is sleeping, seemingly indifferent. The disciples even accuse him, “Don’t you care?” Third, the timing would have added to the fear factor. This is at the front end of Jesus’ ministry. The disciples are young in their faith, growing in their knowledge of Jesus. They don’t know Jesus all that well yet. At the back end they can say, “You are the Christ” but at this time they were still ignorant in their knowledge.
This storm helps the disciples, however, in two revelatory ways. The storm reveals two great things. First, who Jesus is. This is the greatest revelation. At the end of the story they are taken over by another fear, the fear of God. This is the fear they needed. Verse 41, “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’” So, they begin to see just how great Jesus is. Another revelation takes place. They see themselves, how shallow and weak their faith is. Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid?” (Verse 40). He doesn’t rebuke them for being afraid, that’s quite natural. But rather why are you excessively afraid? They weren’t exercising faith.
So, the storm was revelatory. This is true for all of us. Whenever we go through trials we often ask why? Perhaps many reasons but two great ones: God will bring us to trials to show us Himself and show us ourselves. Trials help us see how great God is and how weak we are and how little faith we have. Trials help us develop a greater fear of God and see how much more we need to grow. We always continue to grow, so we will always need trials. We need to depend more upon God, His grace and wisdom.