Morning Sermon: Jesus Calms The Stormy Sea, Luke 8:22-25

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 77

“TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO JEDUTHUN. A PSALM OF ASAPH. I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search: ‘Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?’ Selah Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (Psalm 77, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Luke 8:22-25

“One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?’” (Luke 8:22–25, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


There are two questions that I would like to ask concerning this text that is open before us today. Firstly, what does this story about the calming of the stormy sea teach us about Jesus? Secondly, what does this story about the calming of the stormy sea teach us about being a disciple of Jesus? 


What Does The Story Of The Calming Of The Sea Teach Us About Jesus? 

That this story is meant to teach us something about Jesus is made clear by the question asked at the end. The disciples “marveled, saying to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” Who is this man? That is a great question, don’t you think?

And I will have you notice that three more stories follow this one in Luke’s Gospel that prompt us to ask the same question, who is this man? In Luke 8:26-39 we learn that Jesus cast demons out of a man. In Luke 8:40-48 we learn that he healed a woman of chronic illness. In Luke 8:49-56 we learn that Jesus raised a twelve-year-old girl from the dead. Each one of these stories should prompt us to ask the question, who then is this? Who is this who has authority over the wind and the waves of the sea, demons, sickness, and even death? Who is this Jesus?

Well, let’s focus our attention on the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. What does this story teach us about who Jesus is? Two things: First, it shows us that Jesus is truly human. Secondly, it shows us that Jesus is God. 

That Jesus is truly human is evident throughout this story. He used his human mind and his human will to choose to take his disciples to the other side of the lake to the gentile land of Gerasenes. And he carried out the decision made with his human mind and will through his human body – he walked as you and I would walk and he got into a boat, and then he used his human voice, powered by human lunges and shaped by a human tongue to speak in a human language to other human beings, saying, “‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out…” (Luke 8:22, ESV). And as they journeyed across the lake, Jesus’ human body (and soul) grew tired – he was physically (and probably mentally) exhausted from all of the travel and teaching – and so “as they sailed he fell asleep” (Luke 8:23a, ESV). So then, the first thing that we must say about Jesus in answer to the question, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”, is that he is a man. He possesses a true human body and a true human soul.   

You might be tempted to think that this is a throwaway observation – one so obvious that it is hardly worth mentioning – but you would be mistaken. First of all, many throughout history have errored by denying that Jesus is truly human. These errors take many different forms. Some have denied that he has a true human body. Others have denied that he has a true human soul – a human mind, a human will, and human affections. These errors must be avoided. Christ was and is truly human in every respect. Secondly, this is no throwaway observation because our salvation depends upon the true humanity of Christ. While it is true that no mere man could earn the salvation of sinners, it is also true that a man had to do it. Though Christ is no mere man, he truly is a man, and for this reason, he is qualified to be our Redeemer and Savior.  A true son of Adam had to live an obedient life and die a sacrificial death to bring many sons and daughters of Adam to glory, and this is what Jesus Christ has done.  The Scriptures speak of the necessity of the true humanity of Christ for our salvation in many places. Hebrews 2 is very beautiful. It says, among other things, that Christ “had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:17–18, ESV). And something similar is said about Christ in Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15–16, ESV)

“Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” First, he is Jesus the Messiah, a true man. Secondly, he is Jesus the Messiah, one who is more than a man. Indeed, he is the eternal Son or Word of God, the second person of the Triune God, incarnate. This is demonstrated by the authority that Jesus exercised even over the wind and the waves of the sea. In verse 23b we read, “And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm” (Luke 8:23–24, ESV). 

That this was a miracle should be clear to all. The storm that came upon Jesus and his disciples in that boat was large and furious, so much so that the disciples (some of whom were fishermen, mind you) were convinced that were dead men. Yet, the wind immediately died down and the sea became calm at the moment that Christ sent forth his word. This was a miracle. It was a demonstration that Jesus was no ordinary man. And so it is no wonder that the disciples marveled and asked, “Who then is this..?”

But the true meaning or significance of this miracle becomes clear when we look back upon the Old Testament Scriptures to think about the theme of stormy waters that threaten the lives of God’s people and God’s power and authority over those waters. Let me briefly remind you of this biblical theme. 

First, do not forget about the turbulent waters that covered the earth at the beginning of the first day of creation and before God formed and fashioned the earth into a place suitable for human habitation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters…” (Genesis 1:1–3, ESV). Verse 6: “And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’” Verse 9: “And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:9, ESV). The earthly realm that was created by God in the beginning was, at first, not a place for humans to dwell. We might say that waters threatened our very existence. But God subdued the waters. And how did he do it? By the Word of his power. So, when Christ calmed the stormy sea with his voice he did it to show his disciples who he truly was. He is no mere man. He is the eternal Word of the Father – the one through whom the heavens and earth were created in the beginning and the one through whom the primordial waters were separated and subdued – incarnate. The Apostles John states this truth at the very beginning of his gospel. He speaks of Jesus Christ when he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1–3, ESV). Verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV). When Jesus Christ commanded the wind and the waves of the sea and they listened, we are to think of the Father creating through the Word and by the Spirit in the beginning. Jesus Christ is the Word. 

Secondly, I will (very briefly) remind you of the story of the flood. It was God who commanded the flood waters to rise and fall. 

Thirdly, I will remind you of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea by the hand of Moses at the time of the Exodus. Granted, the waters of the sea parted when Moses lifted up his staff (Exodus 14:16) but the story is very clear, it was the God who parted the waters of the sea. Moses was simply his instrument (“The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14, ESV)). Things were very different with Jesus Christ. He spoke with an authority all his own when he calmed the wind and the waves. 

Fourthly, I will (very briefly) remind you of the story of the stopping up of teh waters of the Jordan River in the days of Joshua and at the time of the conquest (Joshua 3). God did that for Isarel. Joshua and especially the priests were his instruments. Jesus here demonstrates that he is greater than Joshua and the priests of Aaron for he commanded the wind and the waves with his own authoritative word. 

The fifth and last Old Testament text I would like to remind you of is the story of Jonah. This, I think, is a very interesting connection. As a bit of a side note, I read the book of Jonah in my morning devotions on the same day that I started preparation for this sermon. The similarities and differences between Jonah 1 and this story in Luke 8 are very interesting. Jonah was a rebellious prophet who abhorred the thought of ministering to the Gentiles in Ninavah. Jesus was happy to go to the Gentiles. A storm arose and threatened Jonah’s life as a judgment from God. Jonah 1:4 says, “But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up” (Jonah 1:4, ESV). The storm of Luke 8 was not sent by God to judge Jesus and his disciples but it was permitted by him to be used for his glory. Both of the stories are similar in that Jesus and Jonah are said to have been fast asleep. Jonah 1:5-6 says, “But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, ‘What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish’” (Jonah 1:5–6, ESV). Jonah could not calm the storm, for he was a mere man. In fact, his prayers would do no good, for he was in rebellion against God. The relief came to the people in Jonah’s boat only after Jonah – that rebellious prophet – was thrown overboard. After that the LORD caused the storm to cease.  The text tells us that these pagans who were spared “feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows” (Jonah 1:16, ESV). On the most basic level, we are to see that in the story of Jonah, God himself commanded the wind and sea to make it rage and to make it calm again, and here in our passage for today Christ demonstrates that he possesses this same power and authority, for he is no mere man, but is the eternal Word of God incarnate. On a bit deeper level, I do believe that we are to compare and contrast Jesus and Jonah. Both were prophets called to bring light to the Gentiles. Both calmed the stormy sea. Both spent three days in Sheol and in a tomb and were resurrected, Jonah in a typological way (I think) and Christ in reality. But Jesus is a far greater Prophet. He was obedient to the Father. He cared for the nations. And he did not merely carry within him the word of God, he is the Word of God incarnate, and he demonstrated this when he calmed the stormy sea with his voice.    

“Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” He is the eternal Word of God, the Creator of heaven and earth, God Almighty, the second person of the Triune God incarnate. He is the one who has authority even over the wind and waves of the sea. He calmed the waters of the Sea of Galilee. More importantly, he has calmed the waters of God’s wrath for all who are in the boat with him, being united to him by faith. He, like Jonah, would calm the waters of God’s wrath by being cast into the grave and by going down into Sheol through the suffering and death of the cross, and he, like Jonah, would rise again on the third day in victory.  


What Does The Story Of The Calming of The Sea Teach Us About Being A Disciple Of Jesus? 

Now we come to our second question. What does this story about Jesus’ calming of the stormy sea teach us about being a disciple of Jesus? 

Firstly, being a disciple of Jesus means that we must get into the boat with him to follow him wherever he leads.

A disciple is a follower or learner. To have faith in Christ is to follow him, learn from him, and obey him. We see an image of this in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These Gospels tell us about men following after Jesus in a very literal way. He called them, and they left their old way of life behind and walked with him in the world to learn from him and obey him. And here in the story that is before us today, we see a particular instance of this. Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, “‘Let us go across to the other side of the lake.’ So they set out…”  They obeyed his voice. They responded to his call. They got into the boat with Jesus and followed after him. 

Though we do not see Jesus in the flesh presently, the same is still true for you and me. If we have faith in Christ, we are his disciples. This means we are followers and learners of Jesus. Of course, we walk with him by faith and not by sight. He leads us, not in the flesh, but by his word and Spirit. And he is certainly present with us. He is separated from us bodily, being now enthroned in heaven at the Father’s right hand, but he is present with us to lead us and teach us according to his divinity and in the Holy Spirit he has poured out. 

Friends, I ask you, do you think of yourself as a disciple, learner, and follower of Jesus?  The disciples who walked with him in his earthly ministry certainly thought of themselves in this way. In a sense, it was easier for them to be mindful of this relationship. When they woke in the morning, they saw their Rabbi in the flesh with their physical eyes. They could hear his voice with their physical ears. For you and I who live nearly 2,000 years after his resurrection and ascension, things are different. We cannot see him now. And we do not hear his audible voice. But we are no less disciples of his.

Do not forget the commission that Christ gave to his Apostles, and through them to the church, before he ascended bodily. He said,  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Jesus did not stop making disciples when he ascended bodily. No, the work was just beginning. Many more disciples of Jesus have been made after he was taken from our sight than in the days of his earthly ministry. How can this be? How can a Rabbi have disciples if he is not present with him? Well, the answer is that he cannot. But Jesus is present with us. We have his word. We have his Holy Spirit. Christ is with us, not in his humanity, but in his divinity, for as the eternal Word or Son of the Father he is as omnipresent as he has ever been. 

I know this might sound strange to you, but our privileges as disciples of Jesus are greater, not less, than the privileges experienced by the disciples of Jesus when he walked with them on earth.  Christ is nearer to us now. He is more intimately involved. He is more active in his teaching now that he has ascended. Christ himself taught this. I am thinking of his words to his disciples as recorded in John 14:18. He spoke of his death, resurrection, and ascension, saying, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” In John 14:23 he said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” And in John 16:7 he said, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” The Helper that he speaks of is the Holy Spirit. 

A Rabbi cannot effectively teach and lead his disciples if he is not present with them, but Christ is present with us, and we are disciples of his today. Do not forget what Christ said to his Apostles after commissioning them. “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20, ESV).

If you have faith in Christ today, he is your Rabbi and you are his disciple, follower, and learner. He is present with you to lead you and to teach you. My question for you is this: are you mindful of it? Do you arise in the morning being mindful of the duty that you have to follow Jesus and to be taught by him? When you open his word to read, you are reading the very words of Jesus, the eternal Word incarnate. And if you are united to Christ by faith, he has given you the Holy Spirit to help you and to guide you into all truth. How does Christ teach his disciples now that he has ascended on high? He teaches us by his word and Spirit. He teaches us and guides us day by day, and Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day. His presence with us is made audible and visible each Lord’s Day through the public reading and preaching of the Word of God and in the sacrament of the Lord’s Table.  Again, the question: Are you living like a disciple of Jesus? Are you hearing, learning, and obeying his word? Are you following his lead? Are you learning from the lessons he brings to you even through the experiences of this life? 

Secondly, true disciples of Jesus will not be immune from the storms of life, that is to say, trials, and tribulations of various kinds.

I will not linger long on this point for I think it is rather obvious. If these disciples of Jesus experienced this great and terrifying storm while Jesus was in the boat with them on the Sea of Galilee, then we should not be surprised to experience storms in this life as we walk with our Savior in this world.  

Peter speaks of the storms of persecution when he says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, ESV). James speaks of trials and tribulations more broadly when he says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4, ESV)

This story about Jesus calming the wind and waves by the word of his power teaches us many things about being his disciples, one of them being that true disciples of Jesus will not be immune from the storms of life.

Thirdly, true disciples of Jesus do not always display strong faith. This is simply the reality of things. 

The faith of these disciples of Jesus appeared strong when they were on land, the sun was shining, and the skies were blue. But what happened when they were out on the sea and the wind and the waves threatened? They were terrified. “[T]hey went and woke [Jesus], saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!”  

Brothers and sisters, I think it is important to notice the weaknesses and failing of true disciples of Jesus as recorded in the Scriptures so that, one, we do not despair over our own weaknesses and failings, and two, so that we do not judge one another too harshly. 

Should we strive to have strong faith? Should we encourage one another to have strong faith? Yes, indeed. But the reality is that, in this present evil age, true disciples of Jesus will not always exhibit strong faith. We often sin. We are tainted by false beliefs. Sometimes we doubt. At other times we are overcome by fear. We long for the day when all these corruptions will be removed. Until then, this is the reality. Imperfections and corruptions remain. The church needs to be reminded of this reality so that we might be patient with one another. 

Three verses come to mind. Romans 14: 1 says, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” So then, the church is to welcome and receive into their membership those who are weak in faith. These are to be cared for, but not if they are going to stir up division within the church. Colossians 1:28 also comes to mind. Here Paul says, “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” What was Paul’s aim as a minister of teh word of God? To preach Christ so that those under his care would reach maturity. But this implies that not all are mature now. And with these, we must be patient and kind. The third verse that comes to mind is 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Here Paul instructs the whole church, saying, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” Even the Apostles of Jesus had moments of weakness. I mention this not to excuse sin, immaturity, and faithlessness, but to encourage patience and kindness amongst the members of the congregation. 

Before we move on from this point, notice what the disciples of Jesus did in their moment of weakness and fear. They ran to Jesus to petition him. And this is what we must do in our moments of faithlessness, fear, and anxiety. We must run to God through Jesus our High Priest to petition him in prayer. “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3–4, ESV).

Fourthly, true disciples of Jesus will be tried and tested so that their faith may grow stronger.

Why did Jesus allow his disciples to experience this harrowing ordeal? Why did he take them out onto the sea? Why did he sleep for a time and allow the storm to rage? Why did he permit his disciples to experience this fear and sense this despair? It was to teach them to trust in him. It was to strengthen their faith. And so he spoke to them, saying, “Where is your faith?” 

Certainly, these disciples of Jesus would look back upon this storm to remember the Lord’s faithfulness when experiencing storms of a different kind later in life. And know this, they experienced many storms after Christ ascended. Most of them would be killed for their faith. Peter, tradition tells us, was crucified. John was badly persecuted and exiled for a time. But it was, among other things, this experience with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee that prepared them to face the trials and tribulations of life, and even the great trial of death, with faith and courage. They learned that Christ would always be with him. They learned that Christ had the power to calm the fierceness of God’s wrath and to save them from destruction, and so they were strengthened to walk with him faithfully until the end.  

Those who have walked with Christ for many years will know what this is like. Seasoned believers are able to look back upon earlier storms and remember God’s faithfulness. In this way, they are strengthened to face the present storm, whatever it may be.

Fifthly, and lastly, the faith of Jesus’ disciples will grow stronger as they grow in their understanding of who Christ is and what he has done for them. 

In a way, we return now to the first half of this sermon. Jesus did not take his disciples out on the sea and into the storm to merely test their faith. He took them out on the sea and allowed them to experience this storm to show forth his power and his glory. So then, it was not only the weakness of the disciples’ faith that was exposed, but the power, glory, and greatness of the object of their faith was also put on display. If they had remained on the land, and if the storm had never arisen, the power and glory of Christ would have never been displayed.  

Our faith will grow stronger as we grow in our understanding of who Christ is and what he has done for us. We see this principle play out in the Gospel of Luke and in Acts. The disciples do mature. They grow from being weak in faith to strong and bold in faith. But how does this growth take place? They grow as their understanding of Christ grows. 

 “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” That, my friends, is a very importaint question. These disciples of Jesus would be prompted to ask this same question in different ways many times before Christ ascended into heaven. Even if it is not recorded for us, they must have wondered, who then is this whom the demons obey? Who then is this who has power over sickness? Who then is this who has power over death? 

The disciples of Jesus grew in their faith, not through natural self-improvement, the development of discipline, or by willpower alone, but by growing in their knowledge of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Who then is this? He is the Messiah, the eternal Word of God incarnate. He is our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Indeed, he is worthy of all our trust and of all our praise. 



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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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