I was reading a devotion from one of my favorite publications 1 today and was inspired to do a little research. The focal verse for the devotion is Matthew 8:26 (ESV) – And He [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
Upon reading that verse my mind immediately raced to the event that prompted this passage. Jesus concluded His teaching to the crowds in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and He and His disciples proceeded down the mountain. The crowds eagerly followed along. It was then that Jesus performed two significant miracles … cleansing the leper, and healing the Centurion’s servant. Later that day Jesus went to His disciple Peter’s house where he healed the fever of Peter’s mother-in-law, those possessed by evil spirits, and many others who were sick.
Leaving Peter’s house, the crowds massed around Jesus and He “gave orders” (Matthew 8:18) to His disciples to cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After Jesus entered the boat, His disciples followed leaving the crowds behind.
This is the point at which the focus verse from the devotion comes into play. As Jesus slept on the boat, “24 … behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; … 25 And they went and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him (Matthew 8:24-28)?”
After reading this scripture I began to sing out loud a much beloved hymn. I know it by the title “Peace Be Still.” The original title of the hymn, written in 1874 with lyrics by Mary A. Barker (1831-1921) and music by Horatio R. Palmer (1804-1907), was “Master the Tempest Is Raging.“2 You can read the story behind the hymn at this link. Listen to and sing along with the hymn at this link.
The disciples were afraid, and rightfully so. They were out on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a terrible life-threatening storm! Fearful for their physical death, they awakened Jesus and pleaded with Him to save them from the ravages of the storm.
Jesus took the opportunity to teach His disciples and us a powerful and eternal lesson. As Creator and Master of the heavens, the earth and ALL that exists therein, Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm! Mary Barker’s lyrics capture the moment so beautifully:
Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening
A grave in the angry deep?
The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!
I see a parallel in this Hymn for the condemned sinner … lost and without hope … bound for an eternity spent in Hell rather than in Heaven. The winds and the waves of a life filled with sin are raging all about. Perishing without hope looks inevitable. There seems to be no way out.
But there is hope! There is a way out! Jesus is the Answer! Accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord is the way out! Why? Because Jesus paid the price through His sacrificial death on the cross and His glorious resurrection for the forgiveness of ALL of man’s sins.
How about you? By admitting that you are a sinner in need of forgiveness and accepting Jesus as your personal Savior, He will calm the winds and the angry waves in your life and fill you with hope for a future … a future in Heaven with Jesus!!
The lyrics of the final verse of Mary Barker offer such great comfort:
Master, the terror is over,
The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast;
Linger, O blessèd Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor,
And rest on the blissful shore.
1 “Ultimate Authority,” Open Windows, by Tan Flippin, January 28, Winter 2016-17, Volume 81 – Number 2
2 “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” – Music Score