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“And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:24-27)
Somewhere, long ago, I must have seen an artist’s rendition of this scene, because for the longest time, whenever I would read about this “great tempest,” I would visualize choppy blue waves beneath an angry charcoal sky, with a very small boatload of frightened disciples tipping precariously to one side. I can still see that picture — almost a caricature of itself. I even held that image in mind after two trips to Israel. But it was on the third that everything changed for me.
Our tour group was scheduled for a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee; a boat ride I’d taken twice before on two other tours. It’s a beautiful experience, and I’m always surprised at just how big the Sea of Galilee is. On the two previous trips, we’d had great weather for our boat ride. But on this third trip, the weather turned so bad that we couldn’t get on the boat. We stood on the dock for about ten minutes under a drenching rain before our guide finally called us all inside. We made the trip later, but it was that time on the dock that sticks in my mind.
This was real wind. Real rain. Real waves on a real sea. And I realized, standing there, how often we forget the realness of Scripture, because we let some remembered static, Sunday school artwork coat the scene and create a buffer between us and the truth. Jesus calmed a genuine tempest. That boat was not filled with storybook characters, but real, flesh-and-blood men full of real fear. Their faces and hair and clothes were wet from the rain overhead and the sea pouring into their boat. Their stomachs lurched with the waves and their cries filled the air. And when Jesus rose up from His sleep and held out His hand and spoke matter into its designated place (just as He did at creation), their hearts pounded in awe, exactly the way yours and mine would, had we been in that real boat with them.
Here’s a glimpse of my own Sea of Galilee tempest: