The Bible records the famous story of Jesus Christ calming a storm miraculously in three Gospel books: Matthew 8: 23-27, Mark 4:35-41, and Luke 8: 22-25. By showing his mastery over nature and encouraging his disciples to have faith in his ability to provide protection and peace for them, Jesus piques their curiosity about who he really is and why he has such miraculous power.
An Evening on the Sea of Galilee
The story begins just after Jesus has spent the day around the Sea of Galilee (a large lake in Israel), teaching people about the kingdom of heaven using parables. The last parable Jesus shares for the day is the parable of the mustard seed, in which Jesus compares faith that's properly directed to the smallest of all seeds that can grow to become very large when properly planted. Yet, despite learning about faith from Jesus immediately before getting on a boat with him in the evening, his disciples don't show much faith when a ferocious storm overtakes them.
Mark 4:35-38 starts the story this way: "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side.' Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?'"
Luke chapter 8 mentions that the storm caused "great danger." Verses 22 through 24 say: "One day Jesus said to his disciples, 'Let us go over to the other side of the lake.' So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, 'Master, Master, we're going to drown!'"
Here, the disciples expect the worst rather than best, and assume that Jesus is neglecting them. Yet they still have a small kernel of faith that Jesus can do something about their situation, or they wouldn’t bother to wake him up and ask for help. In contrast to his disciples, Jesus expects the best, not the worst. He is so confident that everything is going to be fine that he sleeps through the storm until his disciples wake him up.
Why Fear and Not Faith?
Mark 4:39-41 continues the story: "He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, 'Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?'
They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'"
In its report, the Matthew chapter 8 features a line that has become a famous quote from Jesus talking to his disciples: "You of little faith." Verses 26 through 27 describe the scene this way: "He replied, 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.The men were amazed and asked, 'What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!'"
Jesus shows his mastery over nature here. All he needs to do is speak to the natural elements of wind and waves, and then they do what he says. Christians believe that, as a part of God, Jesus participated in the original creation of the natural world -- so his ability to miraculously direct the elements makes sense with that in mind.
Through this miracle, Jesus calms more than just a physical storm that has caused wind and waves; he also calms the storm inside the disciples' minds by providing protection and peace for them.
Jesus' disciples were still learning about who Jesus was at this point in his ministry, and their question at the end of the passage shows how intrigued they were becoming by this man who was teaching them about faith.