This miracle which Christ wrought for the relief of his disciples, in stilling the storm, we had before (Matt. 8:23); but it is here more fully related. Observe,
1. It was the same day that he had preached out of a ship, when the even was come, Mark 4:35. When he had been labouring in the word and doctrine all day, instead of reposing himself, he exposeth himself, to teach us not to think of a constant remaining rest till we come to heaven. The end of a toil may perhaps be but the beginning of a toss. But observe, the ship that Christ made his pulpit is taken under his special protection, and, though in danger, cannot sink. What is used for Christ, he will take particular care of.
2. He himself proposed putting to sea at night, because he would lose no time; Let us pass over to the other side; for we shall find, in the next chapter, he has work to do there. Christ went about doing good, and no difficulties in his way should hinder him; thus industrious we should be in serving him, and our generation according to his will.
3. They did not put to sea, till they had sent away the multitude, that is, had given to each of them that which they came for, and answered all their requests; for he sent none home complaining that they had attended him in vain. Or, They sent them away with a solemn blessing; for Christ came into the world, not only to pronounce, but to command, and to give, the blessing.
4. They took him even as he was, that is, in the same dress that he was in when he preached, without any cloak to throw over him, which he ought to have had, to keep him warm, when he went to sea at night, especially after preaching. We must not hence infer that we may be careless of our health, but we may learn hence not to be over nice and solicitous about the body.
5. The storm was so great, that the ship was full of water (Mark 4:37), not by springing a leak, but perhaps partly with the shower, for the word here used signifies a tempest of wind with rain; however, the ship being little, the waves beat into it so that it was full. Note, It is no new thing for that ship to be greatly hurried and endangered, in which Christ and his disciples, Christ and his name and gospel, are embarked.
6. There were with him other little ships, which, no doubt, shared in the distress and danger. Probably, these little ships carried those who were desirous to go along with Christ, for the benefit of his preaching and miracles on the other side. The multitude went away when he put to sea, but some there were, that would venture upon the water with him. Those follow the Lamb aright, that follow him wherever he goes. And those that hope for a happiness in Christ, must be willing to take their lot with him, and run the same risks that he runs. One may boldly and cheerfully put to sea in Christ’s company, yea though we foresee a storm.
7. Christ was asleep in this storm; and here we are told that it was in the hinder part of the ship, the pilot’s place: he lay at the helm, to intimate that, as Mr. George Herbert expresses it,
When winds and waves assault my keel, He doth preserve it, he doth steer, Ev’n when the boat seems most to reel. Storms are the triumph of his art; Though he may close his eyes, yet not his heart.
He had a pillow there, such a one as a fisherman’s ship would furnish him with. And he slept, to try the faith of his disciples and to stir up prayer: upon the trial, their faith appeared weak, and their prayers strong. Note, Sometimes when the church is in a storm, Christ seems as if he were asleep, unconcerned in the troubles of his people, and regardless of their prayers, and doth not presently appear for their relief. Verily he is a God that hideth himself, Isa. 45:15. But as, when he tarries, he doth not tarry (Hab. 2:3), so when he sleeps he doth not sleep; the keeper of Israel doth not so much as slumber (Ps. 121:3, 4); he slept, but his heart was awake, as the spouse, Song 5:2.
8. His disciples encouraged themselves with their having his presence, and thought it the best way to improve that, and appeal to that, and ply the oar of prayer rather than their other oars. Their confidence lay in this, that they had their Master with them; and the ship that has Christ in it, though it may be tossed, cannot sink; the bush that has God in it, though it may burn, shall not consume. Caesar encouraged the master of the ship, that had him on board, with this, Caesarem vehis, et fortunam Caesaris—Thou hast Caesar on board, and Caesar’s fortune. They awoke Christ. Had not the necessity of the case called for it, they would not have stirred up or awoke their Master, till he had pleased (Song 2:7); but they knew he would forgive them this wrong. When Christ seems as if he slept in a storm, he is awaked by the prayers of his people; when we know not what to do, our eye must be to him (2 Chron. 20:12); we may be at our wits’ end, but not at our faith’s end, while we have such a Saviour to go to. Their address to Christ is here expressed very emphatically; Master, carest thou not that we perish? I confess this sounds somewhat harsh, rather like chiding him for sleeping than begging him to awake. I know no excuse for it, but the great familiarity which he was pleased to admit them into, and the freedom he allowed them; and the present distress they were in, which put them into such a fright, that they knew not what they said. They do Christ a deal of wrong, who suspect him to be careless of his people in distress. The matter is not so; he is not willing that any should perish, much less any of his little ones, Matt. 18:14.
9. The word of command with which Christ rebuked the storm, we have here, and had not in Matthew, Mark 4:39. He says, Peace, be still—Siopa, pephimoso—be silent, be dumb. Let not the wind any longer roar, nor the sea rage. Thus he stills the noise of the sea, the noise of her waves; a particular emphasis is laid upon the noisiness of them, Ps. 65:7; 93:3, 4. The noise is threatening and terrifying; let us hear no more of it. This is, (1.) A word of command to us; when our wicked hearts are like the troubled sea which cannot rest (Isa. 57:20); when our passions are up, and are unruly, let us think we hear the law of Christ, saying, Be silent, be dumb. Think not confusedly, speak not unadvisedly; but be still. (2.) A word of comfort to us, that, be the storm of trouble ever so loud, ever so strong, Jesus Christ can lay it with a word’s speaking. When without are fightings, and within are fears, and the spirits are in a tumult, Christ can create the fruit of the lips, peace. If he say, Peace, be still, there is a great calm presently. It is spoken of as God’s prerogative to command the seas, Jer. 31:35. By this therefore Christ proves himself to be God. He that made the seas, can make them quiet.
10. The reproof Christ gave them for their fears, is here carried further than in Matthew. There it is, Why are ye fearful? Here, Why are ye so fearful? Though there may be cause for some fear, yet not for fear to such a degree as this. There it is, O ye of little faith. Here it is, How is it that ye have no faith? Not that the disciples were without faith. No, they believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; but at this time their fears prevailed so that they seemed to have no faith at all. It was out of the way, when they had occasion for it, and so it was as if they had not had it. “How is it, that in this matter ye have no faith, that ye think I would not come in with seasonable and effectual relief?” Those may suspect their faith, who can entertain such a thought as that Christ careth not though his people perish, and Christ justly takes it ill.
Lastly, The impression this miracle made upon the disciples, is here differently expressed. In Matthew it is said, The men marvelled; here it is said, They feared greatly. They feared a great fear; so the original reads it. Now their fear was rectified by their faith. When they feared the winds and the seas, it was for want of the reverence they ought to have had for Christ. But now that they saw a demonstration of his power over them, they feared them less, and him more. They feared lest they had offended Christ by their unbelieving fears; and therefore studied now to give him honour. They had feared the power and wrath of the Creator in the storm, and that fear had torment and amazement in it; but now they feared the power and grace of the Redeemer in the calm; they feared the Lord and his goodness, and it had pleasure and satisfaction in it, and by it they gave glory to Christ, as Jonah’s mariners, who, when the sea ceased from her raging, feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord, Jonah 1:16. This sacrifice they offered to the honour of Christ; they said, What manner of man is this? Surely more than a man, for even the winds and the seas obey him.