This verse didn’t show up in my “fear not” and “do not be afraid” search. I was sure it would be in the list because this story provides a classic example of human fear. Matthew 8:24 says, “Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!'” (NIV) Some of the disciples were fishermen and had probably dealt with windy conditions before. But God’s Word says this was a “furious” storm, so they must have felt entirely helpless and unable to control the boat. They had no warning; they didn’t see it coming. And they were frantic.
The reason the next verse didn’t show up in my searched list is because Jesus doesn’t actually say, “Do not be afraid.” Instead, He asks the question, “Why are you timid and afraid, o you of little faith?” (Amplified Bible) They’ve recently heard His sermon on the mount and have witnessed many of His miracles. Matthew 8:16, “He drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” It’s almost as if Jesus is saying, “Don’t you get it yet? Don’t you know who I am – who you’re dealing with here?”
Something in me wants to give the disciples a little credit, since they did go to Jesus and say, “Save us!” Who wouldn’t be afraid? Still, Jesus asks, “Why? You have such little faith!” Is he asking them to believe in something they haven’t yet seen? Perhaps they hadn’t seen Jesus wield such power over the forces of nature. He’s shown authority over demons and diseases, and now, over the destructive force of a storm?!
I love the way the Amplified Bible describes it. After Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, “there was a great and wonderful calm (a perfect peaceableness).” Imagine the silence. Roaring, pulsing, wild waves had threatened to overturn their boat. And then – perfectly complete calm. I wish we knew exactly what Jesus said to the winds and the waves. What was His “rebuke” like? The only rebuke that’s recorded is what He said to His disciples. Did He use a soft, gentle, consoling tone with them, I wonder, and a harsher, more reprimanding tone for the wild winds? So much to imagine.
The result was amazement for the disciples too, an open-mouthed awe. “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27) Even though (unlike the disciples) we have the rest of the story, do we really know who Jesus is? What kind of man, of God….
Jesus says these same words to me, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” I hear Him say it in the gentlest way, with a fatherly, inviting tone. Perhaps He says, “Just stand back and watch. Watch what I will do with this storm.”