Many of the most dramatic scenes in the Gospels occurred on or near the Sea of Galilee. The miraculous draught of fish and the miracle of Jesus walking on the water are but two of those memorable events. Among its many unique characteristics, the Sea of Galilee is notorious for its sudden, violent squalls. Even if there is no storm brewing and the sky is perfectly clear, strong winds from the north and east can suddenly cause dangerous gusts that produce havoc on the waters. Jesus’ calming of the sea is yet another of the dramatic scenes associated with the Sea of Galilee. In the Greek version of this passage, the words Jesus uses to calm the sea are the exact words he uses to exorcise a demon in the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel. This would have made sense for Jews of Jesus’ time because it was commonly believed that demons were at work in the destructive forces of nature.
While the miracle is unmistakably impressive, the events that occurred on the boat amidst the squall should not be reduced to a mere natural, physical feat. The dynamics at work in the narrative provide us with spiritual insights regarding our encounter with Christ as we navigate the various circumstances of our lives.
First, living a life in Christ is not a guarantee that life will somehow be easier for us, as if suffering will suddenly vanish from our lives. However, living a life in Christ means that to voyage with Him is to voyage in peace, even in the storms of life. Trust in Christ’s abiding presence allows us to transcend our difficulties. Jesus gives us peace in our sorrows, our problems and our anxieties. His peace reigns in our hearts as our faith in Him increases.
Second, Christ may allow us to experience the storms of life in order to draw us into deeper faith and trust in Him. Even though the disciples doubted our Lord and even questioned if it mattered to Him that they were about to drown, Jesus was fully aware of His surroundings. His calming of the sea caused the disciples to peer more deeply into the mystery of the Son of God and to marvel at the fact that even the forces of nature would obey Him. Christ is never outdone by the seemingly hopeless circumstances that we can encounter. He is Lord over all. For our part, we must learn to trust His dominion and His complete plan of love for us.
Finally, if we are to understand the boat as our souls and the winds that buffeted the boat as the insults, abuses and contradictions that we experience in this life, we ought to call upon Jesus and rouse Him in our souls — so as to avoid the shipwreck of sin that can come with vengeful thoughts and actions. Jesus provides us with the perfect example of serenity in the face of persecution when He asked the Father to forgive His executioners. By virtue of our baptism, God has made His indwelling within us — we must rouse God within us to stay on the journey of virtue. Jesus desires to come to our aid and to provide calm to our souls when we are beleaguered by adversity.
Jesus calms the sea and the wind — may He settle our hearts that are restless until they rest in Him (Augustine).