It’s afternoon, warm and humid, on the Sea of Galilee. A small fishing boat slips through the water, carrying thirteen men. They’re ordinary men, dressed in ragged clothes, reeking of fish and sweat and olive oil. Twelve of them are disciples of the thirteenth, the man named Jesus, curled up asleep in the back of the boat.
The afternoon is peaceful and calm, until it isn’t. A fierce squall blows in out of nowhere, turning the skies dark and the wind into a howling gale. The sea rises up into waves–eight, ten, twelve feet high–crashing over the sides of the boat, swamping it with gallons of water every second. Some of the disciples are fishermen, not easily intimidated by storms, but this? They can’t row or steer. They can’t bail the water out fast enough, as the boat sinks lower and lower.
A couple of the men run to the back, shaking Jesus awake. “Master!” they scream over the roaring wind. “We’re going to drown!”
Jesus gets to His feet, simply says “Quiet! Be still!” to the storm. And the wind dies away into silence. The towering waves melt into smooth water.
He turns to look at His disciples, sitting in an awed, terrified little huddle in the bottom of the boat. “Where is your faith?” He asks.
They have no answer.
From the story, it seems clear that the disciples understood that any calming of the storm could only come from God; they wouldn’t have woken Jesus up otherwise. They were looking in the right place for shelter. What they didn’t realize is that the peace from the storm was right there in the boat.
I have trouble grasping this, too. Life is smooth sailing, everything’s grand. And then the stormy times come, and I start praying “Give me peace with this decision, Lord”–“Help me to feel peace about this relationship”–as though peace is some sort of spiritual ketchup God dumps from a heavenly bottle over the unsavory parts of my life. I fixate on peace as a convenient extension of God, rather than the essence of who He is. And then I wonder why if I’m distant from Him, peace also disappears from my life.
On the night He was arrested, Jesus told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Just a few weeks later at Pentecost, those same disciples found themselves in a room full of fire and wind, as God did something unprecedented: sent the Spirit of Himself down to live with and in His people. Not in a golden tabernacle this time, but in the lowly temple of human souls and bodies.
Was this the gift Jesus talked about? The gift that from Pentecost on, He would always be in our boat?
The Bible is pretty clear on what peace is and where we find it. Most people know Isaiah 9:6, naming Jesus the “Prince of Peace”. But there’s also Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” and John 16:33, “in me you may have peace.” Hebrews 13:20 and 2 Thessalonians 3:16 call Him “the Lord of peace.” Philippians 4:9: “for the God of peace will be with you…” 1 Corinthians 14:33 reads, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” Psalm 23:76: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the peace of my heart and my portion forever.”
Perhaps the strongest argument is Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” When we are peacemakers, we aren’t simply doing as God does, we are being as He is. We directly reflect His image when we are sources of peace.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, ““There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security.”
Exchange the word “peace” for “knowing Jesus” in that quote, and it still reads exactly the same.
This is what the disciples didn’t understand, what I often don’t understand: Biblical peace isn’t a magical, calming blanket laid over the painful chaos of life. It’s not a benediction from God, not even a blessing from God. It’s a relationship where the real, living presence of God Himself is so strong that everything else seems muted in comparison.
The secular world gets this concept too. How many times have you seen some version of the quote “Home is a person?” Fear can be a person, trauma can be a person, safety and comfort can be a person.
Peace is a Person. His name is Jesus.
He is peace itself, because He is omniscient and omnipotent and impossible to surprise. His hands hold galaxies and tiny, fragile sparrows. There is nothing too big or too small for Him. But maybe that feels too distant; after all, a galaxy is just a big ball of impersonal, whirling gas a million light-years away, compared to the immediacy of our pain. So our God left no doubt. He came here and smashed the distance forever.
He could’ve decreed from heaven that there would never be danger and storms again. He could have stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and calmed the waves from dry land. But instead, He gets into the boat with a bunch of smelly, hurting fishermen, and He heads out into a storm fierce enough to drown them all. Because He is the safe port they’re looking for, and with Him in the boat, they were never in danger of sinking, not for a moment.
“Where is your faith?”
The chorus line of one of my favorite songs says simply, “In rest, You make me new.” Worry, fear, impatience, anxiety…these are all ugly parts of our sin nature. As we walk closer to Jesus, being made new and more like Him each day, we will find those things falling away.
The sea-storms of life are vicious and they may not calm down anytime soon. But our peace, our Harbor is already with us in the boat.