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apppearance, from whom you have nothing to fear; nor be afraid of the storm and tempest in which you are, I'll deliver you; for it is I, your Master, Saviour, and Redeemer, and not any hurtful spirit.
Christ may be sometimes near his people, and they not know him; as the Lord was in the place where Jacob was, and he knew it not (Gen. xxviii. 16); and as Christ was standing by Mary Magdalene at the sepulchre, and she took him to be the gardener: and for want of a distinct knowledge of Christ, in his person, offices, and grace, persons have wrong apprehension of him, filled with dread and fear, concluding they have no interest in him ; that he is a Saviour, but not of them; but Christ makes himself known unto them, as the able and willing Saviour, and as their Saviour and Redeemer.
All elements are alike to their Maker. He that had well approved his power on the land, will now show it in the air and the water. He that had preserved the multitude from the peril of hunger in the desert, will now preserve his disciples from the peril of the tempest in the sea.
How do all things seem to conspire to the vexing of thy poor disciples ! The night was sullen and dark; their Master was absent; the sea was boisterous ; the winds were high and contrary. Had their Master been away, yet if the sea had been quiet or the winds fair, the passage might have been endured: now both the season, and sea and wind, and their Master's desertion, had agreed to render them perfectly miserable. O Saviour, our extremities are the seasons of thine aid. Thou camest at last ; but yet so, as that there was more dread than joy in thy presence. Thy coming was both miraculous and frightful!
Thou, God of elements, passedst through the air, — walkedst upon the waters! Whether thou meantest to terminate this miracle in thy body, or in the waves which thou trodest upon ; whether so lightening the one, that it should make no impression in the liquid waters, or whether so consolidating the other, that the pavemented waves yielded a firm causeway to thy sacred feet to walk on, I neither determine nor inquire: thy power was in either miraculous.
What object should have been so pleasant to the eyes of the disciples as their Master; and so much the more as he showed his Divine power in this miraculous walk ? But lo, contrarily, “ they are troubled :" not with his presence, but with his form of presence. And why are they thus troubled ? “ They thought they had seen a spirit.” But say it had been what they mistook it for, a spirit, — why should they fear? Had they well considered, they had soon found that evil spirits are nevertheless present when they are not seen, --and harmful or malicious when they are present unseen : visibility adds nothing to their spite or mischief. And could their eyes have been opened, they had, with Elisha's servant, seen more with them than against them; a sure though invisible guard of more powerful spirits, and themselves under the protection of the God of spirits.
It was high time for the Saviour to speak; the disciples were almost lost with fear. If his presence were fearful, yet his word was comfortable ; “ Be of good cheer, it is I;" — “I, your Lord and Master; I, the commander of winds and waters ; I, the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth ; I, the God of spirits.” Let heaven be but as one scroll, and let it be written all over with titles, they cannot express more than, “ It is I.” O sweet and seasonable word of a gracious Saviour, able to calm all tempests, able to revive all hearts !
Peter showed here, what on other occasions appears to have been his natural character, — a mixture of boldness and weakness, of sincerity and irresolution. “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the water.” This was placing himself in a way of unnecessary trial, as when he followed Jesus into the high priest's palace, and mixed himself among his Master's bitterest enemies. Still, then, he showed the same earnest zeal, and there he showed the same courage and confidence which afterwards fitted him to be a main pillar of the infant church. Not being equally called for, it was followed by a check and a reproof; but it was in its nature the same faith as that which is so highly approved in Abraham.
“ O the imperfect composition of the best saints on earth: as far from pure faith as from mere infidelity !" He was a portion of the same excellence, and the same weakness, which afterwards showed itself in a scene more resembling ordinary life. The same ardent zeal, which saith, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the water,” said also, “ Lord, I am ready to go with thee both to prison and to death.” No doubt, Peter thought this and meant this, as sincerely as he intended to venture upon the waves. But, within a very few hours, “ seeing the wind boisterous, he was afraid :" seeing his Master in the hands of his enemies, — seeing that he had no power to deliver himself, “ he denied him, saying, I know him not.”
BISHOP J. B. SUMNER.
It was between the hours of three and six in the morning that Jesus made this appearance to his disciples, “ walking on the sea :" thus suspending the laws of gravitation was a proper manifestation of unlimited power. Jesus did this by his own power; therefore Jesus showed forth his Godhead. In this one miracle we may discover three:-1. Though at a distance from his disciples, he knew their distress. 2. He found them out on the lake, and probably in the midst of darkness. 3. He walked upon the water. Job, speaking of those things whereby the omnipotence of God was demonstrated, says particularly, “ He walketh upon the waves of the sea” (Job ix. 8); intimating that this was impossible to anything but Omnipotence.
“ Immediately the ship was at the land.” How far they were from the place at which they landed, when our Lord came to them, we know not: but the Evangelist seems to speak of their sudden arrival there as extraordinary and miraculous.
DR. A. CLARKE.
- Our Lord having persisted in his zealous labours till the evening, put to sea “ even as he was in the ship,” whence he had preached, and without any peculiar attention to his health, ease, or indulgence, after so great fatigues ! — Mark iii. 1. 20. 31. 36. Such an example did he set us of enduring hardships, and avoiding all needless regard to ourselves, whilst employed in doing good to the souls of men!
Instead of the fair voyage, which probably they expected, they were overtaken with a terrible storm: so that the ship was speedily covered with the waves, and apparently ready to sink; yet amidst all this confusion and distress, Jesus lay fast asleep. His human nature, like ours in every thing but sin, was wearied, and he willingly yielded to sleep, foreseeing the storm, that his power might thus be more noticed. But the disciples, trembling lest they should be swallowed up by the waves, and having no resource but in his power, came and awoke him; saying, “ Lord, save us, we perish.” Considering all which they had seen of his power, this was comparatively weak faith ; and their fears were evidences of much remaining unbelief. Having therefore first rebuked them, as men of " little faith (Matt. viii. 26), he next, with the authority of the Lord and Governor of the creation, rebuked the winds and waves, -as a master would rebuke a company of unruly servants; and at his omnipotent word, the winds suddenly ceased to blow, the tempestuous sea, contrary to its nature, became smooth, and a perfect calm succeeded. Thus the tempest which threatened their destruction was overruled, to the increase of their faith, and admiration of the majesty and power of their Lord !
Storms may indeed assail us, and our fears may be great ; but faith will apply to him for help, and meet no disappointment. Even when he seems to slumber, he restrains the violence of the winds and waves, and the fury of wicked men and apostate spirits; and when he awakes for our help, he will turn all our terrors into adoring love and gratitude to him as the * Mighty God and the Prince of Heaven !” Rev. Thomas Scott.
Christ had given sailing orders to his disciples (Matt. viii. 18), that they should “ depart to the other side” of the sea of Tiberias, into the country of Gadara, in the tribe of Gad, which lay east of Jordan : thither he would go, to rescue a poor creature that was possessed with a legion of devils, though he foresaw how he should be affronted there. He chose to cross the lake, that he might have occasion to manifest himself the God of the sea as well as of the dry land; and that all power is his, both in heaven and in earth. It is a comfort to those who go down to the sea in ships, and are often in perils there, to reflect that they have a Saviour to trust to and pray to, who knows what it is to be at sea, and to be in storms there.
“ There arose a very great storm.” Christ could have prevented this : but that would not have been so much for his glory and the confirmation of their faith, as their deliverance was. Christ would show, that those who are passing with him over the ocean of this world must expect storms.
Jesus Christ was asleep in this storm. We never read of Christ's sleeping but at this time : he was in watchings often, - continued all night in prayer to God. This was a sleep, not of security, like Jonah's in a storm, but of holy serenity and dependance upon his Father. They awoke him with their prayers, “ Lord, save us, we perish.” Christ is a Prince and a Saviour! He rebuked the disciples, “Why are ye so fearful?” He did not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for their fears. He then rebukes the wind, and there was a great calm : the former he did as the God of grace and the sovereign of the heart; this he did as the God of Nature. Moses commanded the waters with a rod; Joshua with the ark of the covenant; Elisha with the prophet's mantle; but Christ with a word. Ordinarily after a storm there is a prolonged agitation of the waters: but all the effects of it cease at the word of Christ. Great storms of doubt and fear in the soul under the power of the spirit of bondage end in a wonderful calm, created and spoken by the Spirit of adoption.
Rev. MATTHEW HENRY.
Our Saviour's disciples, in the storm, were distressed with the apprehension of immediate destruction, while their Master was asleep. What ! could he be ignorant or regardless of the danger of his faithful attendants ? No: but their beloved Master designed to try the strength of their confidence in him, and to show their security under his protection. They awoke him, and cried in terror and anguish, “ Lord, save us, we perish.” Jesus, reproved them sharply for their unbelief; and then, to encourage their unreserved reliance upon him in every future difficulty, and to demonstrate that all nature was at his command, he arose with a peculiar majesty, and spake the authoritative words, “ PEACE, BE STILL :” the furious winds instantly ceased to blow, and the turbulent sea was calm. Such a grand display of his divine power astonished them: “the men marvelled.” They ought, indeed, to have recollected that he was the God of the whole creation; and this very miracle might have led them to that conclusion. “O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.” — Psal. lxxxix. 8, 9. But so much darkness yet remained in their minds, that they had no clear or consistent views of the great mystery of godliness.”
This distressed situation of the disciples is an apt emblem of the church and of many private Christians, in perilous circumstances. It is one principal part of the Redeemer's plan to exercise and prove our faith ; and therefore he conducts us through various trials. He affords us his gracious presence; and while we pass over the tempestuous sea of life, we ought to be satisfied that he is in the vessel with us. “Where is our faith? Why are we so fearful ?” Let us be ashamed of our doubtful and suspicious temper, and, with unshaken confidence, commit ourselves to the power and peace of this mighty God and Saviour! Rev. THOMAS ROBINSON.
You will remember, that it was not the main ocean, but the Lake of Tiberias, on which they sailed : however, the painter is at liberty to make his sea as large as he pleases, and his storm as terrible as he can. See ! amidst these horrible emotions, a vessel in all the extremity of distress. Perplexed, amazed, and at their wit's end, the disciples run to and fro; they try every expedient, and find, to their inexpressible affliction, every expedient ineffectual. We cast our eye forward, and their Divine MASTER appears, sedately rising from a gentle slumber. He sees the perplexity and horror of his companions, without the least emotion of alarm. What composure in his mienl what dignity in his attitude ! what majesty, sweetened with compassion, in his aspect! - such as could arise from no cause but a conscious and undoubted certainty that not one of the company should perish,—not a hair of their head be injured,and, that all this mighty uproar of Nature should end in a demonstration of his mightier power, and a confirmation of his disciples' faith! He looks abroad into the mutinous sky, and the turbulent deep :- he waves, with an authoritative air, his sacred hand, and adds the great commanding word, “ Peace, be still!”. Do you inquire after the effect ? Let Milton declare it :
Confusion heard his voice, and wild uproar
Stood ruled. This is expressed in another draught, where all is hushed; the tremendous agitation ceases, and the most profound tranquillity takes place. The water is smooth as glass; we have the picture of a perfect calm : and view those persons who, a little while ago, were in the wildest distraction, and in the jaws of ruin, surrounding their LORD as men alive from the dead ! Their consternation is turned inward to wonder, and their pangs of fear into ecstasies of joy. They acknowledge the omnipotence and adore the goodness of JESUS.
The circumstances of this miracle, as related by the Evangelist, are truly wonderful, and to the last degree picturesque.“ Master Master / we perish !” How concise, how abrupt, and how ardent is this exclamation ! —therefore how strongly significant of imminent danger, and of the utmost distress! They have not time to be explicit. A moment's delay may be fatal. What they utter is conciseness itself, and all rapidity.—Luke viïi. 24. This is nature; this is the genuine language of the heart; this is true historic painting !
Rev. J. HERVEY. .
How great and glorious does our blessed Redeemer appear, as having all the elements at his command, and exercising his dominion over the winds and seas! He stills the very tempests when they roar, and makes the storm a calm.--Psalm cvii. 29. He silences at once the noise and fury of the tumultuous waves : and, in the midst of its confusion, says to the raging sea, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; and here shall thy proud waves be stayed.-Job xxxviii. 11. Who would not reverence and fear him? Who would not cheerfully commit themselves to him ? Under such a protection, how courageously may his church ride through every storm, and weather every danger! Christ is still with her, and she is safe even while he may seem to be sleeping. Blessed Jesus ! that power of thine which here commanded the tempest into a calm, can easily silence all our tumultuous passions, and reduce our souls to that blessed tranquillity, in which alone we can be capable of enjoying thee and ourselves.