“[The disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ ”
Our doctrine of creation ex nihilo, “from nothing,” tells us that God made the universe from no preexisting matter. Before God began to create, there was only He and nothing else. However, Scripture is clear that when the Lord started to create the universe, He did not immediately make all things. Instead, He first made out of nothing an intermediate creation, a mass of waters, and then shaped those waters into our world. Genesis 1:1–2 begins its creation account at the time when “the earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” The waters were originally formless, unbounded, not clearly subject to restraint. For this reason and others, ancient Israel’s perspective on the sea as revealed in biblical literature was largely that the sea was threatening and something that needed to be brought under divine control. The ancient Jews never developed much ocean trading because they viewed the sea as a place of danger and destruction. The waters of the sea were something to be feared, not taken under humanity’s dominion. In fact, the Jews believed that only the Lord could tame the sea, could bring the natural world and its chaotic storms under control (Pss. 69:1; 77:16; Isa. 43:2).
This background explains the point of Jesus’ calming the sea and the storm as well as the astonished reaction of His followers to that miracle (Mark 4:35–41). We have already seen how Christ claimed to be able to do things that only God is able to do and then proved His claim by doing a miracle (2:1–12). His action of calming the storm has a similar significance, only on that occasion He made no direct claim to be doing the work of the Lord. No claim was necessary. Controlling the stormy seas and the seemingly chaotic waves of water is something only God can do. To reveal His divine nature, all Jesus had to do was step up and effectively command the sea to be still. And that is exactly what Jesus did. Just as God bordered the oceans at the time of creation (Prov. 8:27–31), Jesus brought perfect stillness to the waves that were crashing against the boat. John Calvin comments that Jesus’ “divine power was sufficiently proved by the fact that the wind and the sea obey him.”
The Twelve were suitably astonished because they knew what His power over storms and seas meant—that they were in the presence of the holy God, before whom all sinners must tremble (Mark 4:41).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
In the presence of God, sinners tremble with anxious fear. The only way for us to stand in His presence unafraid is to have our sin covered. Ultimately, that is why Jesus came and why His holiness and divine nature were revealed. Seeing Him as He is—the holy God—drives us to our knees in fear as we confess our sin and our worthiness of hell. But by faith, we escape that terror and, because our sins are covered, enter the filial, loving fear of Him that brings us peace.