Some Storms are Worse than Others (Luke 8:22-25)

It’s springtime in Middle Tennessee. A time of beautiful flowers, budding trees, fresh grass shavings, wonderful weather, and allergies. Oh! The allergies!

Spring is also a time for thunderstorms and tornadoes. According to the Tornado Project website, Tennessee ranks number one in the United States for the percentage of “killer tornadoes.” Texas leads the nation in the shear number of deadly tornadoes, but Tennessee, based on percentages, has a higher likelihood of having deadly tornadoes.

You are welcome.

Sleep well tonight.

I can remember, as a kid, having strong thunderstorms and tornadoes, but people didn’t seem to be as concerned as they are today. I can remember, on several occasions growing up, being caught outside in a bad storm and riding my bike home with hail hitting me in the face. While it hurt, I don’t remember being scared, and I don’t remember hours of news coverage tracking the storm. But now, thanks to technology, they interrupt our favorite TV shows and constantly harass us by following tornadoes and telling us when to take cover. It’s called “Doppler Radar.” I think it should be called Diablo radar because its of the devil. The weathermen give us the worst case scenario and most of the time it ends up not being much. Thus, we let our guard down and then get hit hard and unprepared.

Some storms are worse than others.

Thanks to technology we now know the science behind storms. But that hasn’t always been the case. Especially in ancient times, and especially among sailors and fishermen. In days long ago, there was a spiritual element to storms, especially storms while at sea. Storms were seen as agents of God’s judgment (as in the story of Jonah and whale), or evil spirits bent on total destruction. In Greek mythology every storm, based on the direction of the wind, was assigned a specific god; and then there was Poseidon, the god of the sea.[1] Sailors and fishermen were (and still are) some of the most superstitious people around. Remember, most of Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen. Getting caught in the middle of a body of water, in a storm, is never a good idea.

Jesus Rebukes the Storm

Although many people don’t see it, there is connection between the story of Jesus rebuking the storm (Luke 8:22-27) and Jesus healing a demon-possessed man (Luke 8:28-39). All three Synoptic Gospels[2] put these two stories together (Matthew 8:23-34, Mark 5:1-20). While the point behind Jesus rebuking (not calming) the storm is to show Jesus’ authority of nature, the story also “prepares us to meet the demonized man who dwells on the other side of the lake.”[3]

Luke writes, “One day Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side of the lake.’ So they got into a boat and set out” (Luke 8:22). The “lake” was the Lake of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee. This oval, fresh water lake stretched 12 ½ miles long and 7 ½ miles wide, rested 700 feet below sea level. The only body of water lower than the Lake of Gennesaret is the Dead Sea. The Jordan River runs through the Lake of Gennesaret and empties into the Dead Sea.[4] The Lake of Gennesaret, sitting in a shallow basin, rimmed by hills, was subject to sudden, violent, and unpredictable storms.

Luke continues, “As they sailed, (Jesus) fell asleep (no doubt physically exhausted from all his travels and ministry). A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger” (Luke 8:23).[5] The word “squall,” is literally translated, “windstorm of wind,” and refers to a sudden, unpredicted, violent storm, characterized by strong winds and heavy rain. This storm was so brutal it threatened to tear the boat apart. It was unlike anything these experienced sailors had ever seen. Not knowing what else to do, “The disciples went and woke (Jesus), saying, ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown!’” (Luke 8:24a). You an hear the fear in their voices in their repetition of “Master, Master.” Jesus, sleeping during the storm was not a sign of apathy toward the safety of His disciples, but a demonstration of His authority over all things. Likewise, when you are in the middle of a crisis and it seems as though Jesus is asleep, don’t fret. From your perspective, the deluge may seem overwhelming, but what you see as waves tearing you apart, Jesus sees as a lullaby rocking you to sleep. Rest in His arms. He is sovereign over all things.

But some storms are worse than others.

Luke continues, (Jesus) got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm” (Luke 8:24b). There was something different about this storm. This storm was more than a natural occurrence. This storm was not simply “an act of God.” If it were just a regular, everyday storm, there would have been no need for Jesus to “rebuke” it. Why would Jesus rebuke nature for acting natural? This is where this story sets the stage for what is to come. There was something diabolical behind this storm!

In Luke 4:31-37, Jesus encounters a man possessed by a demon. The demon shouts at Jesus, and Jesus boldly counters, “Be quiet!” (Luke 4:35). The Greek word translated “be quiet” means to rebuke. Jesus says the same thing to the storm that He said to the demon, “Be quiet!” Jesus uses the same word to reproach both. Jesus does not just calm the storm. He rebukes the storm. Sometimes the storm in which you find yourself is demonic in nature and the only thing that will calm the chaos is the authoritative Word of Jesus. Don’t lose faith in the middle of a hellish crisis! “‘Where is your faith?’ (Jesus) asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him’” (Luke 8:25).

Lessons from the Storm

 After the storm had passed, “They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs.” (Luke 8:26-27). Do you now see the connection between the two stories? As soon as Jesus steps out of the boat He goes from a diabolical storm to a demon-possessed man. But that’s another sermon for another day. (Next week.)

Let’s stop here and make three applications from Jesus’ rebuking of the storm: First: Obeying Jesus means following Him through storms. The only reason the disciples were in the boat in the middle of a lake in the middle of a storm was because Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side.” It wasn’t their idea to go. They probably did not want to go. They may have been able to see the storm in the distance. Red skies at night, sailors delight. Red skies in morning, sailors take warning. Regardless, they simply obeyed Jesus and followed Him. We have a tendency to think going through storms means Jesus has abandoned us. In reality, He may be the reason we are in the storm. Don’t ever think following Jesus is going to be all smooth sailing. It’s quite possible the only reason you are in the middle of a squall is because of your obedience to Jesus.

For his high school graduation, Zach and I lived on a sailboat in the Bahamas for a week of scuba diving.[6] When we got on board, the captain told us storms were in the area and suggested we make a 100-mile plus crossing to the island of Bimini. He said we would have a good week of diving, but we would more than likely have to sail straight through the storm on the way back to Nassau. He was right. We had a great week of diving, but we paid for it on the way back. After our last dive, I prepared my self for the 14-hour trip back to Nassau. I slept like a baby, until the early hours of the morning when I was tossed out of my bunk by a huge wave. For the next several hours, Zach and I sat up on the deck, holding on, while we were tossed and turn from one wave to the next. All while getting rained on from above and splashed from the ocean. It was quite an exciting, and at times, nail-biting adventure. I have also vacationed on Carnival Cruise ships and have sailed to exotic places, across completely calm waters. My point is this: Following Jesus is not a Carnival Cruise to Fantasy Island. Rather, it is an exciting adventure, through rough seas, on the way to the Promise Land. Jesus never promised smooth sailing. He only promised to never leave us nor forsake us.

Second: Some storms are worse than others. The sailboat Zach and I was on was relatively small (65 feet in length). It really seemed small in the middle of the storm. I wasn’t scared, but I was a little nervous. What calmed me more than anything was watching the captain at the wheel, laughing and singing and having fun. Captain Nate knew what he was doing. He wasn’t caught off guard by the storm. He was enjoying the ride. He and I even joked about a famous line from a Seinfeld episode: “The sea was angry that day…”

Likewise, whatever storm you are going through, your Captain knows about it and is riding it out with you. Captain Jesus has not been caught off guard by your storm. He is still sovereign. He is still in control. He knows what He is doing. While you see the storm as overwhelming, He sees it as just another day on open water. Jesus has your storm so much under control that He is going below deck to take a nap.

Yet, sometimes we still ask why we have to go through storms. We ask, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” There are at least four reasons why: First, we go through storms because we live in an imperfect world. We live in a world that has been cursed by sin. As such, bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to bad people. Jesus said God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). Second, often we go through storms because of consequences to our previous actions and decisions. Sometimes the storms are our own making and our own choosing. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8). Third, we go through storms because of Godly testing. Faith is not faith if it has not been tested. These testings are meant for our good and not our harm. James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-3). Fourth, often the storms we go through are an attack from the enemy. I believe a Satanic attack was the power behind this particular storm and that is why Jesus “rebuked” it. Furthermore, I believe with all my heart that at least some of the storm we go through are demonic in origin. Not all of our storms, but some of our storms. I further believe the more secular our society becomes, and the closer we get to the return of Christ, the more our storms will be diabolical in nature. The question is, “How do we know when the storm is an attack?” That is what I want to talk about starting next week as we look into the story of the demonic man in Gerasene. But until then, memorize the following verse: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Third: Don’t be afraid. Jesus will calm and rebuke the storms. The good news is it doesn’t really matter why you are going through your storm. Jesus is there with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. In His sovereignty, He will either calm the storm or rebuke the storm. Don’t be afraid and don’t lose your faith. Instead, be amazed that “He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25).

CONCLUSION

There is a painting by artist Jack E. Dawson titled, “Peace in the Midst of the Storm” that really speaks to me. The painting shows a violent waterfall. If you have ever been near a powerful waterfall than you know how rough the winds are near the bottom, how cold it is, and how the spray from the water almost blinds you. A waterfall may be beautiful, but it is not peaceful. But if you look closely at the painting, near the waterfall there is a tiny bush growing in a crevice of rock. In that bush there is a mother bird on her nest caring for her young. There is a storm all around her, but she is safe and she is protecting her offspring. Perfect peace in the middle of utter chaos.

Friends, that is the gospel. Because of Jesus we can have peace in the midst of the storm. In the middle of a tempest of incarceration the Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:4-7).

What is your storm?

Has it overwhelmed you?

Is it threatening to tear you apart?

If the storm is for no other reason than life is difficult; hold on to God’s unchanging hand.

If the storm is because of your past actions and decisions; repent and let go of your past. God’s grace forgives our sins and redeems our blunders, turning them into something that can be used for His glory. God’s grace turns our mistakes into His masterpieces.

If the storm is because God is testing your faith; rejoice. God believes in you and He will use the storm to make you more like Jesus.

If the storm is because of demonic attack; in the name of Jesus, REBUKE THE STORM! Take authority over the enemy. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV).

______________________________

 [1] In Roman mythology, the god of the sea was Neptune. While analogous to Poseidon, Neptune and Poseidon are not the same god.

[2] “Synoptic Gospels” is a term used to describe the similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In the story of the demon-possessed man, Matthew says there were actually two men.

[3] Michael Card, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement, 2011. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL, p. 112.

[4] By comparison, Percy Priest Lake (Nashville, TN) is over 40 miles long and wider than 7 ½ miles. Also, Percy Priest sits at 490 feet above sea level.

[5] Parenthesis are added for explanation and clarification.

[6] I had the privilege of taking both of my kids for a week of diving and sailing throughout the Bahamas for their high school graduation. The memories we share from this trip are priceless.

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About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider...in that order.
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