When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" He *said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?" (Matthew 8:23-27 NASB)
This passage is difficult for me to comment on, because on the surface it appears to fly right in the face of much of what we have been taught about Christ. Notice the words of the disciples, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” What greater affirmation of truth and of faith is there than that? Is that not the very beginning of faith in Christ? Is it not the acknowledgement that we alone are insufficient, perishing, lo even condemned that begins the humble and joyful walk with the Lord? “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” ought to be the unbelievers cry when their eyes have opened to their own moral bankruptcy. Now I realize the context is that of a storm, but suffer me to go on a minute or two longer. Notice the response of Jesus, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” The response is one of rebuke, or at the very least a stern question. The disciples went to Christ with knowledge that only He could save, and rightly so, but they are met with a response that was harsh. Why? Should they not have been rewarded instead of chastised?
First, these disciples have already dropped everything to follow Him, they are (with the exception of Judas) genuine believers in Christ. They have experienced the perfect love of Christ which casts out all fear. Now, genuine believers still fear, especially in the middle of a stormy sea, but believers are not perishing. The disciples made a very wrong statement when they said ‘Lord we are perishing’. Moreover, they were with the Christ who could not die until His time was accomplished, how could they be in danger if He was in the boat? There fear in this case was evidence that they had not yet realized who Christ was. While the multitudes would come to Christ realizing He had authority to heal and cast out demons, His very disciples lacked the faith to believe a storm was not going to kill Him. Now I hate to speculate, and I do not know if the original Greek communicates this better or not, but when they address Jesus and say ‘we are perishing’ does that ‘we’ include Jesus or not. Do they have concern for Christ and the future of His mission, or just trying to save their own skin?
Of course we know that Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea showing His authority over all things and amazing the disciples and ultimately granting them more faith. Moreover the Lord uses these men to turn the world upsidedown, our lack of faith in difficult situations certainly does not negate our ultimate calling, but does expose our weakness in the faith.