It’s easy to read about a “furious storm” in Matthew 8:23 and cluck at the disciples’ lack of faith over a little rain. That’s because we often overlook the true danger depicted in those two words, “furious storm.”
Our modern translations render Matthew’s description of this weather event as “furious storm,” but it turns out that’s something of an understatement. Matthew’s original Greek phrase was mĕgas sĕismŏs. If you live in California you’ve already figured out what that means. For the rest of us, here’s a more literal translation.
- Mĕgas: “exceedingly great, high, large, loud, mighty, strong”
- Sĕismŏs: “earthquake.”
In other words, this furious storm is so severe, it’s akin to a disturbance of tsunami-like proportions, bearing down relentlessly on a bunch of guys hanging out in little boats, just trying to get from one side of the lake to the other.
This mĕgas sĕismŏs really happened; because of it real men were in real, life-threatening danger. Drowning would have been a horrible way to die, and they knew it. In that moment, in that situation, when the end of the story was still unknown, it would’ve been truly terrifying to be trapped in a tiny fishing boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. This would’ve been especially true for seasoned fishermen like Peter, James, and John who had experienced the dangers of similar storms in the past. They would’ve learned to respect, and fear, that power charging on the water.
“Why are you so afraid?” Jesus asked his disciples at that time. Well, the truth is, you and I would have been just as terrified as they were. Only the presence of God acting noticeably in that circumstance could have overcome that kind of fear. Thank God Jesus himself was there!
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