Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said to them…
When we use the words "Lord, save us, we perish," we are really rehearsing two articles of our belief.
1. We are declaring that we believe there is a Lord — that in the visible world there is an invisible God with His over-ruling, and controlling, and appointing will.
2. We are also declaring that we believe this God is our Lord Jesus Christ. This it is which distinguishes Christian prayer from all other prayer. The story before us divides itself naturally into three parts: the voyage before the storm; the storm; the miraculous stilling of the storm. In each of these three parts we have one thing in common. We have man, in some way or other, encountering, or encountered by the outward and visible world.
I. MAN SUBDUING NATURE. It was by the knowledge of the elements and the laws of nature that man learned thus to sail upon the deep; and in this fact you have represented for you the whole of the material progress of humanity — all the triumphs of science, all the glory and beauty of art, all that marvellous mastery that man obtains by his inventive and creative will over the secret powers of nature, as he unlocks them one by one, and compels her to tell him her deepest mysteries — all that man has done as he has advanced from horizon to horizon of discovery, finding still new worlds to conquer, until we stand amazed at our own progress and the infinity of it.
II. NATURE SUBDUING MAN. Here we have the storm, in which the elements are man's masters and not his servants; and he that one minute before was the boasting lord of nature is its toy and sport. The very foam upon the crest of those billows is not more helpless in the grasp of the elements than the lord and the king of them; they toss him to and fro, as the wind drives the stubble in the autumn. This is the terrible aspect of nature. This is nature in her might, and in her majesty, and in her pitilessness, and in her capriciousness — when nature seems everything, and man, in her awful presence, dwindles and dwarfs into very nothingness. This is nature as she masters man. Is it, then, any wonder that, in the early struggles of mankind with this terrible visible power of the creature, men came to worship the creature — that they ascribed to every one of these powers a divinity; that in the voice of the wind, and in the roar of the sea, and in the raging of the fire, they saw the signs of a Divine presence, and they said to these elements: "Spare us," or "Save us, or else we perish"? And so all creation became peopled with gods-cruel gods, capricious gods, vengeful gods, gods whom men bribed with blood, gods whom, even while they bribed them, they could not love, and did not believe that they loved them. This is the first and most terrible form of creature worship; this was the idolatry of the heathen. But then, brethren, mark this; that such a worship as this could not continue long, because it is the worship of ignorance; it is the belief in the supernatural, only because it confuses the unknown with the supernatural. Even as science advanced must this faith melt away. Ever must the domain of the known push itself forward into the domain of the unknown. Ever does the man of science take one by one the gods of the man of superstition and break them upon their pedestals, and tell him this: "What you worship is no god. What you worship is no lord. It is not your lord; it is a servant of yours; and I class it in this or that rank of your servants." It is that last and most terrible aspect of nature, when she appears, not as many gods, or many wills, but as a great soulless piece of mechanism, of which we are only part — a terrible machinery in which we are, somehow or other, involved, and in the presence of which the sense of our freewill leaves us.
III. THE MIRACULOUS AND THE SUPERNATURAL. We hear a prayer, and we see a miracle. In the face of the might of nature and the terror of her elements there rises up a Man in answer to man's cry — there is heard a Man's voice, which is yet the voice of God; and it rebukes the winds and the sea, and the elements of nature own their real Lord; and immediately there is a great calm. What is it, then, that we see? We see a miracle, and a miracle that answers to prayer; we see the living spirits of living men, in the hour of their agony and their distress, appealing from nature to the God of nature; and we have recorded the answer of God to man's prayer. The answer is, that God is Lord both of man and of nature; and we say, therefore, that the miracle, and the miracle alone, sufficiently justifies the prayer. We say that the reason why men may pray is, and can only be, that they know and believe, that there is a will which rules the visible. If you have not this belief, then all prayer is an unreality and a miserable mockery.
(Bp. W. C. Magee.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.
WEB: Now it happened on one of those days, that he entered into a boat, himself and his disciples, and he said to them, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they launched out.