Fear never wrote a symphony or poem, negotiated a peace treaty, or cured a disease. Fear never pulled a family out of poverty or a country out of bigotry. Fear never saved a marriage or a business. Courage did that. Faith did that. People who refused to consult or cower to their timidities did that. But fear itself? Fear herds us into a prison and slams the doors.
Wouldn’t it be great to walk out?
Imagine your life wholly untouched by angst. What if faith, not fear, was your default reaction to threats? If you could hover a fear magnet over your heart and extract every last shaving of dread, insecurity, and doubt, what would remain? Envision a day, just one day, absent the dread of failure, rejection, and calamity. Can you imagine a life with no fear? This is the possibility behind Jesus’ question.
“Why are you afraid?” he asks (Matt. 8:26 NCV).
At first blush we wonder if Jesus is serious. He may be kidding. Teasing. Pulling a quick one. Kind of like one swimmer asking another, “Why are you wet?” But Jesus doesn’t smile. He’s dead earnest. So are the men to whom he asks the question. A storm has turned their Galilean dinner cruise into a white-knuckled plunge.
Here is how one of them remembered the trip: “Jesus got into a boat, and his followers went with him. A great storm arose on the lake so that waves covered the boat” (Matt. 8:23–24 NCV).
These are Matthew’s words. He remembered well the pouncing tempest and bouncing boat and was careful in his terminology. Not just any noun would do. He pulled his Greek thesaurus off the shelf and hunted for a descriptor that exploded like the waves across the bow. He bypassed common terms for spring shower, squall, cloudburst, or downpour. They didn’t capture what he felt and saw that night: a rumbling earth and quivering shoreline. He recalled more than winds and whitecaps. His finger followed the column of synonyms down, down until he landed on a word that worked. “Ah, there it is.” Seismos—a quake, a trembling eruption of sea and sky. “A great seismos arose on the lake.”
The term still occupies a spot in our vernacular. A seismologist studies earthquakes, a seismograph measures them, and Matthew, along with a crew of recent recruits, felt a seismos that shook them to the core. He used the word on only two other occasions: once at Jesus’ death when Calvary shook (Matt. 27:51–54) and again at Jesus’ resurrection when the graveyard tremored (28:2). Apparently, the stilled storm shares equal billing in the trilogy of Jesus’ great shake-ups: defeating sin on the cross, death at the tomb, and here silencing fear on the sea.
Sudden fear. We know the fear was sudden because the storm was. An older translation reads, “Suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea.”
Max Lucado, Fearless (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).