Almost all scholars agree that this passage is based on a personal recollection of Peter, head of the apostles. Nevertheless its present form combines both a straight narration of the event, and a ‘faith interpretation’ from the early Church. The boat in the story is not just the vessel which plied the Sea of Galilee, but also the ‘barque of Peter’, the early Church faced with tensions, troubles and persecution.
The emphasis on the storm and the need for faith make the incident a lesson in discipleship under stress. Jesus’s power is still effective in the Church, where he can work wonders unimaginable, despite our apprehension.
To return to the story: sudden squalls are common on the inland Sea of Galilee, and this one takes the disciples by surprise. Through it all, in spite of the rain and the wind, Jesus slumbers on in the helmsman’s place in the stern. Panic stricken, the disciples wake him up. “We’re sinking!” they cry. “Don’t you care ?”
In reply, Jesus rebukes the wind and the waves as if they were demons, “Hush! Be still!” The same mastery of the elements is shown in the Old Testament when God creates an orderly universe out of total chaos. Which leads the disciples to ask in awe, “who is this whom even the wind and the sea obey?”
For his part, Jesus challenges the disciples, “Why be so afraid? Have you no faith even now?” This is really not a question put to the disciples – whose lack of faith is understandable – as much as to the early Church undergoing persecution. The point is, even though the Lord appears to be fast asleep, he is still in charge and will never let his Church go under.
Don’t lose faith! This is the lesson of this miracle story.