The disciples, among whom was Peter, had been following Jesus for about a year in a full-time way, and during that period Jesus was very popular, with large crowds following him around Galilee. We can imagine easily that it was a spiritual time for the disciples because Jesus taught them many things about the kingdom of God and they also witnessed him performing miracles of different kinds in a variety of situations. Yet it must have been a strange time for them as well because they were beginning to discover increasingly that their pre-conceived notions about what the Messiah would do were being chipped away by what Jesus taught and did. Instead they were discovering that Jesus was very hard to describe.
Imagine one of them being asked to summarise Jesus in five minutes. What would they say? Which events would they mention? What teachings would they highlight? We can imagine that they would find it hard to summarise what they had discovered. Yet there is a sense in which Luke tells us in this passage, which would us less than five minutes to read, about several things that Jesus did and said.
What happened here in Luke’s account? The disciples crossed the sea of Galilee in a boat from Capernaum to the area of Gerasa at the bidding of Jesus, and during a ferocious storm. When they reached their destination, Jesus got out of the boat and healed a deranged man who met him on the shore. That same day, they sailed back across the sea to Capernaum, and when they arrived Jesus healed a woman and raised a child from the dead. We can say that being with Jesus was action-backed for the disciples. What a lot he did in a short space of time, of one or two days! Did they really appreciate who he was?
The obvious detail that we learn about Jesus from the incident of crossing the sea is his ability to control the creation. By a word he calmed the wind and the seas. If we had asked the disciples beforehand, ‘Who can control the wind and the sea?’, they would have replied that only God could do so. So here the disciples were given vivid proof of the deity of Jesus, although they seem to have found it hard to believe (v. 25).
They also would have observed in Jesus his real humanity. After all, he was tired because he soon fell asleep after the boat had left shore. But we also see his humanity expressed in his trust in God. His trust is expressed in his confidence that they would get to the other side of the sea. After all, he followed the instructions of his Father daily, and he was crossing the sea at his Father’s bidding. There is also a sense in which we see his trust in the fact that he fell asleep. Jesus was happy to leave everything in the hands of his Father. So the disciples could have said, ‘While we crossed the sea, we should have realised that Jesus was both God and man.’