Peace, Be Still
IT had been an eventful day in the life of
Jesus. Beside the Sea of Galilee He had spoken His first parables, by familiar
illustrations again explaining to the people the nature of His kingdom and the manner in
which it was to be established. He had likened His own work to that of the sower; the
development of His kingdom to the growth of the mustard seed and the effect of leaven in
the measure of meal. The great final separation of the righteous and the wicked He had
pictured in the parables of the wheat and tares and the fishing net. The exceeding
preciousness of the truths He taught had been illustrated by the hidden treasure and the
pearl of great price, while in the parable of the householder He taught His disciples how
they were to labor as His representatives.
All day He had been teaching
and healing; and as evening came on the crowds still pressed upon Him. Day after day He
had ministered to them, scarcely pausing for food or rest. The malicious criticism and
misrepresentation with which the Pharisees constantly pursued Him made His labors much
more severe and harassing; and now the close of the day found Him so utterly wearied that
He determined to seek retirement in some solitary place across the lake.
The eastern shore of
Gennesaret was not uninhabited, for there were towns here and there beside the lake; yet
it was a desolate region when
compared with the western side. It contained a population
more heathen than Jewish, and had little communication with Galilee. Thus it offered Jesus
the seclusion He sought, and He now bade His disciples accompany Him thither.
After He had dismissed the
multitude, they took Him, even "as He was," into the boat, and hastily set off.
But they were not to depart alone. There were other fishing boats lying near the shore,
and these were quickly crowded with people who followed Jesus, eager still to see and hear
The Saviour was at last
relieved from the pressure of the multitude, and, overcome with weariness and hunger, He
lay down in the stern of the boat, and soon fell asleep. The evening had been calm and
pleasant, and quiet rested upon the lake; but suddenly darkness overspread the sky, the
wind swept wildly down the mountain gorges along the eastern shore, and a fierce tempest
burst upon the lake.
The sun had set, and the
blackness of night settled down upon the stormy sea. The waves, lashed into fury by the
howling winds, dashed fiercely over the disciples' boat, and threatened to engulf it.
Those hardy fishermen had spent their lives upon the lake, and had guided their craft
safely through many a storm; but now their strength and skill availed nothing. They were
helpless in the grasp of the tempest, and hope failed them as they saw that their boat was
Absorbed in their efforts to
save themselves, they had forgotten that Jesus was on board. Now, seeing their labor vain
and only death before them, they remembered at whose command they had set out to cross the
sea. In Jesus was their only hope. In their helplessness and despair they cried,
"Master, Master!" But the dense darkness hid Him from their sight. Their voices
were drowned by the roaring of the tempest, and there was no reply. Doubt and fear
assailed them. Had Jesus forsaken them? Was He who had conquered disease and demons, and
even death, powerless to help His disciples now? Was He unmindful of them in their
Again they call, but there is
no answer except the shrieking of the angry blast. Already their boat is sinking. A
moment, and apparently they will be swallowed up by the hungry waters.
Suddenly a flash of lightning
pierces the darkness, and they see Jesus lying asleep, undisturbed by the tumult. In
amazement and despair they exclaim, "Master, carest Thou not that we perish?"
How can He rest so peacefully, while they are in danger and battling with death?
Their cry arouses Jesus. As
the lightning's glare reveals Him, they see the peace of heaven in His face; they read in
His glance self-forgetful, tender love, and, their hearts turning to Him, cry, "Lord,
save us: we perish."
Never did a soul utter that
cry unheeded. As the disciples grasp their oars to make a last effort, Jesus rises. He
stands in the midst of His disciples, while the tempest rages, the waves break over them,
and the lightning illuminates His countenance. He lifts His hand, so often employed in
deeds of mercy, and says to the angry sea, "Peace, be still."
The storm ceases. The billows
sink to rest. The clouds roll away, and the stars shine forth. The boat rests upon a quiet
sea. Then turning to His disciples, Jesus asks sorrowfully, "Why are ye fearful? have
ye not yet faith?" Mark 4:40, R.V.
A hush fell upon the
disciples. Even Peter did not attempt to express the awe that filled his heart. The boats
that had set out to accompany Jesus had been in the same peril with that of the disciples.
Terror and despair had seized their occupants; but the command of Jesus brought quiet to
the scene of tumult. The fury of the storm had driven the boats into close proximity, and
all on board beheld the miracle. In the calm that followed, fear was forgotten. The people
whispered among themselves, "What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the
sea obey Him?"
When Jesus was awakened to
meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for
no fear was in His heart. But He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was
not as the "Master of earth and sea and sky" that He reposed in quiet. That
power He had laid down, and He says, "I can of Mine own self do nothing." John
5:30. He trusted in the Father's might. It was in faith--faith in God's love and
care--that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power
As Jesus rested by faith in
the Father's care, so we are to rest in the care of our Saviour. If the disciples had
trusted in Him, they would have been kept in peace. Their fear in the time of danger
revealed their unbelief. In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it
was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them
How often the disciples'
experience is ours! When the tempests of temptation gather, and the fierce lightnings
flash, and the waves sweep over us, we battle with the storm alone, forgetting that there
is One who can help us. We trust to our own strength till our hope is lost, and we are
ready to perish. Then we remember Jesus, and if we call upon Him to save us, we shall not
cry in vain. Though He sorrowfully reproves our unbelief and self-confidence, He never
fails to give us the help we need. Whether on the land or on the sea, if we have the
Saviour in our hearts, there is no need of fear. Living faith in the Redeemer will smooth
the sea of life, and will deliver us from danger in the way that He knows to be best.
There is another spiritual
lesson in this miracle of the stilling of the tempest. Every man's experience testifies to
the truth of the words of Scripture, "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it
cannot rest. . . . There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Isa. 57:20, 21.
Sin has destroyed our peace. While self is unsubdued, we can find no rest. The masterful
passions of the heart no human power can control. We are as helpless here as were the
disciples to quiet the raging storm. But He who spoke peace to the billows of Galilee has
spoken the word of peace for every soul. However fierce the tempest, those who turn to
Jesus with the cry, "Lord, save us," will find deliverance. His grace, that
reconciles the soul to God, quiets the strife of human passion, and in His love the heart
is at rest. "He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then
are they glad because they be quiet;
so He bringeth them unto their desired haven."
Ps. 107:29, 30. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ." "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of
righteousness quietness and assurance forever." Rom. 5:1; Isa. 32:17.
In the early morning the
Saviour and His companions came to shore, and the light of the rising sun touched sea and
land as with the benediction of peace. But no sooner had they stepped upon the beach than
their eyes were greeted by a sight more terrible than the fury of the tempest. From some
hiding place among the tombs, two madmen rushed upon them as if to tear them in pieces.
Hanging about these men were parts of chains which they had broken in escaping from
confinement. Their flesh was torn and bleeding where they had cut themselves with sharp
stones. Their eyes glared out from their long and matted hair, the very likeness of
humanity seemed to have been blotted out by the demons that possessed them, and they
looked more like wild beasts than like men.
The disciples and their
companions fled in terror; but presently they noticed that Jesus was not with them, and
they turned to look for Him. He was standing where they had left Him. He who had stilled
the tempest, who had before met Satan and conquered him, did not flee before these demons.
When the men, gnashing their teeth, and foaming at the mouth, approached Him, Jesus raised
that hand which had beckoned the waves to rest, and the men could come no nearer. They
stood raging but helpless before Him.
With authority He bade the
unclean spirits come out of them. His words penetrated the darkened minds of the
unfortunate men. They
realized dimly that One was near who could save them from the
tormenting demons. They fell at the Saviour's feet to worship Him; but when their lips
were opened to entreat His mercy, the demons spoke through them, crying vehemently,
"What have I to do with Thee, Jesus, Thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee,
torment me not."
Jesus asked, "What is
thy name?" And the answer was, "My name is Legion: for we are many." Using
the afflicted men as mediums of communication, they besought Jesus not to send them out of
the country. Upon a mountainside not far distant a great herd of swine was feeding. Into
these the demons asked to be allowed to enter, and Jesus suffered them. Immediately a
panic seized the herd. They rushed madly down the cliff, and, unable to check themselves
upon the shore, plunged into the lake, and perished.
Meanwhile a marvelous change
had come over the demoniacs. Light had shone into their minds. Their eyes beamed with
intelligence. The countenances, so long deformed into the image of Satan, became suddenly
mild, the bloodstained hands were quiet, and with glad voices the men praised God for
From the cliff the keepers of
the swine had seen all that had occurred, and they hurried away to publish the news to
their employers and to all the people. In fear and amazement the whole population flocked
to meet Jesus. The two demoniacs had been the terror of the country. No one had been safe
to pass the place where they were; for they would rush upon every traveler with the fury
of demons. Now these men were clothed and in their right mind, sitting at the feet of
Jesus, listening to His words, and glorifying the name of Him who had made them whole. But
the people who beheld this wonderful scene did not rejoice. The loss of the swine seemed
to them of greater moment than the deliverance of these captives of Satan.
It was in mercy to the owners
of the swine that this loss had been permitted to come upon them. They were absorbed in
earthly things, and cared not for the great interests of spiritual life. Jesus desired to
break the spell of selfish indifference, that they might accept His grace.
But regret and
indignation for their temporal loss blinded their eyes to the Saviour's mercy.
The manifestation of
supernatural power aroused the superstitions of the people, and excited their fears.
Further calamities might follow from having this Stranger among them. They apprehended
financial ruin, and determined to be freed from His presence. Those who had crossed the
lake with Jesus told of all that had happened on the preceding night, of their peril in
the tempest, and how the wind and the sea had been stilled. But their words were without
effect. In terror the people thronged about Jesus, beseeching Him to depart from them, and
He complied, taking ship at once for the opposite shore.
The people of Gergesa had
before them the living evidence of Christ's power and mercy. They saw the men who had been
restored to reason; but they were so fearful of endangering their earthly interests that
He who had vanquished the prince of darkness before their eyes was treated as an intruder,
and the Gift of heaven was turned from their doors. We have not the opportunity of turning
from the person of Christ as had the Gergesenes; but still there are many who refuse to
obey His word, because obedience would involve the sacrifice of some worldly interest.
Lest His presence shall cause them pecuniary loss, many reject His grace, and drive His
Spirit from them.
But far different was the
feeling of the restored demoniacs. They desired the company of their deliverer. In His
presence they felt secure from the demons that had tormented their lives and wasted their
manhood. As Jesus was about to enter the boat, they kept close to His side, knelt at His
feet, and begged Him to keep them near Him, where they might ever listen to His words. But
Jesus bade them go home and tell what great things the Lord had done for them.
Here was a work for them to
do,--to go to a heathen home, and tell of the blessing they had received from Jesus. It
was hard for them to be separated from the Saviour. Great difficulties were sure to beset
them in association with their heathen countrymen. And their long isolation from society
seemed to have disqualified them for the work He had indicated. But as soon as Jesus
pointed out their duty they were ready to obey. Not only did they tell their own
households and neighbors about Jesus, but they went throughout Decapolis, everywhere
declaring His power to save, and describing how He had freed them from the demons. In
doing this work they could receive a greater
blessing than if, merely for benefit to
themselves, they had remained in His presence. It is in working to spread the good news of
salvation that we are brought near to the Saviour.
The two restored demoniacs
were the first missionaries whom Christ sent to preach the gospel in the region of
Decapolis. For a few moments only these men had been privileged to hear the teachings of
Christ. Not one sermon from His lips had ever fallen upon their ears. They could not
instruct the people as the disciples who had been daily with Christ were able to do. But
they bore in their own persons the evidence that Jesus was the Messiah. They could tell
what they knew; what they themselves had seen, and heard, and felt of the power of Christ.
This is what everyone can do whose heart has been touched by the grace of God. John, the
beloved disciple, wrote: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled,
of the Word of life; . . . that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you." 1
John 1:1-3. As witnesses for Christ, we are to tell what we know, what we ourselves have
seen and heard and felt. If we have been following Jesus step by step, we shall have
something right to the point to tell concerning the way in which He has led us. We can
tell how we have tested His promise, and found the promise true. We can bear witness to
what we have known of the grace of Christ. This is the witness for which our Lord calls,
and for want of which the world is perishing.
Though the people of Gergesa
had not received Jesus, He did not leave them to the darkness they had chosen. When they
bade Him depart from them, they had not heard His words. They were ignorant of that which
they were rejecting. Therefore He again sent the light to them, and by those to whom they
would not refuse to listen.
In causing the destruction of
the swine, it was Satan's purpose to turn the people away from the Saviour, and prevent
the preaching of the gospel in that region. But this very occurrence roused the whole
country as nothing else could have done, and directed attention to Christ. Though the
Saviour Himself departed, the men whom He had healed remained as witnesses to His power.
Those who had been mediums of the prince of darkness became channels of light, messengers
of the Son of God. Men marveled as they listened to the wondrous news. A door was opened
to the gospel throughout that region. When Jesus returned to Decapolis, the people flocked
about Him, and for three
days, not merely the inhabitants of one town, but thousands from
all the surrounding region, heard the message of salvation. Even the power of demons is
under the control of our Saviour, and the working of evil is overruled for good.
The encounter with the
demoniacs of Gergesa had a lesson for the disciples. It showed the depths of degradation
to which Satan is seeking to drag the whole human race, and the mission of Christ to set
men free from his power. Those wretched beings, dwelling in the place of graves, possessed
by demons, in bondage to uncontrolled passions and loathsome lusts, represent what
humanity would become if given up to satanic jurisdiction. Satan's influence is constantly
exerted upon men to distract the senses, control the mind for evil, and incite to violence
and crime. He weakens the body, darkens the intellect, and debases the soul. Whenever men
reject the Saviour's invitation, they are yielding themselves to Satan. Multitudes in
every department in life, in the home, in business, and even in the church, are doing this
today. It is because of this that violence and crime have overspread the earth, and moral
darkness, like the pall of death, enshrouds the habitations of men. Through his specious
temptations Satan leads men to worse and worse evils, till utter depravity and ruin are
the result. The only safeguard against his power is found in the presence of Jesus. Before
men and angels Satan has been revealed as man's enemy and destroyer; Christ, as man's
friend and deliverer. His Spirit will develop in man all that will ennoble the character
and dignify the nature. It will build man up for the glory of God in body and soul and
spirit. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and
of a sound mind." 2 Tim. 1:7. He has called us "to the obtaining of the
glory"--character--"of our Lord Jesus Christ;" has called us to be
"conformed to the image of His Son." 2 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 8:29.
And souls that have been
degraded into instruments of Satan are still through the power of Christ transformed into
messengers of righteousness, and sent forth by the Son of God to tell what "great
things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."