What did Jesus mean when He said, 'Peace! Be still!'?

Jesus says the phrase "Peace! Be still!" in Mark 4:39 as a command to the wind and waves in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. After teaching the multitudes all day, Jesus was ready to switch locations and rest. While the disciples and Jesus were sailing across the Sea of Galilee, a large storm arose.

The full story is found in Mark 4:35–41: "When evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'"

When we read this passage, we see that Jesus was asleep while the storm raged—it wasn't bothering Him one bit. The disciples, on the other hand, were the ones who were alarmed and afraid of the storm, which led them to wake Jesus up by saying, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" (Mark 4:38). This shows their level of desperation. The irony within this moment is that they questioned Jesus' character by insinuating that He didn't care about them, but at the same time, He was the one they all came to for help. It was a moment when doubt and faith converged, much like in the Christian walk. The disciples came to Jesus in fear and also in faith that He could change their situation, and He gave them greater understanding into who He was. They saw that He had authority over the wind and waves. He could command the sea, "Peace! Be still!" and the sea obeyed.

Jesus knew that there would be a storm when they set sail that night. Notice that He didn't tell the disciples not to go because there was bad weather ahead; He also didn't stop the storm before it happened. He calmed the storm only when His disciples took action to put their faith in Him. This was an opportunity for the disciples to grow in their faith in Jesus. After Jesus calmed the storm, He admonished the disciples: "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" (Mark 4:40). Essentially, He was letting them know: "You may have been afraid, but I was in control the whole time." He had told the sea, "Peace! Be still!" and now He tells the disciples the same. First, Jesus calmed the wind and the waves, and then He calmed the disciples.

This story is a physical example that acts as a metaphor of a spiritual reality—when we have made Jesus Lord, our faith is in Him and He brings peace to us. Sometimes He brings immediate peace to the storms of our lives, but we can be assured that at all times, He brings peace to the storms within our souls. When we are tempted to let fear and worry rage within, we must remember Philippians 4:6–7: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." In this fallen world, not every storm we encounter will be miraculously stilled, but Jesus gives the peace that passes all understanding so that we may walk calmly with Him through every storm we encounter in our lives.

Related Truth:

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How is Jesus the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)?

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