It’s always bothered me that Jesus reprimanded His disciples. In Matthew 8:23-27 it was over their fear of the storm on the sea. Another time over their lack of understanding. In the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for succumbing to sleep. He sounds impatient, and impatience isn’t a fruit of the Spirit.
Perhaps it’s because I identify strongly with the disciples, and I feel the sting of the rebuke on my cheek. The God of the universe claims to understand my frailty because He came to earth to experience it . . . and now I get smacked for it. I feel their shame.
I remember a teacher’s rebuke. Blindsided. I didn’t know I’d done something wrong.
When you choose to wrong someone deliberately, you deserve rebuke. But when the act is mere childishness, a misunderstanding, it feels unjust to have harsh words aimed at you. God deals with children differently than He does adults. I understand that. Would it sting worse to get rebuked as an adult? “Scolded” is a child’s word. That’s what it feels like to me. Like He’s treating them like children.
If a rebuke is unjustified, it’s the adult’s trigger. If I feel anger, revenge, or shame, that’s my issue. If the rebuke is justified, and it’s done in love, it’s discipline and for my good. It has always FELT to me like Jesus was triggered. But that’s impossible because it implies (by my definition) that He believes a lie somewhere.
Conclusion: I don’t like to think that Jesus was angry or even irritated at His disciples (that’s how grownups sometimes get when they discipline children). I think He was discipling, disciplining, and training. In the boat incident, He instructed them to go by way of the sea. I suspect He knew there was a storm coming, and He wanted to test them. At best, he followed the Father’s prompting to travel this route.
Matthew Henry states, “He slept at this time to try the faith of His disciples.” Maybe. Or perhaps His body was simply bone weary from all the ministry. In any case, I give the disciples credit for looking to Jesus as the source of their salvation. “Lord, save us.”
He asks, “Why are you fearful?” Does He answer His own question when He responds, “You have so little faith”?
I want to jump up and defend the disciples. Storms are fearful things! And who among them had the power or faith to rebuke the sea? None of them. Not I. Were they guilty of sin? Or of mere human frailty? Yes, I have weak faith as well.
While in the Garden, Jesus said, “Couldn’t you stay awake and watch for an hour?” (Matthew 26:40). It felt like a scolding and that He was unaware of and insensitive to their needs. But today I see it differently. It’s like He warned them to stay on the safe side of the fence, but they kept crawling over it. Finally, He put barbed wire on the top so they got the point (pun intended)—your obedience could be a matter of life and death. There’s danger on the other side. Don’t you see it? It was less a scolding and more a warning, an urging—look out! Your only weapon is prayer. The Evil One is lurking about. Be ready. Prepare for the attack. But they were unaware of the danger. And though they were willing intellectually to obey, their bodies were their masters.
I am God’s child, and I accept His rebuke if I go astray. But shame is not from Him.