Be Still: And There Was a Great Calm
by Ray DeGraw
In trying to understand more deeply what it means to be a peacemaker, I was struck by the way that the following account is worded:
And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
As I thought about this passage, two things jumped out at me:
1) Jesus’ state prior to calming the storm;
2) The actual words used to describe the command and its effect.
Prior to my contemplation of becoming a peacemaker, I had never considered something quite simple about this account. When the storm first raged, and the disciples were fearful of their safety and their very lives, Jesus was asleep. That is worth considering more deeply:
Jesus was asleep – personally at peace – as the storm raged around him and terrified those who were with him. I will return to that point at the end of this post.
“Peace, be still.”
Jesus’ “command”, when read strictly in isolation from the actual context, doesn’t sound like much of a “command”. Like, “Let there be light,” it is a rather benign sounding statement. However, in the Japanese translation of Genesis 1:3, the feeling is very different. “Hikari ga are” (pronounced “heekahree gah ahre”) literally translates as the strictest of commands – roughly equivalent in English to “There WILL be light (because I WILL be obeyed).” With this same perspective, I can picture Jesus standing in the boat saying either of the following:
1) In a soft, gentle, soothing voice – “Peace, be still.”
2) In a stern, commanding, authoritative voice, perhaps with outstretched hand – “There WILL be peace. BE STILL.”
I lean toward the second picture (the command), primarily due to the statement in verse 39 that Jesus “rebuked” the wind. “Rebuke” means “sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand.” Either way, the description of the result is enlightening.
Verse 39 says, “the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” In this statement, there is a distinction made between two separate effects:
1) The wind ceased;
2) There was a great calm.
As I read this passage, I conclude that there are two aspects of becoming a peacemaker in its fullest sense.
First, a peacemaker takes an active role in stopping contention or any manifestation of “storms” that threaten safety – or, in a very real sense, others’ spiritual lives. Remember, this storm wasn’t just a matter of danger in the distance; it was causing the water to fill the boat. In other words, the threat – the danger – was very real and imminent. This is a protective action – rebuking the winds that blow – making those winds cease, even if it takes “sharp, stern disapproval; reproof; reprimand.” It is critical that a peacemaker understands meekness and mercy, as this understanding is vital to recognizing when rebuke truly is necessary – rather than simply “natural” or convenient or easy. It also is critical that she show “an increase of love . . ., lest he esteem thee to be his enemy.” (D&C 121:43) She creates by her actions “stillness” – a condition where it is possible to “know that I am God”. (Psalms 46:10)
Second, a peacemaker ensures that this “stillness” is experienced – is felt – as a “great calm”. When true peace has been created, it is accompanied by a calmness that can be distinguished from the simple quietude that we generally associate with stillness. Jesus’ rebuke of the storm did more than just establish stillness as silence; it left the disciples feeling calm.
Silence is the lack of noise; it is merely a passive condition defined as a void. Silence is understood by what it is not – sound.
Calmness, on the other hand, is defined by what it is – an actual feeling – an emotion – something that fills one’s soul rather than simply the absence of something else. Again, calmness is something in and of itself – an empowering gift that allows someone to remain unaffected by the storm even as it rages and even more so when it ceases. This allows one to feel “calm” even amid turmoil, and it provides “great calm” when turmoil stops.
I return now to Jesus sleeping as the storm raged around him – at peace and calm as others panicked. He possessed an internal peace, but it was his rebuking of the wind (and the subsequent removal of others’ fright and replacement with stillness and calm that extended his own peace to them) that made Him (in this case) a peacemaker.