Thursday, July 26, 2012

What Kind of Man Is This? - Matthew 8:23-27

Master of the Sea
23 When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.

24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.

25 And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!"

26 He said to them, "Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?" Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.

27 The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Let's start with Jesus sleeping.  I see three cool things we can glean from this one detail: (1) It demonstrates again that He was a man just like us, and experienced all the things we do - including being exhausted. Interestingly, it seems like when we're exhausted, we get grouchy and are more prone to sin - yet in His exhaustion, Jesus obeyed the Father's will and performed a miracle.  What kinds of things could we accomplish for the kingdom if we stayed tuned in with God, even when we're tired? (2) From what's been going in the verses preceeding this passage, I'd say He was exhausted from ministry.  We see this a lot in the Gospels (a poigniant example is Mark 6:31-34).  It's a beautiful picture of His love for us, and an example as well: we, too, ought to be so passionate about working for the kingdom of God and ministering to others that we continue long after we're tired.  (3) Jesus had a complete lack of fear.  He knew that nothing could hurt Him outside of the Father's will, so He saw no reason to waste time thinking about it.  Easier said than done, yes, and there is such a thing as a Holy fear (see this post for much more on that topic), but it is a goal we should all strive toward.

I also find it very interesting that the disciples knew Jesus would save them, yet were still totally surprised when He did.  It reminds me a bit of when the man in Mark 9:24 cries to Jesus, "I do believe; help my unbelief."  For this reason, and because of what else we know of Jesus's character, I don't believe He was stern with them in verse 26; rather, I think it was also meant to comfort them.  Our God is an immensely loving God, and I fully believe that He has compassion on us when we come to Him simultaneously trusting and afraid.

Now, what's going on with the sea? It could very well be a natural threat that God used for His glory - we all live in a world where storms and natural disasters happen, so of course Jesus experienced them, too.  But some interpret the wording of Revelation 20:13 as hinting that the sea serves as an extra holding place for souls and therefore has some sort of demonic presence.  In either case, though - demons or simply the earth - this demonstrates God's immense power.

So what does "rebuke" actually mean?  The original Greek word is epitimao, which means, "to honor, to mete out due measure, thus to censure."  Okay...censure isn't exactly a common word in English anymore...what does that mean?  "Strong or vehement expression of disapproval."  So, Jesus is first of all acknowledging this storm's power and asserting His own power over it, and He's really going at it.  Remember, this is the VOICE OF GOD (see John 18:4-6 - which references Exodus 3:13-14 - and all the times He healed someone or cast out a demon with just a word, on His own authority).  So, He stands up on a violently rocking boat, when all the disciples are huddled down, amidst a raging gale with powerful waves washing over the boat, and sharply reprimands it with three words (Mark 4:39), and everything...just...stops.  Can you picture the level of amazement the disciples were experiencing now? :-)

What kind of man, indeed...
The God-Man!  Let's look at a couple Psalms telling of God's power over the sea:

Psalm 89:9
You rule the swelling of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.

Psalm 93:4
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The Lord on high is mighty.

Let's Make It a Discussion!

We all have "I do believe; help my unbelief" moments.  What have been some of yours?

Jesus calming the storm and walking on the sea are my all-time favorite examples of God's power, since I'm fascinated by the immense power of churning water.  What are some of your favorites?

Share these, and any other questions or comments, by leaving a comment. :-)

Giving Credit Where It's Due

Image One: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt.  Wikimedia Commons  {{PD-1923}} Pubic domain in the United States.  {{PD-old-100}} Public domain the European Union.

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