What if We Really Believed the Storm Obeys Jesus?

Do you desire to see God work? I don’t know of any person who would answer this question with a “No.” Even the most sincere atheist would claim that if he or she could see God at work he would no longer be an atheist. Of course we desire to see God work!

In the previous passage, after Matthew explains the purpose of Christ’s healing ministry, we saw Jesus instruct two of his disciples to give up their personal identities, livelihood, and to no longer submit themselves to the priorities of the world. We learned that those who follow Jesus are all-in. It is impossible to be a disciple or follower of Christ and really hold anything back for self. We saw that this truth is so hard-hitting, that it even means true disciples are willing to give up self image, jobs, and cultural expectations if those things, in any way, pull us from following Christ or participating with Christ. The two disciples described in the text choose to follow Jesus as Jesus leaves Capernaum and travels across the Sea of Galilee.

Matthew 8:23-27

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 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.

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

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.

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

The disciple’s life (v. 24-25)

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.

In verse 23, we are reminded of what it means to follow Christ. Our following Him is something of substance. The root of Christ’s love in us produces this fruit through us such that we are willing to leave the securities of this world and follow hard after Christ, trusting Him to provide no matter what we have to give up in this world. Christ’s true disciples are willing to step out on the boat with Him.

Christ’s disciples at this time, at least one scribe and another disciple, follow Jesus onto the boat and they started to sail across the Sea of Galilee. As they are sailing, there is this great storm. The storm is so powerful that waves are covering the boat. These disciples have forsaken the securities of the world, financial and social, and Jesus has led them into the midst of a great storm. So, from verse 23 we know what Christ instructs His disciples to give up. Here in verse 24, we see where Jesus leads His disciples. We remember that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. We’ve taken the time to describe this root produces fruit anthropology throughout this series. Click here to see an explicit explanation. These disciples traded in their worldly security to receive whatever Jesus would lead them into. It turned out to be an immediate, life-threatening storm with no way of escape. Try telling these guys God doesn’t give people more than they can handle…

We also notice that these disciples did not know what they would walk, or sail, into. Christ simply instructed them to trust Him. While it is the case that Christ will lead all of His disciples into different circumstances, He calls all of His disciples to trust Him with the path and the outcome. He calls us to leave what we believe to be safe and familiar so that we can go to where things seem dangerous and unfamiliar. Christ does not keep this calling a secret.

In the news, you may have seen that another pastor, Jarrid Wilson, committed suicide. He was an associate pastor at a mega-church in California and much of his teaching was contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Still, we mourn this tragedy and those like it around the world. His suicide was most likely caused by very real mental illness. Suicide among pastors has become an epidemic because of the troubled waters they walk in. Jesus has not kept it a secret that His disciples will walk troubled waters. One of the pastors we are supporting and pouring into contracted malaria and had to receive treatment at a medical facility. Since he could not pay his medical bill, he is now facing jail time. As disciples of Jesus, we have left the security of this world to walk troubled waters. It’s terrifying. I can attest to this. I have been lambasted by well-meaning people because I believe and teach the Bible. I have been forced to leave communities. I have even had my life threatened. All because I believe in Jesus, preaching and teaching about the real hope that we have in Him alone. I have come to love those who persecute me.

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

This is what these disciples felt as they followed Jesus. They didn’t suddenly have some overwhelming peace through the storm. They didn’t have some overly spiritualized confidence that they were doing what God wanted them to be doing. They felt like they were dying. They went to Jesus, who was sleeping, woke Him and begged Him to save them because they did not see a way out. Jesus was their only hope and they clinged to Him.

Most of the time when I have heard this passage preached or taught, I have heard it presented in such a way that the preacher or teacher criticizes the disciples for lacking faith and draws a contrast between the disciples lack of faith and Jesus’ faith in the Father. They are worrying and He is sleeping. It is applied in such a way that people are told not to be like the disciples but like Jesus. The text does not do this and Jesus does not tell His disciples that they were wrong in what they did. He questioned their fear, but not their request for salvation from the storm. That’s not the point of the text. 

Here, the disciples confess Jesus as Lord and cry out to Jesus, who is savior and Lord, to save them because they are perishing. While this text is often presented to encourage some sort of works-based system whereby we must be like Jesus rather than the disciples. The text actually gives us another picture of the Gospel. We are perishing and our only hope truly is Jesus. The disciples, here, seem to believe that Jesus is able and willing to save them. It is why they left the securities of the world in order to follow Jesus in the first place.

Being awestruck (v. 26-27)

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.

Here, we see that Jesus questioned the disciple’s fear, not their asking Him to save them. It was their fear, their worry, through terrifying circumstances that proved they had little faith. The more faith we are given, remember that root produces fruit, the less fearful or worried we will be no matter our circumstances. We still cling to Jesus! This truth does not mean that we should be sleeping like Jesus as we are perishing. No. We still cling to Jesus, confess Jesus as Lord, and continuously exalt Him as our only savior through the storm, literal or metaphorical. The difference is that we want to come to Jesus out of faith and not fear. We understand, as Matthew has already taught in this narrative, faith is a gift of God (see the notes on Matthew 3:1-12). 

Jesus gets up and rebukes the storm. The storm obeys Jesus. Jesus is showing His disciples the authority that He actually has. He is showing them that they have no reason to fear and every reason to trust in Him as savior and Lord. There is nothing that we go through that is outside the parameters of Christ’s authority. If we are in jail, sick, threatened, persecuted, have permanent brain damage, are hurt, debilitated by any number of physical conditions, or in the midst of a storm at sea, our lives are not outside the parameters of Christ’s authority. We have no reason to fear or worry and every reason to cling to Jesus alone as savior and Lord. We have every reason to leave what we can now see as the false securities of this world and follow Christ, the one who has all authority over our circumstances in this world and the next. Jesus taught something similar to this in His sermon on the mount (6:25-34). So, we continue to see that Jesus’ sermon on the mount continues to provide the doctrinal material for the narrative in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew makes this a pattern throughout His Gospel.

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

Jesus was cool before. He was healing people, even at a distance. He was casting out demons. He was teaching like one who had authority. He was showing people what Scripture really said in the midst of a culture that had twisted its words. We’ve already seen that Jesus’ disciples had enough trust in Him to follow Him onto the boat. They trusted that Jesus could and would save them. He was the best doctor that they had ever seen. He was the best expositor they had ever heard teach. Surely He is also the best navigator or seaman. Jesus doesn’t do what we might expect. He doesn’t get up, take the sails, and adjust to get them out of the storm, thus saving their lives. No. He commands the storm, and the storm obeys. Stop here and take that in before reading on.

We often expect Jesus to save us according to our methods. So, we ask God to provide the money we need, to increase church giving, to provide what we think we need to attract more people, to help us do the correct things to overcome addiction, to help us take the certain steps to overcome anxiety or depression, or to make the legal or political system work for us in some way. God doesn’t do things the way that we often try and do things. This is how we get churches and pastors that neglect teaching God’s word so that they can teach about social justice or support some civil rights movement from the pulpit or in the classroom. Jesus’ ways are not our ways. What if we realized that instead of adjusting the sails, Jesus commands the storm?

So, we often don’t see Christ’s work because we are not following Him or our focus is on the storm or the sails. We understand that Christ is always working. If we want to see Him work, if we really want to see revival in our churches and in our communities, we will learn to stop relying on the securities and ways of men to accomplish the things of God. This is not a works-based Gospel. This is the fruit that follows the root of Christ’s love in us. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone. God is the one, in Christ, who commands the storm. He is the one who works all things. Maybe it’s time for us, on behalf of others, to pray, “Lord, save us. We are perishing!” Maybe it’s time for us to stop fearing or worrying and simply ask Jesus Christ, who is Lord and savior, to show off. Lord, please bring revival. Please increase our faith. Jesus proves His authority before His disciples and before the Galileans. His disciples were filled with a sense of wonder. When we see Christ working, our response will be much like the disciples, “What kind of man is this?”

Questions

  1. How often do we ask God to do something according to our methods, especially regarding evangelism and salvation?
  2. Why do we often convince ourselves that God is not going to work in a big way?
  3. Why do we focus on the storm (the thing causing us to perish) and the sail (the methods we have available) rather than trust that Christ has authority to command the storm?
  4. How does this truth change the way that we pray for our church, our community, and our own families?
  5. Do we step out in faith or fear?

Advertisements

One comment

  • I am always amazed at Jesus as you present him. Not what he does necessary, but who he is.
    Thank you for your ministry among us; rather , I think Jesus the Christ for you.
    If ever I can be of service to Jesus through your ministry, just call.
    Your brother,
    Albert

Leave a Reply