Thursday April 16, 2020
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27 They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”Matthew 8:23-27 (NRSV)
We have seen the movies and TV Shows about boats being stuck in the middle of the ocean during a storm, and have felt the tension of the scene as the crew attempts to keep the boat above water. But this scene from Matthew 8 is even more tense than those moments.
Do you remember the story of Jonah when he refused to go where God told him to go, he fell asleep on a boat going somewhere else, and a terrible storm hit? The men on the boat blamed him for the storm because it was a common belief that the gods controlled the seas and the weather, and that Jonah must have upset his God. The only way in which the storm would calm was if Jonah sacrificed himself for the good of the crew by throwing himself overboard. The story doesn’t end there for Jonah either. But the point is that the people saw the rough weather as an indication of the anger of their gods. And the Sea was a scary Abyss that had no bottom.
In this passage, Jesus is exhausted from all of the ministry that needed to be done on the mainland, and he instructed his disciples to get in a boat and to go to the other side of the sea of Galilee. The “other side” of the sea of Galilee was populated completely by Gentiles, whereas where they came from was primarily occupied by the Hebrew people. Therefore, this “other side” would have been seen as unclean, dangerous, unholy, and even evil.
Can you imagine the disciple’s apprehension before getting on that boat as they wondered why Jesus would take them to the other side? Now imagine their confusion, anger, and fear, as the winds and waves start to get wild, and their leader is asleep at the stern of the boat (as Mark 4 tells us) which gave direction to the boat.
They must have wondered, “are we being punished? Is this not who we thought? Is he not going to help us?”.
Jesus then wakes up, and REBUKES the winds and the sea. That is, he puts the winds and the sea into place by submitting them under his authority, and there was a “dead Calm”. That which was alive and thriving, scary and treacherous, is now dead.
“What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”
In that one act, Jesus proved his authority over the sea, which was seen as a murky abyss, over the weather, which was seen as being controlled by the gods (showing his own divine authority), and over the situation by showing the disciples that they can have peace when they are with Him.
During this time of turmoil, as our world is being tossed in the winds of fear and on the waters of hopelessness, we can either resign ourselves to this fear and to this hopelessness, or we can seek a peace that comes from knowing that God is with us.
We do not know when this will all go away, and when things will begin to feel normal again, but we do know that God is with us when we are afraid, when we cry, and that we can have peace in knowing that.
In trusting in this, we continue to follow Jesus into the unknown, like the disciples followed Jesus onto that boat that was headed to the other side.