Sapphire Sky

May 12, 2019

He is King Over Nature

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 11:29 pm

 

 

Thoughts from Matthew 8…

 

“There’s a storm coming!”

I went for a walk this afternoon, hoping to finish all of today’s exercise before the expected storm would hit. The weather forecast predicted severe thunderstorms with a chance of a tornado. The streets are quiet as everyone is inside, getting ready for the weather that will come upon us.

One of my favorite movies used to be The Perfect Storm. The movie tells about the perfect convergence of a tropical hurricane with a Canadian system, leading to the devastating storm above the North Atlantic ocean. The story follows fishermen who chose to brave the storm in order to fill their hold with the needed catch. The movie ends with the total destruction of the ship and its crew.

We live safely inland. But even here, over 100 miles from the coast, there is nothing like a storm to show how powerless we are. With all of our great technology, we are totally at the mercy of a passing hurricane, tornado, or thunderstorm.

Most people know of the scene in the life of Jesus Christ where He and His disciples face a devastating storm. After a long day of teaching, Jesus set out across the Sea of Galilee with his twelve disciples. At least four of the men in the boat are seasoned fishermen, having been raised on this lake. But that night a sudden storm blew in off the mountains, nearly submerging the boat and leaving its crew expecting to die.

Where was Jesus? He was in the stern of the boat, asleep on a cushion. His followers frantically woke him up, expecting Him to do something before they all die. We don’t know what they expected Jesus to do, but they certainly did not dream what He would do next.

“Silence!” Jesus said, “Be still!” At that command, the storm stopped and the water was immediately still. He then turned to His awestruck disciples, saying, Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Matthew shows these scenes as part of his portrait of the King of Kings. He has already shown that Jesus is king over sickness and injury, and He will help all who come to Him (see here). This section of Matthew’s Gospel account shows more about Jesus Christ. He also rules over nature; the storm and the seas obey Him. He is beyond our expectations. Jesus is king, and He expects His people to follow Him with total commitment and complete trust.

Matthew 8:18-27
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

And 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 swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

 

He cares for His people

 

He Stopped a Storm and Stilled the Sea

Matthew 18:18, 23-26
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And 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 swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:35-40
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Luke 8:22-25a
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

This is a well-known scene in the life of Jesus Christ. Jesus had finished a long day of teaching, and now that evening had come, He prepared with His disciples to go across the lake. They would be traveling directly across the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum on the Northwest to the region of Gerasa on the Southeastern part of the lake. Other boats were accompanying them as they begin to cross the lake.b

The Sea of Galilee is about 13 miles long, 7 miles wide, and is nearly 700 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by mountains which, in the east, rise to over 2,500 feet. The unique geography of this lake makes it extremely susceptible to violent storms that can quickly rush over the mountains, and drop suddenly onto the sea (see here and here).

“Jesus is asleep, for very weariness and hunger, in the stern of the ship, His head on that low wooden bench, while the heavens darken, the wild wind swoops down those mountain-gorges, howling with hungry rage over the trembling sea; the waves rise and toss, and lash and break over the ship, and beat into it, and the white foam washes at His feet His Humanity here appears as true as when He lay cradled in the manger; His Divinity, as when the sages from the East laid their offerings at His Feet.” – Edersheim10

The storm this evening must have been especially severe for it to terrify the disciples. At least four of them (Peter, Andrew, James, and John) were experienced fishermen who knew all about this lake (see here). Yet as the boat was filling with water, they truly believed that they were going to die!

Meanwhile, Jesus was in the stern of the boat, fast asleep. It had been a long, tiring day and He was totally secure in the Father’s care. Mark’s account captures the disciples’ terror when they wake Him, saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

Jesus simply stood up and rebuked the storm, “Silence! Be still!” The waves stopped and all is calm. Nature’s fury is no match for the simple word of the Lord Jesus Christ!e

Storms in life may come when we disobey God, but this storm came because they obeyed Him. God will allow problems to come into our lives, even when we are obedient to Him, in order to test us. See the Book of Job and James 1:2-45

“Christ’s dominion over the sea was, therefore, only the Second and Unfallen Adam’s real dominion over creation, and the pledge of its restoration, and of our dominion in the future.” – Edersheim10

“The greatest miracle that our Lord performed in regard to the natural world was this one, when He rose up in that boat and commanded the winds to cease and the waves to be still. He manifested His power as Lord of all creation in a way that no one else has ever surpassed or duplicated.” – H.A. Ironside3

 

He is Beyond our Expectations

Matthew 8:27
And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Mark 4:41
And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Luke 8:25b
And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

I wonder what the disciples expected of Jesus when they woke Him up. They feared for their lives when they woke Him, but Matthew’s account records that they said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” They thought they were about to die, but they also hoped that Jesus could save them.

“It was the fear engendered by unbelief that led the disciples thus to cry out.” – H.A. Ironside2

What did they expect Jesus to do? Perhaps they simply thought that He could pick up a bucket and help them bail the water out of the boat. More likely, they expected Him to perform a miracle that would keep the boat afloat, or to move them out of the path of the storm. But from their reactions, we can observe two things about their trust in Him:

First, they believed that He could save them, but they were terrified. Given their request, they knew that Jesus could save them, but they didn’t know if He would do it. Jesus was more of an unknown power or a “last resort” to them.

Even though they were still learning about Him, they should have had confidence in Jesus. He started with the instructions for them to go over to the other side, so they should have had no reason to doubt that they would get there.2

Second, no one dreamed that He would simply stop the storm! His power and authority completely overwhelmed them and they struggled to understand who He was. Their fear of the storm was now replaced by a new fear and awe, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?

“He did not prom­ise an easy trip, but He did promise a guaranteed arrival at their destination.” – Warren Wiersbe6

 

He expects His people to follow Him

 

He Expects our Total Commitment

Matthew 8:18-22
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Luke 9:57-62
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus was approached by followers from the crowd as He prepared to leave Capernaum.He responded to all of these men with a challenge, showing exactly what it will cost them if they chose to follow Him.f

The first man, a scribe, came to Jesus promising that he would follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus replied to this scribe with the challenge that He will live the life of a homeless man. Even animals have a place that they can call home, but not the Lord Jesus Christ! If he truly wanted to follow Him, it would cost him the comforts of home.

“He who had created all things was homeless in His own world and among His own people.” – H.A. Ironside2

Jesus then approached the second man with the call to follow Him. The man agreed to follow Him, but only after he buried his father. He most likely wanted to wait for his father to die so that he could receive the inheritance before following the Lord.Jesus’ challenge was to “leave the dead to bury their own dead”. If you are to following Jesus Christ, you need to leave behind the concerns about inheritance and financial security. Those concerns are for those who do not know Him.

“To speak of following Jesus on our own terms is to fail to realize that He is Lord of all. Are we seeking to make a bargain with Him, or have we yielded ourselves unreservedly to His authority?” – H.A. Ironside2

The third challenge, only recorded in Luke’s account, tells that of man who asked to first say farewell to those at home. This challenge by Jesus seems to be the most drastic. Is Jesus really saying that he cannot even say good-bye to his family? This challenge is best understood that the man’s loyalties are divided. Jesus is not opposed to saying good-bye (see 1 Kings 19:20-21, where Elisha is granted the same request by Elijah). This man wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted to stay connected to his family. Jesus won’t settle for a divided loyalty. You must follow Him with all your heart, without looking back.

“[The request] shows, that to follow Christ was regarded as a duty, and to leave those in the earthly home as a trial; and it betokens, not merely a divided heart, but one not fit for the Kingdom of God. For, how can he draw a straight furrow in which to cast the seed, who, as he puts his hand to the plough, looks around or behind him?” – Edersheim9

Luke 14:26, 33
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

This is part of an extended section where Jesus taught what it means to be His disciple. This is not about austerity, renouncing your family, or living in a monastery. Instead, Jesus sets the requirement. If you want to be His disciple, then He must be your first and foremost priority in your life. Your love for Jesus Christ must be so great that any earthly relationships are hatred by comparison.

“Conditions of discipleship have not changed, they are still the same as of old. To follow Christ does not insure one a life of comfort and ease.” – H.A. Ironside4

 

He Expects Us to Trust Him Without Worry

Matthew 8:26a
And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

Mark 4:40
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Luke 8:25a
He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

For the final section for this study we need to go back and look at Jesus’ response to His disciples after He calmed the storm. This was not a calm, shoulder-patting moment with His terrified followers. Instead, this is a direct rebuke on their lack of faith. Why are they afraid if Jesus is with them? Do they not trust Him?

Sadly, we are too often caught in the same trap. It is too easy for us to become afraid when the storms of our life start to scare us. Do we turn to God in panic or can we simply trust Him?

The word for afraid is also translated as “cowardly”. This is listed as one of the sins of the unbelievers in Revelation 21:8.15

Jesus taught about fear and anxiety during His Sermon on the Mount (See here for more details). His repeated conclusion is the same that He had for His disciples. Do not be anxious! Do not be afraid!

Matthew 6:34
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

Conclusion

It is easy to picture Jesus on the sea as a far-off story. Perhaps we are familiar with the flannelgraph from childhood Sunday School. Perhaps we recall the Rembrant Painting or other artist depictions of the scene.

But we miss the point when we remember this crisis as simply a distant story from another time. These were real men with real terrors. Even though they traveled with Jesus Christ Himself, they did not trust Him enough to not be scared in the face of the storm.

But Jesus is the King! He is greater than any storm that will come our way. He is greater than any problems in our lives. Just like the disciples, we may think we can trust Him enough to help us bail out of the boat when He wants to stop the storm. Do we trust Him to be great enough?

But Jesus also expects us to follow Him. Can we follow Him completely? Do we let our comfort, our security, or our relationships get in the way of fully following Him?

Jesus is King!

“Jesus did not stop with the calming of the elements, for the greatest danger was not the wind or the waves: it was the unbelief in the hearts of the disciples.” – Warren Wiersbe6

“We do not know what dangers and difficulties we have to face and what hidden rocks and shoals are ahead of us as we go through life, but we do know our Savior, and we may be sure He will carry out His purpose and will see us safely over to the other side.” – H.A. Ironside3

“Jesus Christ does not promise the absence of storms, but He guarantees His presence in the storm.” – Stephen Davey13

Isaiah 12:2
“Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

 

Previous Post: How did Jesus Answer Sickness?


References

[1] Stanley D. Toussaint, Behold The King, Kregel Publications, 1980, Matthew 8:18-34, pages 125-128

[2] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Matthew 8, The Works of the King

[3] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 28, Lord of the Winds and Waves, Luke 8:22-25

[4] H.A. Ironside, Ironside Expository Commentaries, Address 35, Intolerance Rebuked; Faithfulness Enjoined, Luke 9:51-62

[5] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Matthew 8:18-34, pages 28-29

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Mark 4:35-5:20, pages 101-103

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 8:22-39, pages 162-163

[8] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament, David C. Cook, 2007, Luke 9:57-62, page 169

[9] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III, CHAPTER IV: THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM, CHRONOLOGICAL ARRANGEMENT OF THE LAST PART OF THE GOSPEL-NARRATIVES, FIRST INCIDENTS BY THE WAY (St. John 7:1-16; St. Luke 9:1-56; 57-62; St. Matthew 8:19-22.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.ix.iv.html

[10] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book III, CHAPTER XXIV: CHRIST STILLS THE STORM ON THE LAKE OF GALILEE (St. Matthew 8:18, 23-27; St. Mark 4:35-41; St. Luke 8:22-25.), https://www.ccel.org/ccel/edersheim/lifetimes.viii.xxiv.html

[11] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 7. http://www.jesus.org/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/14-jesus-saturates-galilee-with-his-message.html

[12] Doug Bookman, Life of Christ, Audio Series, Lecture 8. https://www.christianity.com/jesus/life-of-jesus/harmony-of-the-gospels/15-the-unpardonable-sin-and-a-shift-to-parables.html

[13] Stephen Davey, Human Impossibility + Urgency = A Divine Miracle, Mark 4:35-41, 12/6/1987

[14] John MacArthur, What Keeps Men from Christ?, Matthew 8:16-22, Nov 2, 1980

[15] John MacArthur, Jesus’ Power over the Natural, Matthew 8:23-27, Nov 9, 1980


Notes

[a] The chronology of this scene, when Jesus crosses the Sea of Galilee, is difficult to place. Mark places this scene at the end of the day when Jesus has been rejected by the Galilean Jews and has started teaching in parables. 11 Matthew’s opening seems to indicate that this occurred on the same evening that He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. The simplest explanation is that this fits into Mark’s timeline, and the “when Jesus saw a crowd around him” in Matthew 8:18 does not necessarily indicate that it immediately follows the events in 8:17.

[b] Only Mark’s Gospel account tells that other boats accompanied Jesus and the disciples as they left Capernaum that evening. These other boats may have also been present at the time that Jesus stilled the storm, or they may have turned back before the storm arose. Judging by their absence from the rest of the narrative, the simplest understanding is that they had turned back before Jesus and the disciples encountered the storm.

[c] Once again, the chronology of events is difficult. Matthew’s account places the scene where Jesus is approached by two men who want to follow Him as He is preparing to cross the Sea of Galilee, early in His ministry. By contrast, Luke’s account (Luke 9:57-62) places this same scene much later in Jesus’ ministry, as He prepares to go to Jerusalem. Luke’s account also tells of a third person who is challenged by Jesus. Since neither Matthew nor Luke’s accounts are always in chronological order, we cannot know the exact timing of these challenges. Both times fit well for this challenge during Jesus’ ministry. For the sake of this study, I am placing these challenges early in Jesus’ ministry, as is consistent with Matthew’s account.

[d] Most Bible scholars agree that the request to “let me first go and bury my father” was not in regard to the man’s father who had recently died, but rather for a father who was still alive. The man did not want to follow Jesus while his father was still alive, lest he miss out on the father’s eventual burial and inheritance.

[e] Many commentators point out that Jesus rebuked the storm in the same way that He rebuked demons, and forced them to come out of their captives (Mark 1:24-25). This may indicate that this storm was part of a specific attack by Satan and his demons. Satan is capable of using storms and other weather to attack God’s people but it would be mysticism to attribute natural phenomena to the work of demons, without further information from God’s word.

[f] Matthew 8:20 is the first time in the Gospels that Jesus is recorded as referring to Himself as “The Son of Man”. This was a common term for Jesus to use for Himself and is used over 80 times in the Gospels. It is a direct reference to the Messiah from Daniel 7:13 (see also here). By using this title for Himself, Jesus identified himself as the Messiah to the Jews, who were very familiar with Daniel’s prophecy. However, this title was also innocuous to the pagan Romans, and so allowed Jesus to present His message to the Jews without incurring political reprisal from the Romans, who would have viewed any title of king as a threat.11 5

 

2 Comments »

  1. […] We don’t know what Jesus and His disciples were thinking, but they had just finished a very long day. Jesus was teaching the crowds, facing opposition from the religious leaders, and enduring rejection from the people. Once night fell, He and His followers set sail across the Sea of Galilee. Exhausted, Jesus went to the back of the boat and fell asleep, only to be suddenly awakened by the frantic disciples. A sudden storm was overwhelming the boat and they were sinking! Jesus stood up, rebuked the storm, and then scolded His faithless disciples. The storm stopped, and He showed that He is king over anything nature can throw at him! (see here). […]

    Pingback by He is King over the Supernatural | Sapphire Sky — May 20, 2019 @ 12:58 am

  2. […] kingdom, He will heal the sick and the broken (see here), He is greater than nature’s might (see here), and He is greater than the supernatural (see […]

    Pingback by The Kingdom is About Forgiveness | Sapphire Sky — May 26, 2019 @ 11:23 pm


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