Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Matthew 8:23-27 Sit Right Back and You’ll Hear a Tale…

When Nehemiah led the Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild it, they encountered opposition. Many of them concluded because of the problems they faced that they were operating outside of the will of God. They presumed because they were encountering difficulties that God was telling them their timing was off. However, adversity does not prove that we are outside of the will of God. I know Jonah was in a storm and ended up inside of a fish for 3 days due to running from God but, as we’ll see today, it is possible for someone to be in a storm and be right where God intended for them to be.

After having several folks profess devotion to Him but quickly fall away on account of the cost that true devotion would entail, Jesus entered a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. When He proceeded to leave, Matthew notes, “His disciples followed Him”. We can commend their devotion to Christ and should emulate it. They followed Christ of their own choosing, not under any sort of compulsion. I am reminded as I read this of Peter’s words in John 6:68-70 where he says “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." A true disciple can’t help but follow Christ.

Now, here is the scene set before us by Matthew. The disciples were crossing this inland sea that, since many of them fished in this sea for a living, they knew very well. As they crossed over at night, a storm popped up. It is described as “a great storm”. Now, you might read that and think “Yeah, it’s a great storm—to an accountant (Matthew)”. But as we’ll see, it scared the disciples, many of whom had fished on this sea so they had seen this sort of thing before. These storms would come up suddenly from out of nowhere and they certainly could be dangerous. So, this is the predicament the disciples find themselves in as they have chosen to follow Christ. Now, Matthew goes on to give us two different perspectives on this storm.

Jesus wasn’t concerned about the bumpy boat ride at all. In fact, as Matthew records in verse 24, He was “asleep”. Now, there are two observations I’d like to make here. First of all, Jesus was fully God and fully human (John 14:8, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 2:9). In coming to earth, He didn’t divest Himself of one of His divine attributes but He laid aside His right to exercise those attributes independently apart from the will of God the Father. So, .like any human being, He got hungry, thirst, and in this case tired. He was resting and undisturbed by the violent storm that had come upon them. He wasn’t worried about what was happening because God was, and is, in control. The Lord’s perspective was one of perfect peace.

The disciples had a different perspective—panic. Now, again, many of these men were fishermen who had sailed on this sea in stormy conditions. They knew this sort of thing could happen. Therefore, I think it’s reasonable to assume that their panic was caused by the severity of the storm. J. Vernon McGee and other commentators suggest that perhaps this storm was produced by Satan himself. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but it must have been a bad storm for these experienced fishermen to get as frightened as they did. As Matthew notes in verse 24, the boat was in danger of “being covered with the waves”. Perceiving this as a dangerous situation, they went to Him and “woke Him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’" Now, Mark and Luke don’t record this as exactly what they said to Jesus. For instance, in Mark 4:40 they suggest that Jesus doesn’t care about them and the fact that they are in danger. Now, someone might say “See, there’s a discrepancy in the text. Which of those is true?” We should notice, first of all, that in Greek, the way this is written, they probably didn’t all come up and say what they said to Him in perfect unison. They were all talking at once, probably, and repeatedly calling for His help because the verb “saying” is in the present tense in Greek. You might translate that as “kept on saying”. Anyway, they came to Him and were concerned for their very lives in the midst of this storm.

As much as you and I would like to chide the disciples, we really have no room to talk, do we? We’re just as likely to forget how good God is and how good He has been to us. Our perspective is often so much like that of the disciples who saw the storm but forgot the Savior. We are nor immune to fear but we can choose to trust Christ to bring us through any storms we encounter as we follow Him.

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