Sinking with Jesus | Matthew 8.23-27 (Snoh)
June 8, 2014 Series: Mission of the King | Matthew Part II
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 8:23–8:27
INTRO | Who is this man?
Matthew devotes chapter 8 and 9 to confirming Jesus identity. He is called Lord by his disciples, Son of God by demons, Son of David by a blind man, Son of Man and Bridegroom by Himself. The most important question everyone must answer before the moment they die is WHO IS JESUS—an answer that will dictate exactly how you live every moment until then.
Earlier in the chapter, the crowds began to gather to hear Jesus teach and be healed by Him. As the crowd grew and grew, Jesus gave orders for his disciples to sail to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Before he got into the boat, two men approached Jesus and declared their intentions to follow Him. Though both of them sounded genuine neither were truly ready to follow Jesus; one refused to give up worldly comfort while the other refused to give up worldly obligations. In Luke 9.62, the last thing Jesus said to these same men was: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” True disciples don’t just think about Jesus, or talk about Jesus, or make promises to Jesus, they follow Jesus—they do exactly what He says, without delay, and with joy. This is not what you do to become a disciple; this is who has become a disciple does: 1John 1.3-6 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. When Jesus says ‘get in the boat’, his disciples get in the boat.
Jesus wants His disciples to get in the boat, not stay on the shore. But anyone who gets in the boat with Jesus should expect to go through some storms. People wrongly believe that life with Jesus means a life free of chaos. I would argue that there is no such thing as storm-less Christianity. There is no such thing as relationship with Jesus without storms. Storms are part of life because the world is broken. Storms fall upon the believer and nonbeliever alike. They do not go away for the Christian; but with Christ the Lord they are understood and experienced differently. This passage does not teach us that Jesus leads us away from storms, rather, that He is in control of the storms that He himself leads us into. We learn that it is safer to be with Jesus in the storm, than anywhere else without Him. The truth is, we fear storms most because they reveal much about ourselves and our faith. Namely, who do we really believe Jesus is? I want to talk about three things: A STORM THAT SCARES. A LORD THAT SLEEPS. A WORD THAT CALMS.
A STORM THAT SCARES | What do storms do to us?
Matthew 8.23-27 | 23 And 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 swamped by the waves; I find it curious that, after talking about the cost of following with two disciples, Jesus immediately takes the rest of the disciples across the sea. Perhaps he wants to show them that the cost of discipleship is not a one-time fee you pay with one decision; that even if our faith is eternally secure its refinement never ends. As the disciples make their way across the lake in a boat, a great storm ensues. Matthew’s word for a “Great Storm” is SEISMOS (earthquake). The storm creates tsunami like conditions with waves large enough to swamp the boat full of disciples. The conditions are dangerous and violent enough to fill experienced fisherman like Andrew, Peter, James, and John with a real fear of dying.
Storms are unexpected, unique, and scary
STORMS USUALLY SURPRISE US, they are unexpected. The disciples never saw the storm coming, even though some of them were professional sailors. When the storm came upon them, they were unprepared and ill-equipped. We can predict a life-storm about as well as we can predict a real storm in the Northwest. Storms never come upon us when we’re ready and, like an earthquake, they shake the very foundations of our lives. And even if we could predict life-storms, like real storms, NO TWO STORMS ARE THE SAME. They don’t come from the same direction, look the same, last the same time, or even affect everyone the same way. In life there are storms of doubt; storms of destruction; storms of sorrow; storms of temptation; storms of poverty; storms of uncertainty, storms of criticism. There are all kinds of storms. One thing is for certain, ALL unexpected and violent STORMS SCARE. Our fears reveal exactly who or what we trust our life to—who our savior truly is. We worship what we fear losing most. You know you have a false savior of approval when you don’t just get discouraged by a storm criticism, you get deeply depressed. Or, when don’t just get irritated by a storm of disobedience from your kids; you get abusive in order to maintain control. Or when don’t just get troubled over a storm of bills, you get totally insecure. Storms reveal what we value most because they threaten the false idols that give us life. Those good things we make into gods NOT named Jesus.
Storms are evil but they are not the enemy
Much like wilderness, storms are evil but they are not the enemy. The enemy attacks in the storm. Jesus is the one that leads his disciples into a storm. Jesus could have restrained the Seas before they got into the boat, but he wanted His disciples to experience it. Why? Most of us wrongly believe life without storms is a better life. If we could choose, most of us would STAY EXACTLY AS WE ARE in waters that are quiet, calm and tranquil. And even though we might be willing to endure a small white squall in order to get something we want, we’ll steer clear of the storms that JESUS wants us to follow Him into that will change us at our core. Most of us don’t want to change at that level—we think we’re pretty great there. So when read that Jesus wants to lead us into storms we think: “Look Jesus, thanks for letting me in to heaven and dying on the cross and stuff, but can you just go do your Godly Cosmos thingy and leave me alone. BUT GOD LOVES US TOO MUCH TO LEAVE US THE WAY WE ARE. True growth/change rarely comes in calm seas. And because Jesus is interested more in our holiness than our happiness, He will lead us into storms.
V. 24-25 A LORD THAT SLEEPS | Does God know, care, or control?
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” The storms are not the enemy. But the enemy attacks in the storm. The enemies’ goal is not simply to break us, but to do whatever it takes for us break our trust in the LORD. Contrary to traditional belief, this narrative is not about “stilling” the storms of our lives; it is about not forgetting that Jesus is the Lord of the storm.
The silence of God in storms makes this very difficult. As the disciples are bailing the boat, crying their mommies, and waiting to die, Jesus is taking a nap on the stern cushion. Like the disciples, when chaos of a storm hits from all sides, first we fear then we accuse. And it’s those moments that spark our conversations with God asking, “Where are you at?” The gospel of Mark gives us a bit more insight into how these guys might be feeling: Mark 4.35-38 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 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?”
We know we should not be scared, but we just cannot take our eyes off of the waves. They are huge and loud and powerful. Psalm 32 tells us that it is hard to find God in the rush of great waters. Even if he is talking, there is so much other noise—it seems like God is silent which brings the storm into our hearts. And we begin to think that:
1. The silence of God must mean that He does not know | We are tempted to believe that God is not as all-knowing as we once hoped. We are tempted to believe that, unless we tell Him, God does not know what we’re experiencing, what we’re feeling, or what we’re thinking. God is surprised.
2. The silence of God must mean that He does not care | And if he does know, then that makes it even worse. Because if he knew how much fear, pain, frustration, or despair I was experiencing, he’d stop the storm. God must not be loving. God does not care; maybe God even enjoys my suffering. We are tempted to believe that God knows about the storm but won’t calm because he is indifferent/evil.
3. The silence of God must mean that He does not control | And even if he knows, and he cares, he must not must not have the power to do anything about it. If he is all knowing and understands WHAT TO DO, and he is all loving and IS WILLING TO DO IT, then if the storm isn’t going away, he must be too weak.
Nothing causes us to question the extent of God’s rule more than when he doesn’t calm the storm in our timing or way. And it’s at these moments that we are tempted to question the very character of Jesus. The disciples see Jesus asleep on the cushion in the back of the boat. Does Jesus not know? Does Jesus not care? Is Jesus unable to do anything? How can He rest at a time like this? Or perhaps He remembers something they don’t—a knowledge He can rest in greater than the knowledge of the storm? PSALM 46: 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. 8Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Jesus puts more faith in the unchanging nature of God than He does the ever changing nature of storm.
V. 26-27 A WORD THAT CALMS | How did Jesus save us from THE storm?
It is easy to trust God knows, cares, and controls WHEN THE SEAS ARE CALM. But when it is stormy, we fear. Jesus asks His disciples: “WHY ARE YOU AFRAID? That might sound like a question with an obvious answer. What Jesus is really asking: Do you know who I am? Jesus connects fear and faith. The second thing he says is, you have LITTLE FAITH. It’s not that they have NO faith, they have little faith.
When there is a lot of fear, there is little faith. Actually, the disciples have it backwards. In truth, they have GREAT faith in character of the storm and LITTLE faith in Jesus. BUT what is awesome is that Jesus helps them even though their faith is little. Jesus does not wait for our faith to be stronger, but he acts so that it will be. Jesus helps even if your faith fails in a storm…and it will. If these guys who saw Jesus heal leprosy, disease, blindness struggled in the storm SITTING NEXT TO JESUS, you and I will too.
But how do we find calm in the storm BEFORE storm is calm? It’s not enough to know that Jesus quieted this one storm on the Sea of Galilee. We have to see that there was a BIGGER storm that Jesus faced for us, so that these little storms pale in comparison. The storm of cross reveals that God knows, God cares, and that God is always in control of this world. This is the real storm that Jesus was preparing his disciples for. Jesus endured a storm of accusation, a storm of betrayal, a storm of abuse, a storm of injustice, a storm of abandonment, a storm of ridicule, a storm of beatings, a storm of shame, all leading to a storm of death AND all while God was in control. Peter recounts the story of the cross to early church in: Acts 4.23-27 3 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
Jesus endured THE cosmic storm, so that we could be freed to endure an earthly one. So much so that we not only do we have the strength to endure the storms the surprise us, but we also have the courage enter into the storms that don’t. There is someone who has gone before us and someone who goes with us. Jesus. Our hope is ultimately not that the storm will cease; it’s that even if it takes me down, I go down with Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t go down with this ship. Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Jesus rebukes the earth and causes His disciples to ask, “WHO IS THIS GUY?” What is the Word that calms the storm? The word is not this too shall pass or this is purposed for good—though both may be true. It may not pass for a while and you may never learn the good. The WORD that calms the storm is this: JESUS IS LORD. Jesus is Lord of all of creation. Jesus is Lord over every kind of person. Jesus is Lord over your finances. Jesus is Lord over your shelter. Jesus is Lord over your food. Jesus is Lord over your jobs. Jesus is Lord over your marriages. There is nothing that does not fall under the scope of His Lordship. Rest in this WORD: JESUS IS LORD OF ALL. HE KNOWS. HE CARES. AND HE IS IN COMPLETE CONTROL.
There is no such thing as storm-less Christianity. Storms fall upon the believer and nonbeliever alike. They do not go away for the Christian; they are simply understood and experienced differently. This passage does not teach us that Jesus leads us away from storms, rather, that He is in control of the storms that He himself leads us into, using it to build our faith. How? Ask Jesus. When we are tempted to believe storms are meaningless, the book of James says that we are ask for wisdom, not to get out of the storm, but to understand how God is changing us in it. James 1.5-6 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. The one who doubts is the one who can’t take their eyes off the chaos of the storm—they are overwhelmed by it, directed by it, governed by it. And when you can’t take your eyes off the storm, you become like the storm. A life that is like a wave has no purpose, no clear direction, and no rest. It is driven SIDE to SIDE and tossed UP and DOWN but every little thing that comes along. Jesus wants us to take your eyes off the ever-changing storm, and set them squarely on the unchanging character of Jesus. We need to take our eyes off of the storm and keep them on Jesus who isn’t absent, unaware, or weak.
More in Mission of the King | Matthew Part II
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