“Jesus Calms the Storm”

 

Text:  Matthew 8:23-27

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

In our second installation of “The Lost Chapters of Matthew,” series we come to Matthew 8. Within this chapter you’ll find a treasure trove of good material. In this section of Scripture Jesus cleanses a leper, we hear about the profound faith of the centurion, we witness in story Jesus healing many, including Peter’s Mother-in-law and two men from demons and we hear Jesus tell us about the cost of discipleship. Any of these stories would make good sermon material. But I gravitate to my favorite miracle of all, Jesus calming the waters.

Why is it my favorite? Because it seems to me to be the most human. The disciples lose all sense of decorum when the storm puts them in jeopardy. They become angry at Jesus because they don’t know what to do and it seems Jesus doesn’t care. And finally, my favorite moment of all, they are more scared of what just happened when the winds and the seas obeyed Jesus then they were of dying in the storm.

I can relate to any of these situations and I’m sure many of you can too. When the storms of life hit, I’ve had times when my whole personality changed. What once seemed logical now didn’t seem so cut and dried. I’ve had times when life wasn’t going as I had planned and I got angry with Jesus for not being there for me when I thought I needed Him most.

And I’ve had times of sheer awe as I have beheld the power of God so palpable and real. This miracle is my favorite because it’s so real. It’s nothing someone would have just made up because the emotions are too raw, the reactions too spontaneous.

After walking with Him, learning from Him and witnessing many other miracles performed by Him, this miracle stands out to the disciples the most. “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?”

It’s most logical to continue with this story making an analogy about the calming of this storm and Christ’s ability to calm the storms in our lives and we’ll certainly get to this. But I want to try and answer the question the disciples asked, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey Him?”

To answer the question, we go back to the story. Jesus and His disciples are on the Sea of Galilee. It’s important to note here that the sea is where many of them made their living. They knew all about its unpredictability. They were scared of the storm because it was probably not the first storm they’d been a part of.

The Sea of Galilee is an unusual body of water. It’s pear shaped, eight miles wide and 13 miles from North to South but its as much as 150 feet deep in some places and is 680 feet below sea level. Water comes gushing down from the mountains including 9200 ft high Mt. Herman.

This gushing water has cut deep ravines that act like funnels drawing violent winds down from the heights onto the lake, many times without warning. This is why the storm was so sudden for them, because the sea and its surroundings are primed for surprise.

All day long the pressure had been building up and the storm hit with a sudden fury. The disciples knew this would be a bad one too. Though they had been through many a storm, this one was especially bad. So bad, in fact, that they feared for their lives.

Yet, Jesus is calm through the roughest seas. So calm, in fact, that He’s sleeping. As his disciples bail water in a desperate attempt to save themselves, Jesus catches a few z’s.

Today is the second Sunday after the Epiphany. Epiphany remembers the visit of the magi, Jesus’ physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Jesus as no more than a toddler, we imagine Him sweet and gentile, not overly-anxious but always observing. During Epiphany we remember the Baptism of Jesus and the dove so gently descending upon the Savior.

Calmness was a trademark of much of Christ’s ministry. From a sleeping infant, to the willing recipient of God’s Spirit to the calmness found even in the greatest of storms.

Jesus was calm because He knew His purpose, His calling.

He came to fulfill prophecy, but for the moment, the disciples forget all about this calmness, this prophetic moment, and fear for their lives, even as Jesus sleeps. The disciples are worried that now may be the end but all the while they forget that God Himself is with them. Here is God in the flesh with little concern because He is bigger than the waves, He is stronger than the winds.

It’s easy to forget sometimes isn’t it, especially when the storms of life hit. Yet all the while, Jesus remains calm because our storms could never overcome His power over them. His whole purpose in coming to us was to help us overcome the storms we will most certainly face. His promise is to never leave us or forsake us during them.

Yet, too often when the storms hit, we forget just how powerful Christ is to guide us through them. We grab for the nearest pail hoping to bail ourselves out of danger while Jesus calmly waits for our invitation to do what He does.

Jesus left the stormless perfection of heaven for the boiling storms of earth: storms of sin, storms of rage, storms of unrighteousness. He left the certainty of paradise for the uncertainty of man. All because he loved us enough to want to clear away our storms here so that we might one day experience the end of our storms with Him in bliss. Jesus calmly came to save us by His power over life’s eruptions so that we might, one day, call heaven home.

What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey Him?” He is the one who pours out His strength despite our weaknesses. After being woke up, he could have ignored their pleas, angry at their lack of faith. He could have simply ignored them and gone back to sleep. But that was not His purpose.

This storm was happening to teach a very valuable lesson. Jesus wanted His disciples to depend on Him and only Him. He wanted them to see His stillness during the storm. He wanted them to emulate His composure when all seemed lost.

Instead of giving up on them for their lack of faith, He shows them His power over the winds and the rain. He beckons them to stop and they do so with such a suddenness it terrifies all who witness it. “What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey Him?”

Our Jesus, that same Jesus who watches over you and me, is a God of infinite power. He not only has the power to control the weather but He can move the very stars if need be. This same Jesus we pray to everyday, has the power to draw good even from evil. And He offers us all this, if we simply believe in His ability to do them.

Now, does that mean that every wish will be granted simply because we believe. No, because He is even bigger than that. He is greater than a Genie because he has already planned out our greatest path.

Jeremiah 29:11-13, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

This storm was a storm of purpose. A storm to remind His disciples that, while he is with them bodily, still all the power of the divine was with Him. A storm to remind them where the real power of the heavens lies.

The almighty power of Jesus was often surprising to His disciples. After all, they got to witness it almost every day. Jesus looked like hem, He spoke like them, He ate like them, yet he did it all without sin. His divine power was hidden by His flesh but it was so often on display. With a simple word He would make the blind to see and the deaf to hear. With a simple prayer He would feed thousands with a couple loaves of bread and a few fish. By desire alone, he would turn water into wine.

All had surprised them because Jesus was doing things no mere mortal could ever do. Yet, this miracle on the stormy seas, with Christ’s display of almighty power, scared them the most. This one showed them more power than they had ever seen before, at least in their limited capacity to recognize power. This night Jesus had proven His divine nature by showing His control over all of nature. With simple rebuke, everything comes crashing into clear focus. This man is truly God.

Titus 3:4-7: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

Later His disciples would witness a miracle even greater than the calming of the sea. They would witness a miracle so great that they couldn’t believe it even after they were told my Jesus Himself it would happen. One day soon, they would witness the miracle of Christ’s defeat of death. They would witness Him raising from His grave. They would see that death could not defeat Him because he was bigger even than death itself.

This last miracle would be the one that would change their lives forevermore. No more would they wonder who this man is. Now, the fullness of Godly power would be on display. Even Thomas would have to agree that everything they had learned before had just culminated into this one moment of truth. The man who calmed the storm in an instant was truly God Himself. No more would need to be revealed. All that Jesus had taught them was now clear. No more would they ever fear the things of earth because God was truly bigger than any worldly dilemma.

That same kind of faith Jesus wishes for you also. He was not just some man who said a few wise things and performed a few miracles. Jesus was God incarnate with all the power of the divine and all the love needed.

Today he invites you into His inner circle. He wants you to trust Him to calm the storms in your life just as he has promised. He wants you to depend on Him as your Guide to a better life than you could ever make for yourself. All it takes is the recognition of Christ in your life. He is the one who calmly waits for you to call out His name.

What sort of man is this, that even winds and the sea obey Him?” This is Jesus unlike any other human being that anyone has ever known. This is Jesus willing to calmly offer His body as the perfect sacrifice for all the sins of the world once and for all. This is Jesus who, by His almighty power, calms our troubled souls in an instant with His free forgiveness. This is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the very Son of God come to bring us peace.

See His example of calmness during the storm and use it in your own life. Jesus was calm because he knew he was bigger than the storm, bigger even than death. When you need power in your life, trust in Him to impart His infinite power to you. Be calm because He is calm. Amen.

 

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