Even the Wind and the Waves Obey Him!

Perhaps, given all that fills the news cycles, it seems that your life is caught up in a perfect storm. While you can be comforted by what you read in Matthew 8:23–27, the purpose of the Apostle in writing is something far bigger than making you feel good. He writes to confront you with the authority and power of the Messiah

Jesus reveals himself as the Lord of the universe. Jesus rebuked the storm. Matthew is focusing your attention on the character of the Messiah. His power and authority are evident. Matthew has introduced the boat trip across the Sea of Galilee in v.18. It appears to be a specific boat he enters, and he is accompanied by his disciples, v.23. The stilling of the storm is followed by demonstrations of Jesus’ power over demonic forces (8:28–34) and sickness (9:1–8 — which includes his authority to forgive sins). Matthew describes the storm with a word that elsewhere refers to earthquakes, such was the violence of the wind and waves. The seas were covering the ship, i.e. it was disappearing into the troughs of the waves. Through it all Jesus sleeps, until he is awakened by the urgent cry of his disciples, the very terseness indicating their alarm, “Lord, save! We perish!” At Jesus’ rebuke, the storm became completely calm. It didn’t just blow itself out. Rather, the violence of the waves was replaced by an immediate stillness. Remember that some of the disciples in the boat were professional fishermen from that region. What amazed them more than the terrifying storm was the authority that stilled it so suddenly. “[T]his miracle of the sea. . . irresistibly focused the attention upon the transcendent person with whom the disciples had to do. . . .” (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ, p.138).

In this event recognize that Jesus is Lord. The God of Israel is the Lord of history and nature. He controls the sea, Psalm 33:17; 65:7; 77:16. He rules the wind and tempest, Psalm 107:25–30; 147:18. This contrasts with the mechanistic view of the 21st century. Psalm 18 describes God as riding upon the storm, likely an intentional contrast with the pagan storm god, Baal. He speaks, and saves his people, as he did in the Exodus. In stilling the storm, Jesus displays his divine power. He rebukes the wind, as you might correct an unruly pet. The word of Jesus Christ displays the sovereign, creative, redeeming power of God. Because he is the Lord of the universe, its forces respond to him.

Jesus calls you to trust him. Jesus also rebukes unbelief. Christ rebukes the disciples for their fear and lack of faith. The disciples were closer to Jesus than the multitudes. They had been selected by Jesus. They stood apart from the superficial followers of verses 18–22. Yet their trust was weak. The danger terrified them. The difficult times are when your faith is put to the test. When you lose your job, when family problems overwhelm, that’s when your trust is tested. Are you of little faith? Before stilling the storm, Jesus speaks to the terror of his followers. He has just revealed himself as the glorious, sovereign Son of Man, v. 20. The terror and doubt reflected in verses 25–26 also surface in the fearful amazement of the question of v. 27. [The certainty of faith] “is grounded in the promises of God, not in changing experiences or imperfect good works. Doubts and fears certainly do arise from time to time in the believer’s heart (Matt. 8:25; 14:30; Mark 9:24), and believers must certainly fight against them throughout their lives. However, they can only wage that struggle and only prevail in that struggle by the power of the faith that holds onto God’s promise, rests in the completed work of Christ, and is thus by nature certain.” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, pages 131–132).

Entrust yourself to Jesus. The question of v. 27 is rhetorical. It expresses the wonder and amazement of the disciples (parallel to, and yet more intense than other displays of his power, Matthew 7:28,29; 9:8). The subject, “the men” apparently refers to the disciples who had witnessed the miracle. Yet the choice of language invites a contrast with the One who can control even the wind and the waves. He is no mere man. In quoting the question, Matthew invites you to consider your answer, what kind of person is this? He calls you to confess that Jesus is the Son of Man, the Messianic King, none less than God himself. This miracle is the revelation of God in his Son. It is more than a bare display of power. What was true of the Lord in the Old Testament is true of the disciples’ rabbi, who fell asleep in the back of the boat! Christ controls all things at all times. The miracle reveals Jesus as your Savior, able to deliver in your most desperate straits, giving peace amid the fearsome storms.

You were not with the disciples in the boat, but the Spirit who inspired Matthew invites your response: Who is he? The Son of Man, your Savior.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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