Lord of Wind and Wave

Matthew 8:23-27

Natural disasters have been on our minds recently, haven’t they? There was the tsunami in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, both causing much devastation. There have been many such events in the history of the world, going all the way back to Noah’s Flood. What can we say about them? How dangerous are they? Is God really in control? What about all those innocent people? Our passage here gives us some perspective on such questions. What we learn is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of wind and wave.

It looked like Jesus was finally going to get some rest. Remember that the entire Sermon on the Mount, the healing of the leper, the centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law, and demon-possessed men had all happened on this Sabbath day. Plus, Jesus had dealt with two would-be disciples. Humanly speaking, Jesus was utterly exhausted. He must have been exhausted, if He could sleep through such a storm as arose on the Sea of Galilee! Of course, we learn here that Jesus was fully man, subject to the limitations of the body. He is also fully God, as we will see. The Sea of Galilee is curiously situation. The winds can come down from the neighboring mountains and engulf the Sea in storm. What is remarkable is how swiftly such a storm arises, and how swiftly it goes away. But the disciples who were in the boat with Jesus were experienced fisherman, and well-acquainted with the ways of the Sea of Galilee. It must no have been any ordinary storm, then, that makes them so frightened. Verse 24 tells us that it was a “furious storm,” as the NIV translates it. Literally, the word is “earthquake.” The Sea of Galilee lay along a fault-line. An earthquake could indeed bring in large waves on the Sea of Galilee. It was more than an ordinary storm. That is the point. The waves were so large that the boat was hidden from view. We are to imagine a boat caught in the trough that is formed in-between two large waves. And Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat! Now, this is not a case where Jesus was caught napping. Rather, Jesus was testing the faith of his disciples. He really was tired. But he also knew that His Heavenly Father was keeping Him (and His disciples!) safe.

What was so small about the disciples’ faith? After all, they did the right thing when they woke up Jesus in order to plead with Him to save them. Isn’t that what we should always do? Yes, we should always flee to Jesus with all our problems. The problem was that they should have known that Jesus, the God-Man was not going to die this way. They should have known that Jesus was the Master of wind and wave. They should have known that God the Father would not allow His Son to die in such a way. They should have known that Jesus had a different death in store for Him, and not this kind of death.

Even so, what is remarkable is that, although Jesus rebukes them for their lack of faith, He still saves them from the storm. The disciples should have rested easy without worries, even in the midst of such storms, because they know that God their Father watches over them. God is sovereign. This is a comfort that the Arminian can never have, since they do not really believe in the sovereignty of God. I read about the story of a man who was walking down the middle of a street, and there were dead people all over the place. Indians had massacred the town. There were all these dead bodies! It would be very easy to be afraid. But this man was was not worried. He walked down the street. As he did so, he saw another man walking the opposite way. That other man was equally calm. They passed each other. Then, at the same time, they turned to face each other. One walked up to the other and asked him, “What is the chief end of man?” That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, by the way. The other man answered, “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” The first man said, “I knew you were a Catechism man by looking at you.” The second man said, “Strange. That is exactly what I was going to say about you!” There is a calm even in the midst of life’s storms that true believers in the sovereignty of God have. The disciples lacked it here. That is not really surprising, since they were brand-new in the faith. Christ had just called them. As the daughter of my former pastor once said, “I just love the disciples. They are always messing up.” Yes, the disciples lacked faith in this storm, faith in the sovereignty of God. Jesus does say they have no faith. He says that they had a small faith. But the beauty of this is, as I have said, that Jesus does not snuff out a smoldering wick, nor does He break the bruised reed. He is gentle. To those who have little faith, Jesus ministers to them so that their faith grows. By the end of Acts, theses same disciples will walk into the lion’s mouth unafraid, since their faith is strong.

Notice here the language that the disciples use. They call out to Jesus to save them. That word is normally used of spiritual salvation in the NT. So it is fascinating that Matthew records their request in this way. Matthew surely does want us to see that the only way to avoid “perishing” as the text says, is to call on Jesus to save us. And we should do that. If there are any here who are not saved, and are perishing even though living, then call on the name of Jesus. For there is no other name under heaven and earth by which we are saved than by the name of Jesus.

What does Jesus do? He calms the storm immediately. Now, winds can come and go rather quickly, as we know very well here in North Dakota. However, what is miraculous about this is that the waves also instantly became calm. Even if the wind died out right away, the normal thing would be for the waves to continue on for awhile. You cannot stop waves on a dime, unless you are God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God. Jesus is precisely that. Therefore, He is Lord over the wind and the waves. Jesus’ action prompts the question from the disciples, “What sort of man is this?” He is no ordinary man, that is for sure. He is the God-Man. He has the full power of God in His own person. The wind and the sea obey Him. He was there at their creation, and He was there at their separation from land. Indeed, He did those things. As John tells us, without Jesus was not one thing made that has been made. Therefore, Jesus is Lord of all creation. We must trust in Him.

The obvious application for us in North Dakota comes in the form of farming. We trust in Jesus Christ as Lord of the harvest. But do we trust in Him? Yes, we can plant, and irrigate, and spray, and till. But unless God gives the growth, nothing will happen. We saw that quite plainly last year. It is certainly not wrong to do everything you can to obtain a good harvest. That is part and parcel of your work. But how much do you trust God? Do you have little faith or great faith? Do you trust God in the midst of drought? Do you trust God in the midst of plenty? Or, if we get a good harvest this year, will you forget the Lord your God? As on the Sea of Galilee, God can send earthquakes in your life at the drop of a hat, in order to test your faith? God is never caught napping. As the Psalm says, “God slumbers not nor sleeps.” Even though Jesus the man might sleep, Jesus as God does not. But are you trusting in Jesus Christ, not only for salvation, but for all other things in life, as well?

The other obvious application has to do with our trials in life. The easiest thing in the world is to say that God has abandoned me when life’s storms arise. God must be asleep. Rest assured that God does not slumber, nor does He sleep. He is taking care of you. The Children’s Catechism question says “Why ought you to glorify God?” The answer is that God made me and takes care of me. And that is true. If God works all things out for the good of those who love Him, then why worry? Worry is doubt about God’s sovereignty. Or, worse yet, it is a complete forgetting of God’s sovereignty. Worry doesn’t help you at all, because if what you fear comes to pass, then the worry doesn’t help you with the problem. It doesn’t give you a solution. But if what you fear does not come to pass, then you worried needlessly. That is why Jesus tells us not to worry. And His reason is that God takes care of us. God loves us. And the One Who loves us is the Lord of wind and wave. He is supremely sovereign.


1 Comment

  1. Confedbell said,

    June 26, 2007 at 7:47 am

    This account also gives us another proof that Jesus is providing the covenant Hesed that only God can provide. As in the OT, at the formation of Israel, where God masters the waters so the descendants of Abraham can safely pass through the waters, so Jesus, at the formation of the Church, masters the waters so the descendants of Abraham can safely pass through the waters. Jesus thus is seen as both very God of very God but also as one greater than Moses since he not only guides them through the waters but Himself is Lord of Creation.


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