Authority Over Nature

by Paul George

Matthew 8:23-27

The pressure of the crowd had reached a point where Jesus could no longer effectively minister, so He made a decision to leave the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, a lake thirteen miles long and eight miles wide. It was late evening by the time His little boat left the shore by Capernaum to sail to the other side, and it was accompanied by several other little boats, according to Mark. Such boats were common in an area that was dependent upon fishing.

Verses 23-24 – “When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.”

The indication of the text in the exclamation “behold” is that the storm was an unusually severe one. In other words, those fishermen had seen many storms, but not one like that this storm. Anybody who could sleep through this storm was obviously very tired. That speaks of Jesus’ humanness. He was so tired, even a storm could not wake Him up. Of course, His sleeping was a part of the divine plan, as was the storm that was tossing the boat like a cork on the ocean. While the Creator of the world was peacefully asleep, the boat was filling up with water. We see here the reality of Jesus’ humanity as well as the fearless confidence He had in His Father’s care. If we could live like that. We are tossed around by circumstances, begin to mistrust God, and panic. The heart of Jesus was perfectly calm in His peaceful assurance of God’s care.

The fishermen did everything possible to keep the boats afloat. Realizing the futility of their efforts, they finally came to Jesus. When experienced fishermen who experienced many storms on the lake and they ask a former carpenter what to do, you know they are in a lot of trouble.

Verse 25 – “And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord we are perishing.”

In desperation, they cried, “We’re drowning out here; wake up” Amazed at such apparent indifference, the disciples were not so much convinced that Jesus was God as they were merely hoping that He was. However, that was where God wanted them. Sometimes the Lord has to make us desperate to get our attention. Like the disciples, we run out of human resources. Now we need a divine solution. The disciples hoped that the miracle worker who could heal sickness could also handle the sea. They had fear mixed with faith. If they had total faith, they would have been like Jesus, confident in the Father’s care.

The disciples broke in on Jesus’ sleep in the same way men come to Him in desperate situations. They are like the sea captain who said he did not believe there was a God, but when he was washed overboard, began to cry out for Him, when his rescuers later asked him, “We thought you didn’t believe in God.” He answered, “Well, if there isn’t a God, there ought to be one for times like this.” Many of us cry to God in desperation when sickness, disease, death, loss of a job, or marital problems afflicts us. However, often our first cry is like that of the disciples’ as recorded in Mark, “Don’t you care? We’re drowning.” If you have ever said that, you have demonstrated a lack of faith in God. You do not fully understand His love.

Verse 26 – “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea and it became perfectly calm.”

Someone with a lack of faith is guilty of doubting God’s love and power. If you believe in those two key attributes of God, you can weather any storm, because you know that God cares about you, and that He can handle any situation.

The disciples were questioning Jesus’ care and ability to help them. Evidently, their response surprised Jesus, because they had seen Him perform all kinds of miracles. He cast out demons with only a word and was healing all that were sick. If the disciples did not know He cared about human suffering, then they were blind. In addition, if they did not think He had the power to help them, then they were ignorant.

It is amazing how we can see a demonstration of God’s love and power, but in certain circumstances, we forget about those things. We witness the wonderful deeds that the Lord has done repeatedly, and yet, as soon as something tough happens in our lives, we begin to question His love and power.

The disciples finally learned that they did not have enough faith, in Luke 17:5 they said, “Increase our faith.” Not long after their request, Jesus healed ten lepers, what a faith builder that would have been. Faith needs constant strengthening, when our faith is “little” we distrust God’s ability and loving care, refusing to believe that He can and will provide our needs. That causes us to worry and become fearful. However, if we know that He cares about us and is able to help, what do we have to fear?

Mark 4:39 says that Jesus stood up and commanded the storm to be silent. Instantly there was a great calm. Normally, if the wind stopped, the sea would have continued to ripple until the waves had run their course. However, when Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea, the sea became as glass, as both the wind and the waves stopped. Jesus was able to stop that storm with a mere word. Matthew’s message to us is that the One who conquers disease also controls nature. He later shows us that Christ also controls the demons, forgives sin, and raises the dead.

The reaction of the disciples,

Verse 27 – “The men were amazed, and said, ‘What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Mark’s parallel account says that when the storm came, the disciples were “fearful” (Mark 4:40.” When Jesus stopped the storm “they feared exceedingly” (Mark 4:41). Do you know what is more fearful than being in a storm? Realizing you are standing in the presence of the living God. That must have been awesome. What an experience to know that God was in their boat that was far more terrifying than any storm.

The disciples knew that God was with them, and that reality was terrifying.

The same Jesus Christ who stilled the sea, keeps the earth whirling in space, and the entire universe in balance. That same Jesus Christ will return one day and set up His eternal Kingdom. Will you be a part of that Kingdom by faith in Him?

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