Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 8:23 “And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.”
The scribe, the family man, and other spiritual landlubbers stayed on terra firma, but Christ’s real disciples launched away from their comfort zones and followed Him to do mission and ministry. True followers always stay close to Jesus.
Dear saints, never proceed without Jesus. Before doing anything or going anywhere, make sure Christ is already in the boat. Do not embark on our own. See where He is going and join Him. His main direction continues to be toward mission and ministry. If our boat hasn’t caught this wind yet, something is dreadfully wrong with our sails. Jesus is obviously doing two things, saving and serving. Landlubbers, get on board. Evangelize prechristians, and help everyone.
Matt. 8:24a “And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch
that the ship was covered with the waves:. . .”
Being in a boat with Jesus is wonderful, isn’t it? The twelve, soon having second thoughts, may have decided the scribe and family man were the wise ones.
The disciples found themselves in the middle of what the Greek text calls a “seismos megas.” Seismos, from which we derive seismograph, denotes a convulsive shaking, an upheaval like an earthquake. Megas means big, huge, grand.
With little advance warning, the crags in the mountains around Lake Galilee can become howling wind tunnels, funnels which intensify the velocity of the winds. The result is a terrible quaking in the sea. Earth itself seems to tremble.
“Behold,” this storm came unexpectedly, all of a sudden. That’s the way life is. We make plans and hoist our sails, expecting a nice, gingerly cruise. In our dreams, we fantasize calm seas; in our reality, we fight choppy waters.
When the winds finally seem to calm, and we again dare to let ourselves anticipate smooth sailing ahead, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, yet coming from everywhere, trouble descends. Whitecaps, breakers, and tidal waves crash upon us.
Our first reaction is often, “What did I do to deserve this? What’s wrong with me?” Dear faithful friend, reproach not thyself. The twelve disciples, when facing the fiercest storm of their lives, were exactly where God wanted them to be.
Jesus led them into this storm. The only reason these men were in trouble was because they had decided to go with Jesus. A storm where Jesus is? Yes, absolutely and always. Following Jesus invariably gets us in some kind of trouble. To any who think walking with Jesus on earth should be like a stroll with Alice in Wonderland, let me kindly say, “Get a grip.” We are not in Heaven yet. All in this country who think living a holy, godly life for Jesus is going to get easier have lost contact with any semblance of sanity. Stop expecting a life of ease.
Our Master forewarned us, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (MT 10:34b). Expect opposition from family, friends, co-workers, and the culture at large. We are enlisted as soldiers in an army at war. Plus, we share the common lot of humanity. Being saved does not dehumanize us. There are storms aplenty in life–sickness, death, financial trouble, family squabbles. The Christian life is a weather-beaten life. The winds, they be ablowing. Fortunately, as believers, we are comforted in knowing whatever storm we face, Jesus is in the boat with us. . . .
Matt. 8:24b “. . .but he was asleep.”
Uh oh, the disciples have a problem. Jesus is aboard, but asleep. While they are afraid of dying, He is dreaming of Heaven. In the pandemonium, One is calm and majestic. His repose is a stark contrast to the storm around, and in, them.
Fellow fainthearted friends, He who slept in the storm at sea can help us sleep through the hurricanes of life. He can calm the gales howling in a restless heart. Our Master wants to give deep, inner, lasting rest. He promised, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (MT 11:28).
We insomniacs need to memorize some key Bible verses. “He giveth His beloved sleep” (PS 127:2d). “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety” (PS 4:8 NAS). All who trust in God are promised, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid;. . .your sleep will be sweet” (PR 3:24 NAS). Alexander the Great said of his friend Parmenio, “Alexander may sleep, for Parmenio watches.” We believers have a far better Friend than Parmenio. We, too, may sleep. Our God, the Lord over storms, watches us.
Busy, exhausted, workaholic Americans need to hear it is okay to rest and sleep. When I battle anger, depression, or anxiety, rest always helps. When Elijah fled Jezebel and plummeted into deep depression, God let him rest (1 K 19:5-6).
Our Master slept. It bespoke His humanity. He was tired, wearied in body and mind by the constant strain of His labors in our behalf. The thronging needy crowd had robbed Him of rest at Peter’s house and by the sea. Behold Him weary, yet at peace. He helped many, deeming exhaustion worthwhile. For us He wore Himself out, toiling to the limit of His strength. Can we do any less in His behalf?
Matt. 8:25a “And his disciples came to him, and awoke him,. . .”
The disciples had to decide what to do about a Christ who seemed oblivious to their need. We share their predicament. As believers, we know Jesus is aboard the boat of our lives, voyaging with us on the sea of our existence. However, there are many times in all our lives when we feel Jesus is asleep. In our heart of hearts we know our Keeper “shall neither slumber nor sleep” (PS 121:4). Our dilemma is in lifting this deeply held truth to our conscious mind when circumstances seem to indicate God is not paying attention to us. We never doubt His presence, but often wonder if He truly is awake. David cried to God, “Arouse Thyself, why dost Thou sleep?” (PS 44:23a). Isaiah pleaded with YHWH, “Awake, awake” (Isaiah 51:9a).
Sometimes God does seem to sleep. It is often His only way of enticing us to come to Him. These disciples, being skilled boatmen, did not seek help from Christ first. They came to Jesus only after their years of skill and experience failed them. Once the boat began filling faster than they could bale, only then did they finally turn to the landsman, the Carpenter, among them. When they realized they had no hope of deliverance except through Him, they became like trusting, loving children, who in the midst of a thunderstorm, climb into their parent’s lap.
Desperation captures our attention and reminds us of His affection. When all seems lost, we say not only, “I need help,” but also, “I know who will help.”
Samson, headstrong and self-sufficient, leaned on family, friends, fame, raw power, and sex to prevail. But when weak, a mighty oak of a man reduced to the level of an ox, God caught his attention, and Samson thought again about a God who cared. While the Philistines taunted, Samson, having run out of himself, and with no place else to turn, leaned on a pillar, and prayed, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me” (JG 16:28b). And what was the result? “The dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life” (JG 16:30b). His weakest moment was transformed by God into his finest hour.
Down in a dungeon, surely Samson often felt God had fallen asleep. The Lord may seem to be asleep, but He never oversleeps. Jesus is never late. He is merely waits to act until we come to Him only, fully, and trustingly.