This morning our lesson is taken in the Scripture from the eighth chapter of Matthew. Matthew chapter 8. We’ll look at verses 23 through 27. Matthew 8:23 through 27.
Let me give you some background to our thinking this morning. When God created man, God ordained that man was to be the king of the earth. That man was to be the monarch. The book of Genesis says that God gave man dominion, or sovereignty, or rule, or kingship over the earth.
And then when man fell into sin, he was dethroned as the king. He lost his sovereignty; he lost his right to rule; he lost the majesty and the wonder of the glory of an innocent earth, the kingdom that God had given him. The earth was immediately cursed by God. And as a result of that curse, the control of the earth fell into the hands of the usurper Satan, who is called the prince of this world, the god of this age.
And so, man lost his dominion, and the earth lost its glory. What was the result of this? Let me just give you some of them: sickness, pain, death, difficulty in human relationships, war, sorrow, injustice, falsehood, famine, natural disaster, and demonic activities. These are the things that result from sin. And the earth endures all of these things constantly. But the Bible unfolds for us a great and glorious redemptive plan in which God is not only redeeming man, but redeeming man’s environment, redeeming man’s earth, redeeming man’s universe, reversing the curse.
Now, according to God’s plan, in order to do this, God would come to earth twice. The first time he would come to redeem the earth and the universe. And so, we see in the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, that He went to the cross and rose from the grave for the redemption of man. The second time He comes in blazing glory, establishes a thousand-year millennial kingdom, and then a new heaven and a new earth throughout eternity, thus redeeming the whole of creation.
Now, that is the plan. And Christ was the one to carry out the plan. The ultimate design then is a universe with no sorrow, no tears, no pain, no sickness, no death, no disease, no difficulties, no disasters, no demons. All righteous, all holy, all lovely, all beautiful, all glorious forever. That is the coming kingdom of God.
Its first phase is the thousand-year millennium, when the Lord reverses the curse in the earth itself. The second phase is in the eternal state, when He creates a new heaven and a new earth, unlike the one we have now. Everything is going to change in the future. Everything we know of as a curse, everything that blights man’s existence, everything that breaks man’s heart, everything that steals man’s joy, everything that takes away from him the dominion and dominance that God intended him to have - the sovereignty that God designed - will be reversed. And the Bible says that we will reign forever and ever with Christ in His throne. That’s the redemption of the universe.
Things aren’t always going to be the way they are. But now, as we look at redeeming the earth and the universe, as we look at the glorious coming kingdom of God, it becomes patently obvious to us that man can’t effect that change. We can’t change anything in our environment. We can try to deal with some of the problems, but we can’t eliminate them. We don’t have the power.
Now, we can shoot off little rockets into space, but all we do is pollute space. We can build all kinds of machinery and equipment, but all we do is pollute the environment around where we’re building and using those things.
As a medical doctor told me, for everything in medicine that we solve, we create six other problems that must be solved. So, the hurrieder we go, the behinder we get. The greater our advancement, the more severe the complications. Man cannot bring about a renewed earth. Man cannot eliminate the curse. He doesn’t have the power. As powerful as our rockets, as clever as we are in dealing with energy source, as well as we have been able to develop nuclear power and so forth, we still cannot apply those things to changing our environment, changing our universe.
Now, if the earth is going to be changed, and if the environment is going to be altered, and if there is to be a new heaven and a new earth, it’s going to have to be done by somebody far superior to any man. In fact, it is not only a power beyond man, it is a power that is inconceivable to man. We can’t even imagine the kind of power it will take to reverse the curse, to create a new heaven and a new earth any more than we can imagine the kind of power that it takes for God to create in the beginning and to uphold creation. In Psalms 62, the Bible says, “Power belongs to God.”
In Job 26:14, it says, “The thunder of His power who can understand?” In Psalm 79:11, it says, “The greatness of Thy power.” In Nahum 1, it says, “The Lord is great in power.” In Isaiah 26:4, it says, “The Lord God is everlasting power.” In Psalms 65:6 I read this morning, it says, “Who by strength establishes the mountains; being girded with power.”
No wonder David said in Psalm 63, “O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee. My soul thirsteth for Thee; my flesh longeth for thee to see Thy power.” What kind of power does God have? It’s visible to us.
Romans 1. “The things around us reveal to us the power of God,” says Romans 1:20. What kind of power is it? The longer we look at the universe, the more shocking it becomes to see the power that is exhibited there. Puny little man, if he wants to run a 450 horsepower bulldozer for one day has to use a hundred gallons of diesel fuel just to putt that thing around to move dirt. What kind of power does it take to move the universe? Beyond our imagination.
Our little telescopes can take us out 4 billion light years, or 25 sextillion miles – or if that doesn’t help, try 7 times 10 with 67 zeroes. We can look out there, and we know we haven’t even come close to the edge of space. And everywhere we look, we find power, movement of heavenly bodies energized with incredible power. We live on a ball 25,000 miles in circumference, 8,000 miles in diameter. And the earth weighs six septillion, five hundred sextillion tons. And it hangs on nothing.
We say, “Well, gravity holds it up.”
What is gravity? What power is gravity that holds this thing in space? Not only that, but makes it spin. Where are the rockets that make us spin a thousand miles an hour? That’s how fast we’re going this morning folks, one thousand miles an hour in a circle. And, you know, it’s so accurate that you can measure time to the split second. And not only that, we’re not only going around at a thousand miles an hour, but we’re careening in an orbit around the sun that covers 580 million miles, at a speed of a thousand miles a minute. And not only that, our whole solar system is careening through endless space in an orbit that takes billions of years to complete at a faster speed than that. We’re going in three speeds. Where’s the fuel? Where’s the energy? What makes us go?
And did you know that a codfish at one shot lays nine million eggs? Just thought I’d throw that in. God is not only the God of the big, but He’s the God of the little. Do you know that they have measured that the horsepower of the sun is 500 million million billion horsepower? And there are at least 100,000 million suns in our galaxy, and who knows how many millions of galaxies? Where’s the power? What keeps it all moving? And did you know that a teaspoon full of water has a million billion trillion atoms in it? And do you know what an atom is? An atom is nothing but energy. That’s all. Just a little energy thing.
You say, “Well, there’s matter in the middle.”
Do you know how much of an atom is actual matter? One trillionth.
You say, “There are a million billion trillion atoms in a teaspoonful of water, and one trillionth of that atom is volume, and the rest is just energy and motion?”
That’s right. Put it another way, if you took me – and some of you wouldn’t for a minute – but anyway, if you could take me and squeeze out of me all the empty space, and just reduce me to the matter, do you know how much of me is actual matter? Figuring just a little over six feet, one one-hundred millionth of a cubit inch is matter. The rest is energy and motion.
Now, what makes this whole thing go? When the Bible says Jesus upholds the world with His power, it doesn’t mean He holds up the matter; it means He energizes every atom in the universe. And the universe goes so far it’s inconceivable. The power of God. What kind of power. Do you think God has the power to recreate the earth? I think He does. He has the power to reverse the curse. He has the power to bring back Eden, the power to create a new heaven and a new earth. And I believe that’s why Jesus came, to show us that power.
I believe Jesus came in the word to declare, once and for all, that He was God, and that He as God the Son had the power to bring the kingdom of God to a cursed earth. That He was the promised King, the promised Messiah. That He could give back the sovereignty to man; that He could restore the earth; that He could eliminate sin. He had all the credentials.
In Matthew 1, Matthew said He had the right genealogy; he was of the line of Abraham and David. In Matthew 2, He had the right birth; He was born of a virgin. And then He had the right baptism; He was affirmed by the Father and anointed by the Spirit. And then He had the right test, the temptation in which He showed His power over Satan. And then He gave the right message; He confirmed the Word of God with absolute authority. And now he says in Matthew 8 and 9, He has the right power.
If there is one who is going to reverse the curse, God said He’ll come through the line of David; Jesus did. God said He would be born of a virgin; Jesus was. God said He would be approved by the Father, and Jesus was. He would be more powerful than Satan, and Jesus was. He would speak the truth, and Jesus did. And here it says He would have the power, and He had it.
Look at Matthew 9:6, “But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power.” You see, that – and you can stop right there – that is the whole issue in the miracles, that men might know He has power. The miracles were foretastes of kingdom power. When He healed the sick, He was giving a preview of a glorious kingdom where there would be no sickness. When He raised the dead, He was giving a preview of a glorious kingdom where there would be no dying. When He calmed the waves on the sea, He was previewing a glorious kingdom where natural elements would never be out of control. When He cast out demons, He was previewing a kingdom where there would be no demonic activity at all. When He spoke the truth, He was previewing a kingdom where there would be no lies but only truth. When He manifested His holiness, He was previewing a kingdom where there would be righteousness and that’s all.
You see, everything He did was to say to man, “I am the one who can reverse the curse. I am the one who can bring back sovereignty to man in a glorified, eternal kingdom. And in chapter 9, for example, verse 8, “The multitudes saw. They marveled and glorified God, who had given such power unto men.”
In chapter 10, verse 1, “And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power.” He gave them power in two areas: over demons and over disease. And those are the only two areas of miracles. The apostles never, ever were given power to do miracles that dealt with nature. Only Jesus did those. But they were given power. In Matthew 28, He said, “All power is given unto Me.” All power.
In Mark 9:1, “He said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, there be some of them that stand here who shall not taste death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.’” What was He talking about? Some of you are going to be alive when you see the kingdom of God come with power. He was referring to His transfiguration. Immediately He went into a mountain, and there were those that were dead – Moses and Elijah – appearing there. And He had brought them back. That’s power. He transfigured Himself and let His glory be seen. That’s power. They saw the power that would be fully manifest in the kingdom.
In Luke 4, verse 32, “And they were astonished at His doctrine, for His word was with power.” Verse 36, “And they were amazed, for with authority and power He commanded the unclean spirits.” In Romans 1, verse 4, Paul sums it up, “he is declared to be the Son of God with power.” And where was that power most revealed but in His own resurrection from the dead. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:24, it is said that He is “Christ the power of God.”
Now, what Matthew is showing us is that Jesus Christ has power over every facet of the curse: over disease, and death, and Satan, and demons, and natural elements, and animals, and pain, and everything, and therefore qualifying Himself as the rightful heir to the earth, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now, we’ve already seen the first three miracles. There are nine miracles in chapters 8 and 9. The first three dealt with disease, didn’t they? We’ve already seen these. The next three show His power over the natural elements, the supernatural world, and over sin. So, you go from disease to the natural elements, the supernatural dominion of demons, then sin, and even death later on. All of these marvelous pictures of His power.
Now, let’s look at the text, verses 23 to 27. I want to show you four points: the particulars, the panic, the power, and the portent. First, the particulars. Now remember, as we look at verse 23 and 24 and get the scene. Matthew has presented three miracles and then a response. The response was in verse 18 to 22, how people reacted. He’s going to give us three more miracles, and then another section on response showing us the different ways the people responded to Christ.
Now remember, the last group, they were fascinated; they were interested; they were curious; they were thrilled with His power. But when He put it right down on the bottom line and said, “If you’re going to follow Me, you’re going to leave everything; you’re going to pay a deep, severe price; and you have to come right now with a full commitment,” they went away; they weren’t interested. That was the first response.
Now we move into the second three miracles, and he is going to give us, at the end of these three, a different response. Notice back at verse 18, and let’s set the scene. “Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave commandment to depart to the other side.” Now skip to verse 23, “And when He was entered into a boat, His disciples followed Him.” Now, the pressure of the crowd had reached a point where Jesus no longer could deal with it. And so, He said, “It’s time to leave.” And they were on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee – or literally the Lake of Galilee. Just a little lake, 13 miles long, 8 miles wide at the widest points. And He said, “We’re going to the other side. And they had taken all they could take; they’d accomplished all they could accomplish. Jesus, I believe, was tired; He was weary. The Sabbath day was over. I believe it was nighttime by now, because it’s already evening in verse 16, and so now it’s after evening; it’s late in the night. The crowd has pressured Him more than He can bear in His humanness. He says, “We have to go now. We have to leave now.”
Now, what that did was it forced the issue. Three disciples – would-be disciples – said, “Boy, I’d like to come, but I got to do this, and I got to do that, and I got to do that.”
And Jesus confronted them, and they stayed. But some were willing to follow. So, verse 23 says, “When he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed Him.” The three that we looked at in the end of the last section, they didn’t follow, but some did. And so, as the little boat left the shore by Capernium to sale maybe six – five or six miles to the other side – several other little boats when along. “His disciples followed Him” simply means in other boats. Obviously they didn’t just hang onto the outside of the boat. In fact, Mark says, “There were also with Him other little boats.”
And by the way, the Sea of Galilee is just covered, in Jesus’ time, with little boats. That is a farming and fishing area. Fish proliferate in that area. Even to this day, if you go over there, they’ll feed you what they call St. Peter’s fish, which is a little fish looks like a perch – freshwater fish and very tasty, and they are very plentiful there. Fishing and agriculture was the way that area functioned. And so, there were many little boats and a little flotilla begins along with Jesus as they go to the other side.
Notice at the end of verse 23 – very important to note this – “His disciples followed Him.” Now, Jesus is in a boat with some of His disciples. And by the way, by this time, it is recorded in Mark and Luke He has already selected the Twelve. It’s very likely that a portion of them were in the boat with Him. Another – in other boats – and then other disciples in other boats, and all moving along. But He had already selected the Twelve. But the word here, “His disciples followed Him,” is much bigger than the Twelve. It is a very broad word. And I want to speak to that for just a moment.
There’s a confusion about this in the New Testament. When it says “His disciples,” to whom does it refer? Well, you have to look at the context. He word itself doesn’t tell you anything. The word mathētēs, here in this case oi mathētai means pupils, learners, followers. That’s all. It is a very broad word. Now, some people have tried to say that when you have the word “disciple” in the Bible, it refers to a second-level Christian, a higher category of spirituality. The top kind of Christians. In other words, there are just plain Christians, believers, and then there are disciples, and they’re the super saints. But that’s not the case. We cannot make that word mean that in the context, as we shall see in following our thoughts.
Now, one of the reasons we can’t see it as a legitimate disciple is – for example, go back to chapter 5, verse 1, “And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain. And when He was seated, His disciples came unto Him.” Now, what disciples? Well, some people think this is the Twelve, and therefore, if this is the Twelve, the Sermon on the Mount is given to the Twelve. Therefore, it can’t be a message on salvation, because they already believed. The problem with that is it is a message on salvation. And it assumes that they may not necessarily believe, and that the word “disciple” here simply means “learners.” You have the multitude that are sort of indifferent, and then you have the people who are saying, “Hey, I want to hear what this guy says. I’m very interested.” The level of their commitment, however, is undetermined at this point. And so, He speaks to them on the matter of salvation, because that is the key issue.
Now, you come to chapter 8 again, verse 21. One of those who is called a disciple says, in effect, “I’m not going to follow you until my father dies.”
And Jesus says, “You better leave the world to take care of its own dead.” In other words, you better be about preaching the kingdom of God. And the implication is the guy didn’t go; just turned around and went home. So, He was called a disciple, but He didn’t follow Christ.
Now, let me put it in context of right here. All of you sitting in this church this morning are disciples of John MacArthur. You are mathētēs, you are learners. Why? You’re here; you’re listening. You’re sitting under the teaching.
Now, some of you are enjoying it; some of you are rejecting it. Some of you may think it’s good; some of you may think it’s bad. Some of you haven’t made your decision yet. But all of you here, exposing yourself to what I say are a disciple, a learner. When you go to UCLA or Cal State Northridge or Pierce College or anywhere else – Los Angeles Baptist or Biola or Talbot Seminary or whatever - you sit in a class; you’re a mathētēs. You’re a learner. You may not accept it all; you may not believe it all; you may believe it. The verdict is something other than just being a disciple; that just means a learner. There are all kinds.
For example, in John 15 it says, “Any branch that abides in me and doesn’t bear fruit is cut off and thrown in a fire. What does it mean to be “in Me?” It means to be a disciple. There were some disciples who were connected with Christ, who had no fruit, no righteousness, no holiness, no – nothing to mark true salvation. They were cut off and burned. They were around; they were disciples, but they weren’t for real.
In Matthew 13 you have four soils. They’re all the soils that were following Jesus. Four kinds of disciples. The seed is sown on three dies; on one it grows. One was real; three were not. In Matthew 10, Jesus said, “My true disciples are the ones who endure to the end.” And He had Judas in mind when He said that. Judas didn’t endure to the end and showed He wasn’t a true disciple. There were learners around Jesus. But just because they’re called disciples doesn’t mean that they are believers. That yet has not been determined. The word in itself is not an indication of anything except that they were attracted to Jesus’ teaching, and they were listening.
Now, we could reduce disciples to four categories, and this might be helpful for you. First of all, there were the curious. Curious disciples. They followed Jesus; they listened; they were fascinated; they were intrigued; they were enthralled by what He said. But you know what happened? In John 6, Jesus said to them one day, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood” – in other words, “Unless you take all of Me in, unless you’re willing to identify with everything I am, unless you’re willing to affirm My total lordship in your life, you cannot be My disciple; you cannot follow Me. You cannot enter My kingdom.”
And it says – very simple – “And these disciples walked no more with Him.” They were the curious, not the committed. And then Jesus said, “Will you also go away?”
And Peter says, “To whom shall we go? Thou and Thou alone has the words of eternal life.” And then he says this, “But we believe and are sure that You are the Son of God.” In other words, it says, “Many of His disciples walked no more with Him, but Peter said, ‘We believe and are sure.’” He says, “We’re not the kind of disciples who are curious; we are the king who are committed. We know you speak the truth. We’re sure.” So, they were the curious; they came and went.
Then there were the convinced. These were the disciples who were intellectually convinced. Nicodemus is a classic illustration. He hung around. He listened to what Jesus said; He saw what Jesus did. And he came to Him by night and said, “I-I-I think that you’re from God.” Intellectually convinced, but it doesn’t say necessarily that in the fullest sense He believed.
And then there are the clandestine, the secret disciples, like Joseph of Arimathea who kept it a secret but believed quietly. And then there are the committed, the bold, the open who followed Jesus. But, you see, all those categories are possible. So, when it says disciples, you got – Peter’s in there, and you’ve got Judas is in there, and you’ve got Nicodemuses and Joseph of Arimatheas and a whole bunch of no-names who would bail out the first time it got tough. The word doesn’t signify anything specific. So, they were all along.
And Jesus was about to put on a display for them that was absolutely beyond belief. And He had to set it up. So, it says in verse 24, “Behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the boat was covered with the waves” – and you can stop right there. Now, those are not big boats, folks. Those are just basically little boats, probably open boats without any protection. Just an open boat.
And there came a storm. Now, the sea is a small place, as I said. Very small. It’s a lake. It’s just a lake. The Jordan Valley is below sea level. It goes to the Dead Sea which is over a thousand feet below sea level, and it rises to the lake of Galilee, by the way, which is 608 feet below sea level.
So, you have the Mediterranean Sea up here, and then you have Mount Hermon that rises to 9,200 feet, and then you have this plummeting from Mount Hermon clear down to 608 feet below sea level. And all the way down those – there are ravines and valleys and gullies. And when the cold winds of the north come over from the Mediterranean and start down the slopes of Hermon and those mountains, they come careening through those valleys, and they meet the warm air that settled down in the little basin where the Lake of Galilee is, and they create incredible storms, and they can come very, very rapidly.
And then once they hit that and they hit the cliffs on the eastern shore, they begin to swirl and whip in that little basin. And they can come without any warning at all. Very common.
I’ll never forget my own experience of getting on a boat in Capernaum. A little – just a little boat maybe 30 feet long, I think. And we were going across, and it was like – just like a glass, very lovely. And by the time we reached the middle, there were just white caps billowing everywhere, water breaking over the bow. It was drenching people sitting clear in the stern. And the boat had two decks, and we were just literally – people had took off their shirts and just let it happen. They were soaked to the skin. And it came out of nowhere. And they said it’s very common.
And so, there they are. It’s night; it’s dark. And it says a great tempest. By the way, the word in the Greek is seismos, which means earthquake. We get the word seismograph from it. It means a great quaking or a great shaking.
Now, we don’t know whether He just shook the sea, or whether He shook the earth under the sea, but God decided it was time to move, and I just think that like you would do with a big bowlful of water, God began to shake the earth. And when you shake the earth, the water reacts. And the thing began to shake.
And then – the Greek word used in the Mark and Luke account is a different word that means a whirlwind or a storm. You have an earthquake, an upheaval, a whirlwind, the plummeting of the wind coming down those tremendous slopes, and all of a sudden there is a storm that is not usual. They get usual storms, but it says that the disciples – or rather verse 24 says, “And, behold, there arose.” And the word “behold” means “lo.” It is a statement of exclamation. In other words, this was a shocking, surprising, unexpected, severe thing. They had seen – these sailors had lots of storms. They had been on that little lake in lots of times when the wind had blown and so forth, but never was there anything like this. This is a great seismos, a quaking, an upheaval, a violent shaking as the winds and the movement of the earth hit that little boat through those waters.
I can’t imagine what it would be like. I remember this summer we took that Maid of the Mist ride up to Niagara Falls. Some of you may have done that. That’s about all I could take. We got up underneath those falls, and that thing is going like this, and we’re all drenched. They put something on you just leaves your face exposed – that’s all – and you’re completely to the floor covered in rubber suits. And that thing is pitching and heaving, and there’s millions of tons of water is crashing down in front of you, and it takes them about 15 minutes to turn it around. And you’re singing hymns and all kinds of other encouraging things. But you know – you keep thinking, “They do this all the time.” I mean this is all – they just run these boats all the time. This is no problem. But if you were in a situation like that, and you had no such knowledge, of security or safety, you can imagine how tense it would be.
And here they are in the night; they can’t even see what’s going on. And I love the next line, the end of verse 24, “But He was asleep.” That’s terrific. He slept well. Anybody who could sleep through this was very tired. And that speaks to me of Jesus’ humanness. He was not only so tired He went to sleep, He was so tired He went to sleep and even a storm couldn’t wake Him up. He grew weary. So weary.
Mark says that He made a little cushion for His head. They had a little cushion in the back. Lying on those planks, He put a little cushion under His head, and He slept. And He must have been soaked to the skin by now. But He was asleep. Of course it was also part of the divine scene. He was sleeping. The sea is raging. The storm is howling. The wind is careening around. The little boat is tossed like a cork on the ocean. It’s filling up with water the other Gospels tell us. And the Creator of the world is asleep.
And by the way, while He was asleep, He was upholding every atom in the universe at the same time. And the tense in the Greek indicates that He was sound asleep, peacefully asleep. All I see is the loveliness of His humanity there. And I see the confidence He had in God. He’s so peaceful that He – He doesn’t even fear. Absolutely trusted the Father’s care. Total absence of any fear. Oh, that we could live like that. We get tossed around by circumstances in our world, and we begin to mistrust God, and we panic. The heart of Jesus was perfect calm.
He was omniscient, knew everything in the universe, yet He was unconscious of His own surroundings so peaceful was He in the care of God.
Well, as the storm increases, undoubtedly the sailors had done everything they could to take care of it. And then it says in verse 25 that they came to Jesus. And that takes us to point two: the panic. From the particulars to the panic.
And by the way, folks, when the sailors ask an ex-carpenter what to do in a storm, you know you’re in a lot of trouble. Jesus hadn’t even lived on the coast. He lived in Nazareth which was inland. In verse 25, the panic, “And His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying” – and if you put the whole thing together from all the Gospel records, the full saying is – “Master, Master, save. Don’t You care? We’re perishing.” A whole lot of little pithy statements. “Master, Master, save. Don’t You care? We’re perishing. We’re drowning out here. Wake up!” It’s desperation. Such indifference. The fact that they turned to Jesus, as I said, is interesting. How could He help these sailors? But they had nowhere else to turn. They’re not so much convinced that He is God at this point as they are hoping that He is. But they were right where God wanted them.
Sometimes God has to bring us to desperation to get our attention, doesn’t He? They had run out of human solutions. They had run out of human answers. They wanted a divine answer. That was their hope, that the miracle worker who could handle sickness maybe could handle the sea. And they had fear mixed with faith. You see, if they had had total faith, they’d have been asleep like Him – confident in the Father’s care, because they were just as tired as Jesus was perhaps.
The scene couldn’t be more dramatic. They broke in on Jesus’ sleep. As men are wont to do, they come to Him only in desperation. Like the sea captain who was always announcing He didn’t believe there was a God, and then He got washed overboard and began to cry out for God. And they hauled him in and said, “I thought you didn’t believe in God.”
He said, “Well, if there isn’t a God, there ought to be one for times like that.”
There are those of us who cry to God in the foxhole. We get sickness in our family or disease or death, or we lose our job, or we have problems with our wife or husband, and we begin to cry out to God in our desperation. Even salvation is an act of God in response to the desperation of a sinner.
But often our first cry is like theirs. As it’s recorded in Mark, it says, “Don’t You care? We’re drowning.” And have you ever done that? You know, you get into a circumstance, and you say to God, “Don’t you care, God?” That’s a lack of faith. You don’t understand His love. But by the way, that’s nothing new. The saints of old did that.
Psalm 10 – remember that – verse 1, “Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why hidest Thou Thyself in times of trouble?” God, You’re never around when I need You; don’t You care?
Then there’s Psalm 44, verse 22, “Yea, for Thy” – listen to this – “for Thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” God, for Your sake, we’re being massacred. “Awake, why are You sleeping, O Lord?” How can You be sleeping through this when we’re dying for You?
You find the same thing in Isaiah chapter 51, verse 9, which shows such a lack of faith, “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in the ancient days. Wast it not Thou who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; who made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?” The prophet is saying, “Awake, get up, God. Don’t You see the terrible dilemma of Your people? How can You possibly sleep through this?”
Well, that’s not unlike our approach to God, “How can you let this happen, God? How can You be indifferent? How can you be unkind? How can you let me go through this?”
And the reply is a classic. Verse 26, “He said unto them, ‘Why are you fearful’” – stop right there.
You say, “You’ve got to be kidding. What kind of question is that? Look around You. It’s the middle of the night. There’s a storm here like we’ve never seen. The boat is full of water. Why are we fearful?”
And by the way, the word fearful is a Greek word for cowardly. Cowardly. And it is a sin. Because in Revelation 21:8, the same room word is used in the list of sinners who will not enter the kingdom. The fearful and the abominable. And it’s the same word. The fearful, the cowardly, those with no faith.
Information act, Mark says – where it says here, “O ye of little faith,” Mark says, “Why do you have no faith? Don’t You believe in Me and My love and My power?” Those are the two key things. If you believe in God’s love and God’s power, you can weather any storm. Number one, you know God cares about you; and number two, you know He can handle the situation. Right? That’s all you need to know. That’s all you need to know: God loves me, and God has the power to deliver me. That’s it.
And they were questioning whether He cared, and they were questioning whether He was able. “And He says, ‘O ye of little faith, what do you have to see?” He had performed miracle upon miracle upon miracle. Chapter 4, verse 23 to 25 said just miracles of all kinds. And then you’ve just seen three illustrations, and those were only samples. Verse 16, He was healing the people possessed with demons; He was casting out spirits with a word. He was healing all that were sick. They had seen a plethora of miracles. And they’re saying, “Don’t you care?” Why, if they didn’t know He cared about human suffering, they were as blind as bats. “And what are you going to do about it?” If they didn’t think He had the power, they were ignorant.
Isn’t it amazing how we can see the demonstration of God, and then when the circumstance becomes ours, we forget His power altogether? “Oh, it’s so wonderful what the Lord has done over here,” and then, “Oh, I want to give testimony; the Lord did this over here, and over there, and over there.” And then as soon as something tough happens in your life, you begin to question God’s love and question God’s power when it comes right down to home. “Oh, you of little faith.”
The disciples first – finally, I should say – learned that they didn’t have enough faith. And so, in Luke 17:5, they said, “Lord, increase our faith.” And you know what He did? Right after that He healed ten lepers. He said, “Now, check that one over and see if that’ll help with your faith.” Faith needs constant strengthening. “He says, ‘O ye of little faith.’” Trace that sometime in your Bible study, the concept of little faith. Basically what it means is distrust in God’s ability. You don’t believe God can provide; that’s all. You don’t believe it. And so, you worry. You get anxious; you panic; you fear; you’re cowardly. You don’t believe God can take care of you. Either you don’t believe He cares, or you don’t believe He can. One of the two or both.
Oh, yeah, He cares; He just can’t do anything. Oh, yeah, He can, but He doesn’t care. But if He cares, and He can, what are you going to fear? And by the way, even if they were drowning, they shouldn’t have been afraid, because that would have been in His will anyway, and He would have delivered them from there into His Father’s kingdom. They surely knew the Old Testament Psalms. Psalm 89. Remember Psalm 89? “O Lord God of Hosts, who is like Thee O mighty Lord? Thy faithfulness also surrounds Thee. Thou dost rule the swelling of the sea; when its waves rise, Thou dost still them.”
How about Psalm 46? “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried to the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” We will not fear. Not fear the natural elements. Maybe they forgot Psalm 107. I love this, “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they have seen the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind which lifted up the weaves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens. They went down to the depths. Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man and were at their wits’ end.” Can’t you see the picture on the sea? And they’re rolling and reeling and tossing. “They cried to the Lord in their trouble. He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” So, He guided them to their desired haven. That’s an explicit prophecy of what Jesus did. God does this in Psalm 107. Jesus does it in Matthew 8. The conclusion is unarguable: Jesus is God.
And so, they had nothing to fear. We see, thirdly, from the particulars to the panic to the power. William Cowper penned those great lines, “God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform/He plants His footsteps in the sea/And rides upon the storm./Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take/The clouds ye so much dread/Are big with mercy and shall break/In blessing on your head.”
Verse 26, “Then He arose” – middle of the verse – “and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39 says, “He stood up and said, ‘Silence,’” and instantly, not just a calm, but a great calm. A total calm. Now, if you stop the wind, the sea will continue to ripple until the waves have run their course. He said, “Silence,” or as one commentator translates it, “Hush,” and the sea became as glass. The waves stopped, the wind stopped, and it was still. Now, folks, that’s power. That is power. It’s impossible to measure the power of the wind that was existing in that kind of a storm, because we don’t know how far that storm extended.
But just in a normal storm, there are millions upon millions of units of horsepower generated in a storm through the wind, and even more through the rain if that was involved. No one could even measure the power of the earthquake. Incredible power - and Jesus stopped it with a word.
Now, you see, this is Matthew’s message to us. This is the one who can conquer disease; this is the one who can handle nature. And later he’ll tell us He is the one who controls the demons. He is the one who forgives sin. He is the one who raises the dead. Think about it beloved; He is the one who lives in your life.
Well, they had seen God. That’s plain and simple And what did they do in reaction? Verse 27, the portent. The dictionary says portent means to marvel. Something portentous elicits wonder or marvel, amazement. And it says in 27, “And the men marveled, saying, ‘What kind of man is this?’” Potapos the Greek word. “We don’t have any categories for Him,” is what they’re saying. “What slot does He fit in?”
“What kind of person is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Now, listen to me. Mark, in his parallel account says, “They were exceedingly afraid.” Mark says, “When the storm came, they were afraid.” Mark says, “When Jesus stopped the storm, they were exceedingly afraid.”
You know what’s more fearful than being in a storm? Realizing you’re standing in the presence of the living God. That’s awesome. What an experience to know that God’s in your boat. That was far more terrifying than any storm.
When Job saw God through the circumstances of His life, He said, “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of my ear, but now I’ve seen Thee with mine eye, and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
When Isaiah saw God, he said, “I am a man of unclean lips. I have a dirty mouth.”
When Daniel saw God in Daniel 10, we saw a couple of weeks ago, he began to shake and quiver, and He fell into a heap in the dirt, and his mouth was frozen in dumbness in the presence of God.
When Peter saw God in the occasion of the fishing on the sea, he said, “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man, O Lord.”
When the apostle Paul saw God in the form of a resurrected, glorious Jesus Christ, he fell, and his face was in the dirt, and he was blind. And you would be so overwhelmed with holiness if you were to stand in His presence.
These disciples knew that God was there, and the awesomeness of it was terrifying. They were unmasked. The omniscient one could read every thought, knew everything in them. They were in the presence of God.
The next boat trip they took, recorded in Matthew, brought them to a similar situation. And they said, when it was over, after He stopped another storm, it says – Matthew 14:33 – “They that were in the boat came” – listen – “and worshipped Him, saying, ‘It is the truth; you are the Son of God.’”
The next time, if there was any doubt at all, it was removed; He was the Son of God. For even the winds and the sea obey Him.
Let me ask you a question. Is He the one who can reverse the curse? Does He have the power to change the earth? Does He have the power to restore the kingdom? The answer is yes. The song writer has written, “We sing the almighty power of God/Who bad the mountains rise/Who spread the flowing seas abroad/And built the lofty skies./We sing the wisdom that ordained/The sun to rule the day/The moon shines too at His command/And all the stars obey./Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed/Where ere we turn our eyes/When ere we view the ground we tread/Or gaze upon the skies!/There’s not a plant nor flower below/But makes Thy glories known/And clouds arise and tempests blow/By order from Thy throne.
And then he closes with this verse, “On Thee each moment we depend/If Thou withdraw, we die./Oh, may we ne’er that God offend/Who is forever nigh!”
The same Jesus Christ that stilled the sea is the one that keeps all those atoms moving in your body, and the one that keeps this earth whirling in space, the one that keeps this universe in balance. That same Jesus Christ will one day come and set up His eternal kingdom. The question is will you be a part of that kingdom by faith?
Father, thank You for our time this morning in Your Word. We’ve learned so many lessons. Lessons of trust and faith. In the midst of the storms of life, because we know You care, and we know You can. Lord, save us from being little faith, not trusting in the midst of the darkest times.
And, Lord, help us to know, beyond shadow of a doubt, that Jesus Christ is the living God, the only one who can redeem man and redeem this cursed earth and set up the glorious eternal kingdom.
Father, I pray this morning that no one will leave this place not knowing Christ, not having come in faith to believe, to be convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the one who died and rose again, that they might put their faith in Him. And those of us who are Christians, Lord, remind us of the infirmity of our flesh, our doubtings, our questionings.
How many times we’ve said, “Don’t You care?” Self-pity has entered in. Questioning the love You’ve promised us, questioning the power at our disposal. Teach us those lessons You would have us learn, and may we teach them to others, in Christ’s name, amen.
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