Epiphany 4 – January 28th and 29th, 2017 – Matthew 8:23-27
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
“What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey Him?” That is the question that the disciples are left wondering at the end of our Gospel lesson today. They have seen Jesus up and calm a great and mighty storm – and not just anyone can do that. Next snowstorm, I don't get to walk outside and say, “Stop snowing” and have it stop snowing. None of us do. Yet there is Christ Jesus – He rebukes the winds and the seas, and then it's calm. Period. So, what sort of man is this? Now, the simplest and bluntest point to draw from this text is that this Man Jesus is in fact also God. This is the mystery of the Incarnation – that Jesus is both truly and completely man and truly and completely God. And as we look through this text in detail we will see that – both Jesus' humanity and His divinity. But there's more to the disciples' question than that – what sort of man is this, what is this Jesus like? This God-man, Jesus Christ, God incarnate – what is He like? Let's consider our text.
“And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.” Okay? What boat? What's going on? See, our Gospel lesson just sort of starts us off in the middle of the story – and it's actually a continuation from last week's Gospel lesson. If you will recall, last week we see Jesus come down from giving the sermon on the mount, and then He heals a leper, then He heals the servant of the Centurion. It's been a busy day – and Jesus wants to rest. But that doesn't happen. In verse 14 Jesus enters Peter's house... but then He heals Peter's mother-in-law – there's an act of love if ever there is one. But then in verse 16 we hear, “That evening they brought to Him many who were oppressed by demons, and He cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.” Alright, I'm home, time to rest – and then what happens – an evening full of casting out demons and even more healings... it just keeps going and going. So we hear this in verse 18 - “Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.” That's it – too much, I need a break, we are going to the other side of the sea of Galilee – and even as He is headed to the boat, people keep hounding Jesus – a scribe asks Him questions, another disciple pesters Him until finally He jumps in the boat and they shove off and finally, finally Jesus can get some rest.
This explains what happens in the boat. “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep.” Jesus had had a long day. He was worn out. Period. All tuckered out. So tired that He sleeps soundly through a storm. My friends, when we see Jesus in our Gospel lessons, remember that He really is a man, a human being, a person. A real one. He's not a superhero, He's not Captain Energy – When He became man, He became man just like us. Have you ever gotten tired and worn out – well, so did Jesus. Have you ever been hungry, thirsty, all those sorts of things? Ditto Jesus. When He becomes Man, Jesus takes on all the weaknesses and frailties that we deal with in this sinful world. And so Jesus is just worn out.
And a storm comes up. Now, remember, many of the disciples were fishermen. They were old hands at being on the sea – and here's the thing about sailing at night. You can't really watch the weather very well. Sailors watched the clouds – red sky at night, sailor's delight, red sky in the morning sailor take warning. The clouds give a clue to the weather – but they got into the boat when it was already evening... so the disciples are sailing blind, and a storm whips up – and it would have been one they hadn't seen coming. This was why you didn't cross the sea in the middle of the night normally, but there they are and they are out there in the middle of the Sea of Galillee, and then we hear: “And they went and woke Him saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.'”
This is a bad storm. You can tell it's bad because even the old sailors are panicking. This isn't “we might just get wet” - this is the captain running around shouting “We're going down.” And so they run to Jesus; tired Jesus, Jesus so worn out that He's sleeping through a killer storm and rain and wind and waves. And they rustle Him awake, and Jesus looks at them and asks, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Now, this is really interesting. Jesus is a bit curt with folks here. The word there is not the typical word for fear – phobos or phobia. It's a different word that really sort of means cowardly. And “o you of little faith” is just one word in Greek – it's quick and to the point. And then He rebukes the winds – He chews out the weather. So basically, this is more like Jesus saying, “Oh, you cowardly little... shut it, wind!” And it stops. And I'd presume Jesus goes back to bed... because He's tired. And the disciples are left there wondering just what sort of man this Jesus is if He can turn a raging storm into a calm like that, with just a word.
We can view this text in terms of Jesus' power. Our God is a mighty God. He stills the seas with a word. All those Romans around who go on and on about the might of Neptune – yeah, with a Word Jesus puts the seas back into their place. If it's a contest of might, a battle of power – Jesus is true God – no one stands a chance against Him. And there's the sticky wicket, isn't it? Against Jesus. I mean, let's face it – if we ticked off Jesus, we wouldn't stand a chance against Him, would we? And there are the disciples pondering this great power – man we better not get on His bad side.
Yet, what sort of man is Jesus? Do we marvel at the power He exercises? Yes, but perhaps we should marvel at this as well – there is Christ Jesus, God Almighty, the Word of God by Whom all things were made... worn out. Worn out not from a day of parties and fun, not worn out from enjoying a life of luxury, but worn out from showing love to underserving people like you and I. Worn out from from preaching then healing then casting out demons and healing and teaching and on and on. Do you see – it's not just that Jesus is the Almighty that should make us marvel – it's that Jesus is the One who wears Himself out for our sake.
You realize that is the heart of the Christian faith. Not just that Jesus is God – but rather that God becomes man for our sake and wears Himself out in love and service to us – literally, He goes to the cross and He dies for us. If you die on a cross, you basically die of exhaustion – you are too tired and worn out to support yourself enough to breathe. You are ex-hausted – out of haust, out of air. The wonders of Christ Jesus aren't just His power, His glory, things that we like, things that we think we can twist to our advantage and ride out to our temporal benefit. The true wonder is that He gives and gives of Himself until everything is given, even giving up His life - “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His Spirit.” That's how Matthew describes our Lord's death. And this is all for you, for your good.
Jesus is determined to show love. In His earthly ministry He is often worn out and tired, often He has to flee to get rest because He pushes Himself beyond the point of human frailty. And He does so to make sure that you have forgiveness and life and salvation. And He gets it – Jesus understands what it is like to be worn out, to be weary – He knows what a bad day looks like, He knows what a crazy busy day looks like. He gets it. And He gets through them – and unlike us, who fall into sin, He does so sinlessly, perfectly. And He just keeps on showing love over and over and over. That's the type, that's the sort of God that you have. That is something worthy of marveling over.
But, all too often we don't leave it there – we try to turn moments like this into “Jesus did it and you can too” - which is silly. We try to use Jesus as motivation or lay a guilt trip. “Jesus gave until it hurt – so open up your wallets!” I mean – I could do that – at the last Voters' meeting we decided we are going to try to get a Vicar for this Fall, and that will cost more money so we could use some more... but that's not the point of the text. This isn't about trying to twist your arms or squeeze your wallets or whatever. Besides, you and I aren't Jesus – it's not about what we do. Rather, ponder this. When Jesus rebukes the storm, there is a great calm. So let's leave it at that calm – let's leave things not with a great rush to what we should or ought to do, and instead look at Jesus in the calm.
Did you see what happened? Jesus rises from His rough day, and He saves the folks of little faith, and then there is calm. That's the point, that's the lesson. That's who Jesus is – Jesus is the sort of man who will rise from the dead on the third day and show up to fearful disciples and proclaim peace. He's the sort who will say “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me” - but then not make demands upon us, not drive us to busy work – rather “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Not a burden – go on, baptize people. Wash away their sins. Go on, preach the Gospel, proclaim the kingdom of God, tell people they are forgiven – have the Lord's Supper – because I am with you always, even to the end of the age. There is nothing you need fear, there is no reason for any cowardliness – I'm with you still, and you are saved – you are forgiven, you are brought into My Kingdom – and you can rest securely, you can sleep like babies – well, the hypothetical babies that actually sleep and rest well. Why? Because Jesus, True God and True Man has everything well in hand, and He has it in hand for you. Be still and know that He is the Lord, and that He is your Savior. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World+