Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the same story about Jesus stilling a storm in the disciples’ lives. Hear it from Matthew’s Gospel.
Matthew 8:23-27 23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
I know in the wake of our current crisis with this pandemic, I think I am still in a bit of shock. I know I am not the only one who is surprised by how much this virus has changed our lives for the moment or the next month or months. I know our world leaders are surprised by all that has taken place. Health professionals have been caught off guard. We weren’t prepared for this situation. How could we be? We’ve never been here before. It has happened to us, almost without warning, like the storm the disciples found themselves in. Does anyone wish we could just hit the rewind button and “go back to life as usual?” Or that we could wake up one morning and find this has all been a dream? I’ve had those thoughts for sure.
I know this storm has brought to my attention just how much I have taken for granted. Like many of you, I live a pretty on-the-go kind of life. I try to make the most out of each day and pack a lot of coming and going in. I enjoy being with people and like to get out to sporting events and other social gatherings. Taking my exercise and dance classes are not only stress relieving and good for my heart, but they are lots of fun for me. Of course meeting with my church family on Sundays and Wednesdays are the highlights of my week.
This unwanted pandemic has led to a lot of unknowns. We have more questions than we have answers. It has hit our world in waves. I don’t know how you have personally handled it, but I’m going to be honest, I have asked God a lot of questions. I haven’t sat and watched news report after news report as I don’t think that would help me mentally or emotionally, but I have been asking, “God, where are you?” After 46 years of walking with Jesus, I think I am a pretty mature Christian with solid faith. I think I have used the trials of life to help me develop emotionally to a place of solid peace. I think I know how to use logic and reason to navigate life’s challenges, but I’ll confess, I’ve been calling on Jesus a lot in the last week to help me deal with anxious thoughts. If you had to assess your fears on a scale of 1 to 10 right now, where would you rate yourself? How can we put our fears into perspective? How can we hand them over to Jesus?
In their humanity and fear, some are doing as the disciples did, allowing the unknown to move them to a place of despair and defeat. In verse 25 the disciples cried out, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” They believed the worst. The absolute worst. As if they knew what would happen! Maybe you’ve been tempted to go to the worst case scenario in your mind about the current situation. Not one of us knows the future. Why assume the worst? Here is the answer to what will happen as a result of the Coronavirus when it is all said and done. “We don’t know.” That answer, “We don’t know,” is a good reason to trust God in the midst of the storm.
These skilled fisherman in our text today had been in storms before, and so have we. And we have actually weathered some storms together before here in our state. Who remembers the Derecho when the power was out for two weeks, and it was like the hottest summer on record? How about the water crises when students were home for a few weeks without any homework to do? How about the flooding we have gone through? West Virginians are no strangers to storms. It’s just that this one is a doozy. This one is global, and it is changing the way we do life. We don’t like the feeling of not being in control. We aren’t used to not being able to make plans. It is uncomfortable to have people telling us how to live our lives. We resist it.
There was nothing the fishermen could do in this instance. There was nothing the rest of the disciples could do in this instance. I guess you could say, “There were all in the same boat.” I had to. It was right there. Well, anyway, here we are. We’re all in the same boat during this global pandemic. What can we learn from the disciples? They woke Jesus up. It’s pretty amazing that He was sleeping through what brought terror to the disciples. He was at peace when the disciples were in panic. That in and of itself is telling. Oh, trust me, Jesus isn’t sleeping at this moment. He is well aware of what is going on and God is engaged in ways we can’t yet see. What is worth noting isn’t that Jesus was physically asleep in the story, but that Jesus was completely at rest. That’s the guy I want to follow! How about you?
Notice something with me that is new insight for me. Here it is: Jesus first spoke to the disciples before He spoke to the storm. Now, we know God stands outside of time and is engaged with us in time at the same time, but I think this particular series, the order of the way things went down, is pretty interesting. Jesus spoke first to the disciples, to His people. He had a Word for them first. He needed their attention. They were focused on the storm, but He wanted their attention before moving to the storm.
What if we are truly living in the last days, and what if before God would act in this situation, He first wants to speak to His church? What if He has a Word for us that will impact what happens next not just for WV, but for the world? Are we listening to the voice of Jesus or are we more tuned in to the roar of the storm?
Just note that while the storm was still raging, before Jesus did anything about the situation, He spoke to the disciples about their faith.
He said to them, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
What if Jesus wasn’t commenting on the size of their faith in general, but what if He was commenting on the size of their faith in Him?
To be honest, we don’t really lack faith in many instances, do we? “What do you mean by that, Pastor Melissa?” What I mean is that we exercise faith every day. We have relied on our cars to take us from place to place. We have planned vacations and made flight reservations without thought. We have exercised confidence in our skills to acquire and excel in a job. We have been reasonably sure we could make decisions that would guarantee our success. We have trusted in the stock market to build wealth for us that would one day keep us in the lifestyles to which we have grown accustomed. Maybe faith isn’t our problem. Maybe it is the focus of our faith that is the issue?
What if Jesus wasn’t just telling the disciples they needed more faith, but what if He was suggesting their faith wasn’t appropriately directed to Him? Perhaps this is a time to really evaluate what and who we are living for? Is it the American dream or the will of God? I’m just asking because it seems the text gives me the opportunity to pose the question.
I suppose great faith in the stock market could cause great fear about now. I suppose great faith in our own ability to create a schedule that would ensure some kind of success could cause great fear about now. I suppose great faith in our network of friends that would give us a sense of belonging and fulfillment, now that we can’t be with those people like we have been in the past, could cause great fear about now. We are no longer in control of just our day to day. Anything we have put our faith in other than Christ is crumbling or being challenged or changed. Christ-followers, listen to me. There is only one certainty. It is Jesus. Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. We dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
If we trust in ourselves and have gotten used to doing that, when the storm strikes we’ll realize our limitations. No experience, talent, or preparation can prepare you for the kind of storm the disciples found themselves in. It has to be a complete trust in Jesus and His ability to help get us through. During this time when some of those comforts and conveniences have been stripped away, let Jesus talk to you about where you have been placing your faith. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s be honest with God. Have we been exercising lots of faith in ourselves and just some small token faith in Jesus just for some kind of spiritual insurance?
Now that the introduction is out of the way, I am ready to talk to you this morning about what happen when Jesus speaks. Look, y’all have nothing better to do. Let’s just settle in!
When Jesus speaks, He speaks with calm assurance and complete authority.
When the disciples woke Jesus up, He didn’t jump up and say, “Gadzooks, this is awful! Whatever are we going to do!?” No. He calmly talked to the disciples about their internal storm first. Jesus wasn’t afraid. Jesus wasn’t rattled or unraveled by what was happening that day. As I have mentioned, the storm wasn’t even His first priority. His first priority was His disciples. So, no, He wasn’t panicked by the situation.
Even the words, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid” were reassuring. It wasn’t the response of someone who was freaking out. He could have just as easily said, “I’ve got this.” He could have just said, “It’s all good.” The Christian life is a life of calm assurance. It is a life of peace and safety because no matter what happens, we will be OK.
Perhaps the disciples had faith for physical healing because they had already seen those things take place. Maybe they had faith for demoniacs to be set free because they had already “been there” and done that with Jesus. But maybe they figured even Jesus had a cap on His capabilities, a cap on His authority. Maybe they knew His earthly authority was strong, but His authority over the elements of nature? Well, that would certainly pose a problem for Jesus.
I say that simply because the end of our text has the disciples amazed that the winds and waves listened to His voice. It’s like they knew Jesus, but they hadn’t known Him fully. There was more for them to know, and they were going to learn more because of their storm. They hadn’t experienced the full demonstration of His authority and power. I guess they figured the winds and waves would somehow certainly trump His authority. Not so, friends. There is no authority greater than Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Let’s take a deeper look at the authority of Christ.
Mark 1:21-28 (NIV) 21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had AUTHORITY, (say “authority.” Did y’all actually say it? Give us a thumbs up on FB if you did!) not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with AUTHORITY! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
Do you know what it means to be an authority on something? Tucked inside that word, “authority” is the word, “author.” Jesus could teach with authority because He wasn’t someone’s protege. He wasn’t just regurgitating information. He wasn’t copying and pasting. He wasn’t referring to the Cliff Notes. He wasn’t giving commentary on someone else’s work. He wrote the book! Everything had its origin in Him. No wonder He could teach with authority when it came to the Scriptures. He wrote the book. The teachers of the Law had to interpret the Law. Jesus wasn’t interpreting anything. He was explaining the Law as it was intended to impact people, as it was originally intended to be understood. People went nuts. They had never experienced someone with such authority. Jesus was the most humble “know it all” ever. He actually knew it all.
Not only did He teach with authority, but He had authority to heal. People with leprosy were healed by Jesus. People with fevers were restored to wellness. People who dealt with bleeding disorders were given healing miracles. There were deaf ears that were unstopped and blind eyes that were opened. People who were unable to walk and were carried to Jesus left His presence carrying the very thing on which they had been transported. The miracles of Jesus are astounding and prove His authority.
And what about the miracle of healing performed here in the Mark text when a demon-possessed man was healed of this spiritual infirmity? Isn’t that next-level healing? When people are relieved of tormenting spirits, that is some kind of super authority. And notice something with me here, even the demon that confronts Jesus recognizes His authority. Listen again to what the demon-possessed man said: Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!”
The demon knew Jesus had the goods. He knew Jesus could take Him out. He knew who Jesus was. You better believe that the forces of darkness recognize Jesus’ authority, and they must bow when He speaks. Jesus told the demon to be quiet and to come out of the man. The demon had no choice. He came out and the man was healed. Just like the disciples were amazed that even the winds and waves obeyed Jesus, the people who saw the deliverance of the demon-possessed man were amazed that even evil spirits were subject to Jesus.
And when they found themselves in a storm on the lake, the disciples learned there was no limit to Jesus’ authority. He could speak whatever words He wanted to say, whenever He wanted to say it, and whatever was causing trouble would have to stop.
Verse 26 of Matthew 8 says that Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and it was completely calm. Completely. It was over. Hear me. This pandemic had a beginning, and it will have an ending. Don’t let it become bigger than God. It isn’t, but as we wait it out and work out what life looks like for a minute don’t miss the conversation Jesus may want to have with you. Maybe that conversation is even more important, more consequential than the stilling of the storm.
After all, what would happen to each of us if the external storm was stilled, but the internal storm raged on? What if our faith is misplaced, misguided? What if our hope is in the wrong stuff? Maybe the storm provides an opportunity for a much-needed wake up call to each of us.
I don’t doubt that we want the assurance Jesus can give us in the midst of the storm. It’s great to know Someone is in ultimate control. It’s a true comfort. He promises to be with us. He will speak words of comfort. He does have hope to give us. I’m just asking us this morning Are we as quick to ask Jesus to have authority over our personal lives as we are to ask Him to take authority over our storms?
At this moment, I think God wants to have a conversation with us about the nature of our faith. In what have we placed our trust? I was at a local pharmacy on Thursday, picking up some stuff and the person in front of me purchased probably ten bottles of wine and three cases of something else. Now, I can’t say 100 percent they were all for her or that she would be consuming them all in the next week. I didn’t have a conversation with her about it. But in my mind I wondered if alcohol was what she was placing her faith in, in order to get through this crazy time.
In the midst of the unprecedented storm Jesus said to His disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Was “little” faith really the problem? Or was their problem where their faith was placed? In Matthew 17:20 Jesus said to His disciples, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” It isn’t the size of your faith that matters. It is the size of your God. My friends, it isn’t the quantity of your faith, but the authority of the Person in which your faith is placed that will get us through this tough time. Mustard seed faith is very tiny, but when placed in the Almighty God, it becomes that which can move mountains.
If our ability to weather this storm depended on our faith, we would all be in trouble, but it doesn’t. Our ability to weather this storm will come from the quality of the Person who is captaining our boat. He is asking you to trust Him. “In Christ alone, my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song. This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm. What heights of love what depths of peace when fears are stilled when strivings cease. My Comforter. My all in all. Here in the power of Christ I stand.