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The Authentic Jesus | Nap Taker
March 19, 2023
18Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19And a scribe came up and said to him,“Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
23And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26And he said to them, “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. 27And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst
To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships
To participate in God’s mission to the world
Lord God of all creation we come to you from our storm-tossed lives to seek your peace; we come to you with our questions and uncertainties, our worries and anxieties, we come to you from our joy and our happiness. Eternal God as we ask that you accept our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray that from the grace we have received, what we say and what we do will enable those around us to glimpse the life of the your Son—who calmed the storm with words which still echo down the centuries, ‘Peace be still.’ Amen.
Responsive Prayer—Psalm 67
1May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us.
2That your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3Let the peoples praise you, O God;
Let all the peoples praise you!
4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth.
5Let the peoples praise you, O God;
Let all the peoples praise you!
6The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Summary and Connection
This week we will take a close look at Matthew 8:23-27 to discover Jesus’ awesome display of power and authority to rescue his disciples from cataclysms of both nature and human nature. The pericope begins with the disciples following Jesus onto a boat to travel across the Lake of Galilee. In the parallel account of this passage in Mark 4, we learn that there were other boats present as Jesus and his disciples embarked on their journey (Mark 4:36). In verse 24 we read about a great storm rising. The storm was so intense that the fishing boat was vigorously shaken, and the water level began to rise in the boat. Matthew uses the Greek word “seismos” to describe the nature of the cataclysmic event. Seismos can refer to an earthquake or a raging storm. It is interesting to note that the Lake of Galilee is located around 700 feet below sea level surrounded by steep hills on the west and forbidding mountains on the east. Several commentators believe that the rapidly rising hot air drew cold winds from the southeastern tablelands that could churn up the water resulting in a violent storm. In any case, both Matthew and Mark’s accounts describe this storm as catastrophic in nature.
In verse 24, Matthew contrasts the violent storm and the upheaval it caused among the disciples with Jesus sleeping soundly. According to one commentator, Jesus was “dead asleep” as the storm was threatening to destroy the lives of everyone aboard. The disciples cry out to Jesus saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” Jesus wakes up and rebukes his disciples for their little faith, and extreme fear. Jesus also rebukes the raging storm. His authoritative command immediately subdues the storm, resulting in a great calm. Matthew records the response of the disciples. The disciples extreme fear is replaced by inexplicable awe and reverential fear. Their experience ranged from distress in response to extreme upheaval, to great fear and awe in response to great calm produced by a single rebuke from their Lord. They couldn’t help but marvel, “what sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”
In this passage we see a brilliant juxtaposition of human nature of Jesus with his divine nature. We see Jesus’ true humanity in his sleeping, and true divinity in his nature commanding authority. In the previous section (8:18-22), we learn about the cost of following Jesus. In this section, we see the disciples experiencing the true cost of following Jesus. The disciples who had only seen Jesus saving others now personally experience the saving power of their Lord. We learn about the vital characteristics of Christian life, discipleship, and faith from this passage. Firstly, those who follow Jesus onto the boat over the ocean of life must expect storms by the way. The reality of storms in our lives is not evidence against the power and presence of God, rather the storms act as means to prove the power and presence of God. One commentator makes an insightful observation: “If the disciples respond to an absolute call to discipleship and hence leave all and risk their lives, they must also understand that the one who calls them will also preserve them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.” We also learn a vital lesson about faith from this passage. Jesus rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. The literal Greek translation is “little faiths.” A little faith is a passive acceptance of truths and a mere intellectual affirmation of dogmas. It is a faith that is built on the sand and not on the rock. Thus, when the storms of life hit, it comes crashing down. True faith, as depicted in the gospels, is a form of courage, and its absence is a form of cowardice. Thus, when Jesus rebukes the disciples for their little faith, he does not rebuke them for their quantity of faith, but the quality of their faith. Matthew Henry captures this truth well: “He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers but for disturbing themselves with their fears.”
Most importantly, this passage gives us an insight into Jesus’ heart. Jesus responds to our cries of feeble faith. Jesus listens to our cries, even when our faith is weak and cowardly. He responds by rebuking the storms that threaten to destroy us. He replaces our great storms with great calm—shalom: the wholesome peace of God’s presence. Finally, this passage provides a picture of a church. The boat represents the global church, and the storm is a picture of persecution the church is subjected to. Church history is filled with accounts of persecution, heresies, and moral failures of ministers and leaders. Although it may appear that Jesus is asleep while the church is struggling to survive, we must not forget that he is still in complete control. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has united himself with his bride—the church. Jesus has calmed the greatest storm—sin, by giving his life to establish and sustain his church.
1. Looking at the Bible
What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage?
- In verse 24, we see the disciples in great distress. They cry out, “Save us Lord; we are perishing.” What can we learn about their faith in Jesus and their understanding of the divine nature of Jesus?
- Jesus rebukes his disciples by saying, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Was Jesus’ rebuke fair considering the predicament the disciples were in? What can we learn about the nature of faith from Jesus’ words?
2. Looking at Jesus
At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.
- What do you make of the fact that Jesus was sleeping during the storm? Why is it important that Jesus would calm the storm? What does that say to us?
- What can we learn about the heart of Jesus from this passage?
3. Looking at Our Hearts
- Do you trust that Jesus is fully God and in control of the storms?
- Do you trust that Jesus loves you and cares for you even as he allows you to endure the storms of life? If not, why not? If so, how has that helped you in difficult times?
4. Looking at Our World
- How does this passage give us hope and confidence as a church to respond to the storms of persecution, moral failures, and scandals with faith and not fear?
God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.
View Study Guide Notes
Question 1: Most of the disciples on the boat were fishermen by profession. As fishermen they were aware of the dangers of seafaring. Matthew uses the Greek word “seismos'' to describe the catastrophic nature of the storm. Seismos in Greek could be a reference to an earthquake or a violent storm. The disciples quickly realized their lives were in jeopardy and they cried out to Jesus. Notice, the disciples call out to Jesus as “Lord,” and not their usual reference “Teacher.” This cry gives us an insight into the disciples faith. Jesus was “Lord” to his frightened disciples. In disasters we need a Lord, not a teacher. These disciples had only seen Jesus save others—the blind, lepers, and the marginalized people, but now they found themselves in a situation where they needed to be saved by Jesus. The disciples had only seen Jesus as a great teacher and a healer. But God providentially orchestrates this situation to reveal Jesus as their Lord—fully God and fully human. The disciples, for the first time since they had followed Jesus, saw the scope of his authority extend beyond healing. Jesus, like God, had command over nature itself. Their amazement is aptly captured in verse 27: “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Jesus’ response to the distressed cries of the disciples might come across as insensitive and unsympathetic. However, it is vital for us to understand what Jesus is trying to teach them. Remind the group about Matthew Henry’s quote from summary: “He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers but for disturbing themselves with their fears.” In the previous section Jesus has clearly taught them the costly nature of following him. These disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. But they had very little idea about the implications of their decision. Jesus uses their predicament to teach them about discipleship and faith. Those who follow Jesus onto the boat over the ocean of life must expect storms by the way. The reality of storms in our lives is not evidence against the power and presence of Jesus, rather the storms act as means to prove the power and presence of God. One commentator makes an insightful observation: “If the disciples respond to an absolute call to discipleship and hence leave all and risk their lives, they must also understand that the one who calls them will also preserve them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.” God’s rebuke ought to invigorate our faith in his love for us, and his sovereignty over circumstances of life.
Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8 captures this beautifully: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have the freedom in Christ to cry out to God in distress; however, we are called to be courageous in our faith, and hold onto the promises of God. Faith is a form of courage that stands firm against the circumstances that threaten to cloud God’s steadfast love for us.
Question 2: In this passage we see the juxtaposition of two cardinal doctrines of Christianity—Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. All four gospels present Jesus as fully human—from his birth, his emotional life, to his suffering and death on the cross. Jesus experienced hunger and exhaustion like any other human being. Jesus sleeping during the storm points us to his human nature. However, the fact that Jesus was sleeping during the storm should prompt us to ask—how could Jesus sleep during the storm? Firstly, Jesus could sleep during the storm because of his unshakeable faith in his Heavenly Father. Secondly, Jesus was aware of his mission and he knew that his time had not yet come. Jesus slept during the storm, yet he was not indifferent to the suffering of his disciples, nor was he oblivious of the cries of his disciples.
In the disciples’ days, water was always considered one of the most unpredictable and dangerous forces in the world. The disciples themselves were experienced fishermen who knew the catastrophic nature of the storm. The unpredictable and dangerous nature of water intensified the fear among the disciples. The storm was greater than their faith in God. They cry out to Jesus more out of desperation than faith in his authority. When they saw Jesus rebuke the most unpredictable and dangerous force in the world, their hearts were filled with even greater fear—an inexplicable awe of being in the presence of the holy God. The disciples witness the divine power of Jesus the Son of God, and in witnessing his power, they also experience the great calm in their hearts.
From this passage we not only learn about the nature of storms we face, but also the character of savior we find in the storm. Oftentimes our apparently unanswered prayers seem like desperate cries to wake God up from his sleep. Like the disciples, we are prone to ask God, “Do you not care? Help us, we are perishing!” Like the disciples, our unpredictable storms in life appear greater than our faith in an unchanging God. This passage points us to Jesus who rebukes our little faith—a faith that crashes down when the storm hits, as it is built on the sand and not on the rock. This passage also points us to Jesus who responds to our cries of feeble faith. Jesus listens to our cries, even when our faith is weak and cowardly. He responds by rebuking the storms that threaten to destroy us. He replaces our great storms with great calm—shalom: the wholesome peace of God’s presence. To trust God is to find hope looking at Jesus who sleeps in the storm, and to experience peace looking at Jesus who calms the storm.
Question 3: N/A
Question 4: The boat in this passage represents the church and the storm is a picture of persecution the church is subjected to. Church history is filled with accounts of persecution, heresies, and moral failures of ministers and leaders. Although it may appear that Jesus is asleep while the church is struggling to survive, we must not forget that he is still in complete control. Through his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus has united himself with his bride—the church. Jesus has calmed the greatest storm—sin, by giving his life to establish and sustain his church.
The words of Charles Spurgeon capture this thought powerfully:
“There may be both a sleeping Christ and a sleeping church, but neither Christ nor his church can perish. If our Lord be asleep, he is asleep near the helm—he has only to put his hand out and steer the vessel at once. He is asleep, but he only sleeps until we cry more loudly to him. When we get into such trouble that we cannot help ourselves and feel our entire dependence on him, then he will reveal his power.”