Power over Nature

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Matthew 8:23-27 (Calming the storm)

INTRODUCTION: We are in Matthew 8-9 and our message series is called Ten Miracles of Jesus. We have already looked at the first three miracles which were all healing miracles of unlikely people. Last week we looked at the first of four dialogues on the theme of discipleship. Now we come to a series of three miracles of power. Together these three miracles show us Jesus’ power over nature, his power over Satan, and his power over sin. Today we come to the first of these three miracles, the calming of the storm, showing Jesus’ power over nature. (Read Matthew 8:23-27 and pray.)

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We live at a time where we can access more information about the weather than at any time in history on earth. I have an app on my phone that not only tells me how many minutes before it starts raining in my location, it also tells me how long it will rain, and how many minutes until it will stop.

So we have all sorts of up-to-the minute, state-of-the-art information about the weather, but the one thing we still can’t do is change the weather. The old saying is just as true as ever. Everyone talks about the weather, but no one can do anything about it.

That is, no one except Jesus, of course. Because in today’s passage, Jesus doesn’t just talk about the weather. Jesus talks to the weather, and he does something about it.

Today’s miracle shows that Jesus has power even over nature. And it teaches us three very important things about Jesus. 1) Jesus is completely unthreatened. 2) Jesus will take care of you even in the most dire of situations. 3) Jesus is fully God and fully man. So let’s look at all three of these together.

I. Jesus is completely unthreatened (23-25)

First of all, this miracle teaches us that Jesus is completely unthreatened. Look at verses 23-25: “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!’” (Matthew 8:23-25) In these verses we see several ways that Jesus is completely unthreatened by this storm.

   A. Nothing catches him by surprise

First of all, nothing catches him by surprise. Verse 24 tells us that the storm came up without warning. This is a single word in the Greek that literally means, “Look! Behold!” Here it describes the suddenness of the storm that came up on the sea, hence the NIV’s translation “without warning.”

Now the storm may have come up without warning for the disciples, but nothing catches Jesus by surprise. He is the Alpha and the Omega who knows the beginning from the end. He got into the boat knowing the storm was coming. God is never truly surprised because he already knows it all.

How unlike us! Life catches us off guard all the time. We even have a phrase for it. “Didn’t see that coming!” Things happen to us without warning all the time. From our limited standpoint, life is unpredictable, uncertain. Life’s sudden crises remind us how helpless we really are, how vulnerable, how little we know of the future. But not Jesus. Nothing catches him by surprise.

   B. Nothing causes him worry or stress

And then secondly, nothing causes him worry or stress. When the storm hit the boat, Jesus was fast asleep.

And this wasn’t a little storm. Matthew calls it a great storm, a furious storm. The word he uses for storm is a word that literally means a violent shaking. It’s a word that can mean earthquake when applied to the land or tempest when applied to the sea. The storm hit the boat on the Sea of Galilee, and everything around them was shaking furiously.

This shaking was so bad that the waves swept over the boat. Now I don’t know a lot about boating, but I do know it works better when the water stays on the outside of the boat. Matthew says the waves were so high that they covered the boat. As the boat went up and down in the waves it was completely hidden from sight.

And in the midst of all this turmoil Jesus is sleeping. You might wonder how someone could sleep through all that commotion. You might say because they were really tired, and I’m sure Jesus was tired. He had just spent the whole evening healing all the sick people who were brought to him.

But tiredness alone does not explain it. Jesus could sleep in the storm because he was unafraid. He was not surprised by the storm, and he was not afraid of it when it came. Even if we knew everything that was coming, we would probably still worry and stress over it. In fact if we knew everything that was coning, we would probably worry and stress even more! But not Jesus. Nothing causes him worry or stress.

The Bible tells us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps, but Jesus as man slept in the boat. Tired and trusting, Jesus slept through the storm. Nothing causes him worry or stress.

   C. We may panic or fear, but Jesus remains unafraid
      – Psalm 91:1-2

And then thirdly, we may panic or fear, but Jesus remains unafraid. The disciples are in full panic mode here. Now these were fishermen. They had seen big storms before, and so this one must have been really big to scare them this way. They really thought they were going to die.

And so they go and wake Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25) The word translated “drown” in this verse is a word that literally means to perish. It is in the present tense here and so you could even translate it, “Lord, we are perishing. We are in the process of dying right now!”

And although the disciples are crying out about the storm, this is also the cry of every sinner who comes to God for salvation. “Lord, save us. We are perishing! We are dying in our sin. We are not going to make it.” Some people wait until a crisis to turn to God, but we should really turn to God before the crisis. If you do not know Christ, you really are dying in your sins, and you really do need to call out to Jesus for salvation.

Jesus in these verses is the perfect example of trusting faith for us. The disciples are terrified by the storm, but Jesus sleeps unafraid. Why? Because he completely trusts his heavenly Father. Psalm 91 says: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1-2) Jesus sleeping in the boat shows us how we may trust God in times of crisis. God is your refuge and fortress. No matter what you are going through, you too can rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

We haven’t even gotten to the miracle of calming the storm yet, and we already see the miracle of Jesus sleeping in the boat in the middle of the storm. That’s the first thing we learn from Jesus’ power over nature. Jesus is completely unthreatened.

II. Jesus will take care of you (26)

Secondly this miracle teaches us that Jesus will take care of you. Now we come to the actual miracle in the story. Look at verse 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.” (Matthew 8:26)

   A. Faith is incompatible with fear
      – Matthew 6:30, 8:10; 1 Peter 1:7

There are a couple things we learn from this part of the story. First of all, that faith is incompatible with fear. You can have faith or you can be afraid, but you cannot do both at the same time. Either your faith will drive out fear, or your fear will drive out faith. And so Jesus says to his disciples, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”

The word Jesus uses for fear here is a word that means to be timid or cowardly. In other words it is a fear that we should overcome by faith. But that is exactly the problem for the disciples here. Jesus says that they have little faith. And little faith means big fear.

This phrase “little faith” appears five times in the gospels, and every time it is used with reference to Jesus’ disciples. It first appears in the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus is teaching his disciples about faith and trusting God to take care of your needs. After talking about how God takes care of the birds and the grass he tells them: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:30)

Now they are panicking in the storm and once again Jesus says they have little faith. This is in direct contrast to the centurion in Matthew 8:10 about whom Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” (Matthew 8:10) The disciples had little faith. Now they had some faith. They came to Jesus for help. That’s a good start. But they were still afraid they were going to drown.

Jesus is saying no matter the size of the storm, your faith should be the same. Our faith should not go up and down with the size of our trials. In fact one of the reasons Jesus brings us into the storm is to test our faith. Remember Jesus is the one who brought them into the storm. Jesus is the one who said let’s get into the boat and cross to the other side. But one of the reasons Jesus brings you into the storm is to test your faith. For example we read in 1 Peter 1:7: “These [trials] have come so that your faith … may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:7) So come to Jesus for help, but come believing, not despairing. Come in confidence, not in fear.

   B. Jesus can rescue you from the storm
      – Mark 4:39; Philippians 4:6-7

And come knowing that Jesus can rescue you from the storm. Because that’s what he did for his disciples. Back to verse 26: “Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” (Matthew 8:26)

The word “rebuked” here means to command with the implication of a threat. Jesus is completely unthreatened, but the storm is not safe from his command. What exactly did Jesus say to the storm? The gospel of Mark tells us the words Jesus used. “Quiet, be still.” (Mark 4:39) That’s amazing. We can’t even say that to our kids and get them to obey! Jesus said, “Quiet, peace, be still.” And miraculously, the winds and the waves obeyed. The terrible shaking stopped, and everything became completely calm.

Jesus is bringing the kingdom, and so far he has shown that he has power to make clean, he has power to heal from a distance, he has power to carry our diseases, and now he shows he has power over nature as well.

When Matthew tells us Jesus got up, it’s the same word the Bible later uses for Jesus rising from the dead. Because once again this miracle not only teaches us Jesus’ power over the storm, but Jesus’ power to save. Jesus rescued the disciples from death, and he rescues us from death, too.

Part of the miracle is how quickly the storm went away. Jesus said the word, and the storm immediately stopped. Even the surface of the water became instantly calm. And it’s the same with your salvation. Salvation happens in an instant. It’s not a process of getting better or earning your salvation. You receive it by faith. One moment you are lost in your sins and perishing. And then the moment you trust Christ for salvation, you are saved. Just like that.

The calming of the storm was contrary to nature, and it’s the same with us. We have a sinful nature that stands opposed to God and his ways. But when you trust Christ you become a new creation with new desires to serve and please God.

And then Jesus continues to rescue you the rest of your life. No matter how big or deep the trial, know that Jesus can rescue you in an instant. Your world may be shaken to the core, but Jesus just has to say the word, and all will be calm.

Notice also God’s grace in this miracle. Even though the disciples showed little faith, Jesus still rescued them. Their faith was imperfect, but Jesus didn’t ignore their cries for help. Frederick Bruner writes: “No matter how weakly or unworthily we approach Jesus and no matter how unimpressive our faith, Jesus helps us. Jesus’ grace is more important than our faith.”

We read in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) In other words, Jesus speaks, “Peace, be still,” not only to the storm but also to our troubled hearts and minds today.

Faith is incompatible with fear, and Jesus can rescue you from any storm. That’s the second lesson we learn from Jesus’ power over nature. Jesus will take care of you.

III. Jesus is fully God and fully man (27)

1) Jesus is completely unthreatened. 2) Jesus will take care of you. And finally 3) Jesus is fully God and fully man. Look at verse 27 with me now: “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (Matthew 8:27)

   A. Jesus is much more than a man
      – Psalm 65:5-8, 107:23-32

And that’s really the question of the day, isn’t it? What kind of man is this? What kind of man speaks to the winds and the waves, and the winds and the waves listen to him? What kind of man talks to the weather and does something about it?

Jesus was definitely a man. He was human. He had a limited human body just like you and I do. He got tired and hungry and thirsty. He was tired in the boat. He worked hard healing people all evening, was tired and fell asleep. So Jesus is definitely a man.

But this miracle shows us he is also much more than a man. Because in the Old Testament only God has power over the sea. For example, we read in Psalm 65: “You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior … who formed the mountains by your power … who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves.” (Psalm 65:5-8) Or again in Psalm 107: “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” (Psalm107:28-30) Only God has power over the sea, and so Jesus was showing by this miracle that he was both God and man.

Matthew tells us the disciples were amazed. It’s the same word Matthew used back in verse 10 where we learned that Jesus was astonished at the centurion’s faith. Well here the men are astonished at Jesus’ power. It’s a word that means to marvel or to wonder. Do you ever wonder about Jesus? Do you ever marvel about him? You should. Read through the gospels, and you will find there is no one like him in all of history. He defies all human categories. What kind of man is this? He is a man but he is much more than a man. He is fully God and fully man. His tiredness in the boat shows his humanity, and his calming of the storm shows his divinity.

   B. Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth

Jesus’ power over the storm shows that he has all authority in heaven and on earth. As the disciples cried out: “Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:27) That word “obey” simply means to do what someone says or to carry out orders. Ands that’s exactly what the winds and the waves did. Jesus said, “Quiet! Be still!” And the winds and the waves obeyed. Now that’s power.

Once again in the Old Testament only the Lord has power over the sea. Well, Jesus is Lord. He is not only Lord and Master over illness as shown by his healing miracles, but he is Lord and master over nature as shown by his calming the storm.

Jerome interprets this passage as saying: “Creation recognizes its Creator.” What kind of man is this? He is a man but he is much more than a man. He has all authority in heaven and earth. He is fully God and fully man.

CONCLUSION: Jesus came proclaiming the kingdom of God and then demonstrated the power and presence of the kingdom through his miracles.

The calming of the storm shows us that Jesus has power even over nature. The Jesus who stilled the storm on the Sea of Galilee is the same Jesus who created the world, who sustains the world and who continues to intervene in the world even today. He is the Savior who not only saves you from your sin but stills the storms of life and rescues you in times of trouble. One day he will bring the kingdom in its fullness, and all of nature will be restored.

Are you in the middle of the storm this morning? Has your world been shaken? Is there something you are not trusting Christ for this morning? Something you think is beyond his ability to help?

Then remember, Jesus spoke to the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and the storm stopped. Jesus is completely unthreatened. Jesus will take care of you. Jesus is fully God and full man, and you can trust his power and care no matter how bad the situation. Put your trust in Christ this morning.

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