Summary: The disciples panicked, and of course sometimes we do too. However, Jesus may rebuke us! Whatever the situation, he will be in the boat with us, he will be with us, and he will bring peace into the storms of life we face.
Matthew 8: 23-27
As I was reading this Bible passage through yesterday morning I had a ‘flash-back’ to my child-hood. As I imagined the storm on the lake and the disciples saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown”; some famous words (for a UK audience!) went through my mind: “Don’t panic Mr. Mainwaring, don’t panic!”
This incident in the life and ministry of Jesus throws up challenging questions for me! What are you afraid of right now (8:25)? If I was able to give you a faith-test thermometer, what would the ‘temperature’ of your faith read today (8:26)? Would it read hot, cold or lukewarm?
In September, as part of the team at the Churches Together Alpha course, I gave the talk entitled ‘Who is Jesus?’ It will also be a pleasure for me to ask that question at the first Pensioners’ Praise of 2007.
When Jesus had calmed the storm the amazed disciples (8:27) asked a very similar question: “What kind of man is this?” What kind of man is this?
The background to this event is that a Centurion has demonstrated great faith and that Centurion’s servant has been healed (8:13). The Centurion was outside of the Jewish faith community. He was part of the occupying army, and yet he said to Jesus (8:8), “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Jesus has then gone on to heal Peter’s Mother-in-Law (8:15) and to heal many others “with a word” (8:16). Crowds have come to him, and a teacher of the law has had a conversation with Jesus in which he said, “Teacher I will follow you wherever you go” (8:19). Another said to him, “Lord first let me go and bury my father” (8:21). In other words, “Lord, I will at some point follow you, but I’ve got some pressing matters to sort out first, and then I will follow you.”
Today’s Bible reading begins with that word ‘follow’ (8:22) still ringing in our ears: (8:23-24) “Then [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.”
I wonder if you have experienced situations in your life when it has seemed as though the Lord is sleeping. Are you facing a situation now where “a furious storm” has blown up in either your own life or the life of someone who is dear to you?
“The disciples went and woke [Jesus] saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘you of little faith, why are you so afraid?’” (8:25-26)
What I am about to say is sometimes much easier said than done, and yet I find that those words won’t go away: Don’t panic Mr. Mainwaring, don’t panic.
Two weeks ago I went with Moira, Stephen, Matthew and Rebekah to a firework display at Blackheath. Our car was broken in to. There was glass everywhere and I had something of a rotten feeling inside, sick at the thought that we had been violated. However, I also found that I had a growing, miraculous peace from Jesus.
Of course for some of us there can be very real times when storms hit us. Bereavement, unemployment, illness and family breakdown are the most common and if we are to tell the story of Jesus as it really is then we have to acknowledge that Jesus’ disciples experienced storms with him, even though he was physically present with them! The disciples had made a conscious decision to follow Jesus. They were in the boat with Jesus. He was sleeping and the storm was raging. They were afraid; and their fear led to their faith being shaken and rocked. I wonder if you can relate to some of that.
I must be careful at this point. Old Testament prophets deviated from God’s will when they proclaimed peace where there was no peace. In other words, when prophets declared that everything was OK (Ezekiel 13:10) when in fact it wasn’t then they themselves came under God’s judgment. So we must be very careful as we handle God’s word.
Yes the disciples were in the middle of a storm and we may find ourselves in the middle of storms. Yes Jesus was asleep in the boat and it may sometimes feel to us as if we are alone, almost as if God is sleeping, but the fact is that God never slumbers nor sleeps. Psalm 121: 1-4 reads: “I lift up my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip; he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The storm was raging but Jesus was there with them in the boat!