Summary: This text reminds us that distorted views of God and ourselves are revealed by trouble.
3) And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24) A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25) And they went and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” 26) And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. 27) They were amazed, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” (Matthew 8: 23-27)
This synoptic passage of scripture (see also Mark 4: 35-41 and Luke 8: 22-25) describes an event that occurred during the ministry of Jesus Christ. In this passage, Jesus and His disciples were in a ship traveling across the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee was a lake that was (1) surrounded by mountains, (2) several hundred feet below sea level, and (3) predisposed to sudden violent wind storms.
Upon close inspection of this text, we see four unusual dynamics. First, there were thirteen storms in progress. Outside of the ship, the waves were upset by the invisible and intangible wind. Inside of the ship, the twelve disciples were upset by invisible and intangible fear. Second, four of the twelve terrified disciples were former professional fishermen. Peter, Andrew, James and John previously made their living on the water. Hence, storms were the cost of doing business for them and should not have evoked fear in their hearts. Third, we see Jesus and the disciples talking past each other. The disciples asked why the elements obeyed Jesus, but Jesus asked why did not the disciples have faith in Him. In a real sense, Jesus and the disciples asked the same question ‘Who are you?’ Fourth, when Jesus rebuked the storm (some textual renderings have Christ saying ‘Peace – Be Still’), the wind and waves understood the command but the disciples did not; the external elements calmed down but the internal travelers were not calm. Interestingly, hearing God’s voice did not depend on having physical ears. The admonition in the book of Revelation ‘Let he who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.’, takes on a broader understanding of what it means to hear the voice of Jesus.
Let’s explore this ‘Who are you?’ question. When the question is raised by the disciples, we see that Christ exceeds their understanding, definition and expectation of what a person could and should be. ‘What sort of man is this?’ suggests that they could not comprehend that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Him. After all, He was the carpenter’s son. After all, He came out of Nazareth – the source of nothing good. After all, His mother became pregnant out of wedlock. After all, He was initially homeless and was born in a farm animal shelter. After all, Ruth and Rehab – two gentiles – one a Moabite and the other a hooker – were part of His family tree. After all, He chose Matthew (a tax collector for the Roman government) and Simon the Zealot (a social activist for Jewish liberation) to be a part of the same group; that does not say much about His judgment. What sort of man is this?