What do you do when you are afraid? Cry out for help? Blame other people? Move to protect yourself? In The Sound of Music, Fraulein Maria gives the heartwarming advice,
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad.
There is some value in "the power of positive thinking," and God even tells us to think on "whatever is lovely," but "raindrops on roses" will not actually protect you from real and present danger! Ultimately the one who protects you is Jesus, who is rightly called the Lord, and your Savior. You can know this is true because even the winds and waves obey Him.
Outline. God reminds us of our peril and fear in vv. 23-25, and points us to depend on Christ's power and grace in our time of need in vv. 26-27.
Our Peril and Fear vv. 23-25
Christ's Power and Grace in Our Time of Need vv. 26-27
Our Peril and Fear vv. 23-25. God reminds us of our peril and fear in vv. 23-25.
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing."
Got into the boat
In v. 28 we learn that Christ's purpose in traveling to the region of the Gadarenes or Gerasenes, which was in the tribe of Gad east of the Jordan, was to heal two demon-possessed men. The fact there were pigs and pigherders means this region had a significant population of unbelieving Gentiles, because Jews did not eat pigs. And on the way to this region known for evil, probably a mile from the shore, a fearfully violent storm rises up and comes upon them!
A great storm
Their worst fears became a reality. This storm is a beginning of the difficulties Christ promised His disciples would undergo. Storms and the ocean are frightening because they can place us at great peril. During some storms at night here in Caney I have lain awake truly afraid that I wouldn't hear the tornado warning when the tornado comes. The power of the wind, of lightning, of waves, is greater than any man. We understand the danger of deep water at an early age—which end of the pool was the scary end when you were 4 years old? The deep end!
The depths of the ocean and the power of its waves inspired a special fear in the people of the Ancient Near East. Storms and the sea represented to them the cosmic forces of evil and their root in Satan and his demons. The Canaanites believed Yam was the god of the sea, and that there was a serpent-like sea monster named Rahab who was a picture of the power of Yam. But Yahweh has shown throughout history that He is the true God of the sea, and He demonstrated this when Jesus calmed the winds and the waves.
Psalm 89:9-10 teaches this truth:
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
And Job confessed in Job 26:12, 13,
By his power he stilled the sea; by his understanding he shattered Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.
Against the background of pagan fear of the sea as an evil power, Genesis tells us that at creation "The earth was formless and void," tohu and bohu, chaos and emptiness, but "the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep." (Gen. 1:2) God created all things out of nothing, giving them form and filling the void, and God looked on everything He had made, and behold, it was very good.
After men sinned and fell Satan is able to use the power of the sea to do great evil, but God remains the Lord of the sea. God created the great sea creatures pictured by Leviathan, whom man cannot master, but whose master is God. God saved Noah from the flood. God parted the waters of the Red Sea under Moses. David cried out that the waters were over his head. Jonah sank down to the bottom of the sea, where the bars of Sheol nearly closed around him. Peter began to sink but Christ walked on the water. Because Christ has conquered death and Hell one day these perils will be no more. According to Rev. 21:1, in the new heavens and new earth there will be no more sea.
But we still face these perils today. The OT saints called the bottom of the ocean the depths of Sheol, the place of the dead. Today we still call it "Davy Jones' Locker." Submariners fear the deepest depths where the intense pressure can destroy a ship, and divers say "Down at the depth of 100 feet, lives an old man named Oxygen Pete."
Mariners from every age know these fears, from the prophet Jonah to Paul shipwrecked on Malta to Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, to the movie The Perfect Storm. Man cannot defeat the power of the sea.
But He was asleep. But the God-man lay asleep amidst the storm with nothing to fear.
Psalm 4:8 says,
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Christ has this peace to give, but his disciples did not have it. Christ went to sleep to test His disciples' faith.
Lord, save us!
But His disciples have more fear than faith. They called Him "Lord," believed He could save them, and begged He would. But they believed they would die. They say, "We are perishing!" Quite naturally, their peril led to fear.
Christ's Power & Grace in Our Time of Need vv. 26-27. Their fear was natural, but it was not right. It was not right because God Himself was with them in the boat, and in the storm. This is the God who is greater than the sea, greater than the power of sin, and death, and Hell. The disciples had yet to learn what Christ taught in Matt. 12:40-41, "Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth....Behold, something greater than Jonah is here."
Text. And so Jesus said to them,
26 And 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.
27 And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"
Christ's Rebuke. We should learn from this Christ's power and grace in our time of need. Jesus responded to His disciples' request by rebuking them as their gracious Redeemer, then rebuking the storm as its powerful Creator.
Rebuked disciples as their gracious Redeemer
Why are you afraid?
Christ rebuked His disciples not for disturbing Him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears. He didn't ask them, "Why do you ask me for help?" He asked, "Why are you afraid?"
He tells them the true cause of their fear by calling them "O you of little faith." There is a godly fear of calamity which keeps us from being what the Bible calls a "fool," but there is also an ungodly fear of storms, natural disasters, and other threats and difficulties. An ungodly fear does not trust God's sovereign lordship and providential care as a foundation for our life that cannot be shaken. An ungodly fear believes there is an evil more powerful than God. An ungodly fear does not believe Christ has fully paid for your sin and so earthly travails are no longer the punishment of God's wrath but the discipline of your loving Father. John teaches us "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." (4:18) Do you fear the wrath of God when you run from the lightning? When you lie awake when the wind roars around your house? Then ask God to forgive you for your sins, and believe His promise that He is faithful and just to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then even if the storm takes your life the Lord will preserve your soul.
Do you believe He will? That is the faith of a Christian. The one who knows Jesus Christ says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me!" (Psalm 23:4) "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3) Our God holds the tempest in His hand (Prov. 30:4); He hurls the tempest to the earth (Is. 28:2; Jonah 1:4) and you will fear it, but He is our shelter from the storm (Is. 4:6; 25:4; 32:2). "When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever." (Proverbs 10:25)
Rebuked storm as its powerful Creator. Though Christ rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith, He did grant their request! He did so by rebuking the storm as its powerful Creator.
Notice "How easily this was done, with a word's speaking."1 Notice also "How effectually it was done. There was a great calm, all of a sudden. Ordinarily, after a storm, there is such a fret of the waters, that it is a good while ere they can settle."2
God calms our fears. The same power that calms the sea calms the tumult of the peoples. God can calm our fears through faith in Jesus Christ because He is our Creator. Psalm 65:7 says He is the one who by His almighty power both "stills the roaring of the seas" and "the tumult of the peoples." Jesus saves us from both the perils we face and the fears they bring.
The application of this passage should be coming into clearer view. God calms our fears through faith in Jesus Christ. And when we are in fear that faith should drive us to seek God's protection through prayer. Christ's willingness to grant His disciple's request should give us good reason to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16) Those who have asked for the eternal salvation Christ gives may freely ask for temporal deliverances. Turn with me for a minute to Jonah 2, which teaches us to pray this kind of prayer of faith. The account in Matthew bears many similarities to Jonah's experience in Jonah 1 and Paul's in Acts 27, and I recommend you read those two chapters this afternoon. But give attention to Jonah 2; if the disciples had not yet learned what Jonah learned, we must not go home today without learning it.
1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying, "I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. 3 For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; Yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.' 5 The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6 at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. 9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!" 10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.
Pray! "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" Even from the blackest terror at the bottom of the sea your prayer will reach God in His holy temple. If God heard the prayer of the pagan Ninevites, He will hear the prayer of His beloved children in distress. Call out to Him in prayer, and He will help.
Pray in faith! And pray in faith. Jonah believed He would see God's temple again. When you fear the tornado outside your door, the waves swamping your boat, the terror of the noonday or the pestilence that stalks by night, do you believe that whether you die now or live to see the next day, no matter what may come, after this peril, you will see the Lord? The steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting for those who fear Him. Trust Him even when you call out to Him out of fear for your life.
The disciple's problem was both their peril and their fear, so Christ rebuked both their fear and their peril. But He did not only speak the words of the rebuke; He also worked the response He sought. He calmed the storm, and He calmed His disciples. The "great storm" became a "great calm," and "you of little faith" became great believers. They marveled because it was a miracle. They admired Christ, their faith greatly strengthened, asking "What sort of man is this?" They admired Him because "Even winds and sea obey Him!"
Christ's Power. Do you admire Jesus Christ for this same reason? Your Savior is the Lord of heaven and earth. Say with the Psalmist, "I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses." (Psalm 135:5-7) Remember that He was Lord of the waves at creation. "At your rebuke they fled. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth." (Psalm 104:7, 9) He was Lord of the sea in the Exodus. "At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea." (Exodus 15:8)
Faith. And for this reason He gives true peace to those who trust by faith in Him, even a peace that passes human understanding. "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock." (Isaiah 26:4)
Prayer. So we must come to Him in prayer, as His disciples did. "Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him." (Psalm 32:6)
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, what will you do? We have revised one Rogers & Hammerstein song to make a Christian prayer before our fellowship meals; we should change another one into a Christian prayer when we fear for our lives.
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I pray to my Savior who created all things, And then I don't feel so bad.
The German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer has become well-known for his book titled "The Cost of Discipleship" in which he gives Christian reasons we should be willing to die for our faith. Bonhoeffer wrote, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." His book was published in 1937. Bonhoeffer resisted the anti-Christian national socialism of the Nazis during WWII, was imprisoned in Buchenwald and hung by the Gestapo in 1945. When Bonhoeffer followed Jesus, it cost him his life.
When great crowds accompanied Jesus in Luke 14, He said to them,
26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.'
Consider the cost of following Jesus Christ. It will cost you your life, but following Jesus is worth the cost, because He gives you eternal life.
Outline. In this passage Jesus tells you what it will cost you to be His disciple. In vv. 18-20 He tells you the cost to your home, and in vv. 21-22, the cost to your family.
Author: Matthew; undisputed in early church tradition
Date: Probably 64-70 AD. After Mark written with Peter's help in Rome; before Jerusalem fell.
Purpose: Authoritative teaching about Jesus and His kingdom. For Jews and Gentiles: Instruct Jews in their Messiah (fulfillments); proclaim salvation to all Gentiles throughout the world (Great Commission)
Key Themes: The Kingdom of God has come in Christ. How to live as citizens of Christ's kingdom.
Prologue 1, 2
5 Narrative-then-Discourse sections on the Kingdom, ended by a common formula in 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1.
Conclusion: Passion/Resurrection 26-28
Prologue: Christ's identity and work 1, 2
The Genealogy of the King 1:1-17
The Birth of the King 1:18-2:23
The Kingdom of God 3-25
The Kingdom Comes in Christ 3-7
Initiating the Kingdom in Jesus 3:1-4:11 Baptism, wilderness temptation
Announcing the Kingdom 4:12-25 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Calls disciples, preaches, heals.
First Discourse: Sermon on the Mount 5-7 The blessings, law, piety, heart, judgment, forgiveness, and obedience of Christ's kingdom and its citizens.
The Works of the Kingdom 8-10
Christ Demonstrates God's Work 8, 9 Healing the sick, calling disciples, power over nature, spirits, sin, sinners, death; call to faith. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Second Discourse: Kingdom Mission: Christ Commissions God's Workers 10 First preaching & healing mission, instruction in workers' task, warnings & encouragements.
The Nature of the Kingdom 11-13
Earthly or Heavenly? The Identity of John and of Jesus 11, 12 Forerunner; Messiah. Both call to faith, repentance, & salvation. But Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath, gentle, works by God's Spirit, greater than Jonah the prophet & Solomon the king.
Third Discourse: Kingdom Parables 13 Preaching the gospel, believers & unbelievers, worldwide growth, great value, final judgment, spiritual growth, rejection by the world.
The Authority of the Kingdom 14-18
Jesus' Character and Authority 14-17 John dies. Jesus feeds, protects, heals; Pharisees mislead, defile, and will be destroyed! Keys of the Kingdom, mission is to die on cross, transfiguration ("Listen to him!"), authority by faith.
Fourth Discourse: Character and Authority of the Church 18 Humility before Christ, resist temptation, salvation & reconciliation, else excommunication, forgive as you have been forgiven.
Kingdom Blessings and Kingdom Judgments 19-25
Final Questions From Galilee to Jerusalem: Why May Enter? 19, 20 Family life: divorce, remarriage, children. Riches vs. entering kingdom; fairness in kingdom wages. Opening the eyes of the spiritually & physically blind.
The King Enters Jerusalem 21-23 Triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, men resist the King's authority. Pharisees & Saducees lay traps, but are condemned.
Fifth Discourse: Kingdom Judgment 24, 25 Signs of the end of the age, watch & be ready by obeying.
One of the great themes at Covenant College is that all of life should be lived in a Christian way, and we should transform culture to bring it into accord with God's saving work. This goal of transforming culture is similar to waging a culture war, but different in that rather than only pointing out where our opponents need to change, we actually make those changes within our own sphere of influence. A simple example is that at your workplace you should be honest and do the best job you can with the gifts God has given you. The Lord is concerned not only that you attend church services and read your Bible, but also that His saving work be applied throughout your whole life. We see that concern in this passage.
Despite their brevity, these verses provides historical and biographical background information about Peter that cannot be found except in a couple other passages. It is not good to emphasize these background details in a sermon when they don't clearly serve the the purpose of the passage or the sermon. But here they do tie together in one direction, which shows the greatness and fullness of God's concern to change not just one little part of your life, but the whole of your life.
We see this in the way Christ healed. Christ is known as the Great Physician. No physician can heal as Christ healed in this passage; human medicine is more external and limited in its effects, but Christ's healing went directly to the illness and removed it completely. This should convince you that Christ cares about your bodily illness, and He cares to redeem every aspect of your life that has been marred by sin.
Outline. This passage teaches us the depth of Christ's healing, the breadth of Christ's healing, and the point of Christ's healing.
The Way to Holiness: The Divine Perspective 1:2-27
The Trial-Temptation Complex 1:2-18
The Word of God 1:19-27
The Principles of Holiness: The Biblical Framework 2:1-26
The Law is the Structure of Holiness 2:1-13
Faith is the Dynamics of Holiness 2:14-26
The Implementation of Holiness: The Christian Experience 3:1-4:10
The Obstacle to Victory: Human Impotence 3:1-9
The Fact of Human Impotence 3:1-5
The Root of Human Impotence 3:6-9
The Nature of the Enemy Within
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.
The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.
The Power of the Enemy Within
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,
8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
The Effectiveness of the Enemy Within
9 With it we bless our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.
V. 6: The tongue is a tool of indwelling sin, which is our enemy within. What things does a fire do that the tongue does also? ____________________________________________________
How is the tongue "a world?" ____________________________________________________
How does the tongue influence your body and life? ___________________________________
Where does the tongue's power & influence come from? ______________________________
V. 7: How does "mankind" differ from all animals' "kinds?" ___________________________
V. 8: What does poison do? _________________ What do we do with it? _________________
V. 9: Indwelling sin can turn us 180°—from __________ to ___________! What can save us? "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" "If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Rom. 7:24; 8:13)