Jesus the Lord of Creation (Matt 8:23-27)

Who is Jesus?  We have been exploring various answers to that Question over the past few weeks, and today will be no different, except that today the question is clearly asked by the disciples, What kind of man is this?  Even the winds and the waves obey him! (Mt 8:27).  The answer isn’t given to this question in words; rather it is given by the story and the context in which it is found.

Leading into today’s passage, we must remember that Jesus has recently finished preaching the Sermon on the Mount.  He has healed a number of people and extolled the faith of the Centurion who understands what authority is and how it can function and immediately preceding this passage two men have asked about following Jesus.  To one the reply Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head (Mt 8:20) is given; to the other the command, Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead (Mt 8:22).  It is in this setting that the great miracle of calming the wind and the waves is performed.

All of this tells us this story must have something to do with faith, authority and discipleship.  We are going to look at all three of this today, let’s begin in discipleship, move to faith and finish with authority.  Viewing the passage as a story of discipleship we can learn 2 things: First, discipleship is about following Jesus.  If you were to look this story up in Mark you would find that the disciples are the first ones in the boat. (Mark 4:36) Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.  But Matthew is very clear to make sure that Jesus is the first one to enter the boat and the others are simply following his leading. Then he [Jesus] go into the boat and his disciples followed him (Matt 8:23).

Discipleship is about following Jesus, wherever he leads whether that is into a boat, or walking across the land and preaching and teaching in the villages.  Disciples must follow Jesus wherever he goes, without hesitation.  And certainly, some of the places he will lead are going to be into difficult situations.  In walking with Jesus, things aren’t always going to be rosy and grand.  In fact, following Jesus may involve not knowing where you will sleep next.  It may involve blessings and it may involve persecution (Mark 10:29-30), “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields — and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

And today, we learn that discipleship to Jesus may bring a person into some very great storms in life. I don’t know about you, but I always find this story hard to believe.  I mean, if there really are giant waves crashing over the boat endangering it and this is a typical fishing vessel of the day, maybe 27 feet long, 7 ½ feet wide and with a small hold in the bow (Sea of Galilee Boat), then breaker waves large enough to cause experienced fishermen to be afraid would make it really hard for me to believe Jesus is asleep. But, in the words of one commentator on the passage, “The one who has no place to lay his head is at home everywhere, untroubled by the normal anxieties of life” (WBC, Mt 8:24).

Part of our discipleship is to grow in faith during trials, as Rom. 5:3-5 declares, “Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  For these 12 disciples part of this suffering, perseverance, character and hope was to be developed in a storm, literally a biblical tsunami.  The furious storm to which the NIV refers is a great earthquake in the sea.  Without warning the ground has shaken and the waves have been stirred up and the little boat of the disciples and their Rabbi is in real danger.  We all witnessed the devastation that the tsunami off the coast of Japan caused in 2011, destroying the towns around the coast and sweeping hundreds, if not thousands of people, away to their death.

A similar kind of phenomena is at work in this story.  The ground has shaken and the waves have broken forth and are threatening the little fishing boat of the disciples.  Let’s talk a little about earthquakes.  Fascinatingly, earthquakes in the scriptures are always signs of divine intervention.  In Matthew 27:54 an earthquake follows the death of Christ and When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”   In Matthew 28:2, an earthquake is part of the resurrection scene – There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  And in Acts 16:26 God sends an earthquake to set Paul and Silas free. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

It appears based on the biblical witness that earthquakes are the means by which God demonstrates his power and draws people into places of great trust or confession and it is no different in our passage.  God has brought this crazy sea in order to declare something powerful and amazing about his Son to the disciples and all who will follow.  What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him. (Matt 8:27)  How one answers this question will be greatly influenced by a person’s discipleship – is it new, old, tested, untested, deep or shallow.  No matter where we are in our faith walk we are all challenged to consider what God will do in order to develop our faith.

People always want the easy way don’t they?  But if God is willing to bring his own people, these disciples, into great danger in order to teach them the truth about Christ and his authority, who are we to expect anything less on our road of following Christ?  Discipleship will involve struggles, trials and storms in our life.  Things may be shaken to the very foundations and we find ourselves wondering where God is and looking up we see him sleeping in the front of the boat.  Does this mean Jesus, or God, isn’t aware of the situation?  Absolutely not.  Does it mean he has gotten busy and forgotten about us?  Certainly not.  He is the one who is leading us as the story makes it clear.  He has orchestrated all of this in order to teach us great truths and to strengthen our faith in him as savior and Lord.

Jesus isn’t oblivious to the storms we encounter in life, on the contrary these storms have been arranged so that our fear can give way to a greater faith in the one we follow. What kind of man is this?  He is one intensely interested in forming your character and faith for the glory of God.  Our confessions in line with the scriptures declare, [God] also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven; 
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation (HC1). By the way, that answer from the 1st question of the Heidelberg Catechism includes three direct quotations from Luke 21:18, Matt 10:29-31 and Rom 8:28.  What kind of man is this? He’s the kind of man who wants to see us saved. He is the kind willing to lead us into storms in order to see the fruit of faith produced so that true character and hope are born.  He is the kind of man who can rest safe in the arms of God and he expects his disciples to do the same thing.

That is a great place to transition to the lessons we can learn about faith from this passage.  There are three lessons for the disciple who finds him or herself in the storms of life and they come out of the disciples’ plea “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” and Jesus’ words “Your of little faith, why are you so afraid” (Matt 8:25-26).

1) First, fear is being cowardly in the face of God’s clear leading. Jesus had brought them to the boat; there was nothing to fear.  God’s words to Joshua seem appropriate: Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the You’re your God will be with you wherever you go (Josh 1:9).  Fear refuses to believe this; faith accepts it.  There is a lesson in providence here.  God is in control and faith is entrusting oneself to God and his plans for the universe.  Again the Heidelberg catechism declares that providence is the…power of God by which he upholds…and rules heaven and earth and all creatures so that nothing happens to us by chance but from his fatherly hand (HC 27).  Jesus is able to sleep because he has entrusted himself completely to the Father.  He isn’t afraid of the storms and wind and waves because he has already learned the lesson that following His Father is the safest place to be.

2) Second, fear is looking at the circumstances and situations of life as if they could truly harm you instead of trusting God to carry you through them.  Faith is being in step with God knowing that he will not take you beyond what can be born and what is beneficial for your walk.  Following up the 27th Question, the 28th asks, “How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?”  The answer, “We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love.”

3) The 28th Question goes on to state, “All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither more nor be moved.”   Third, fear is refusing to believe that God is awake and in charge of the situation.  Faith believes that obedience to the Father means His will must be accomplished and the circumstances of life, no matter how dire and dangerous can’t affect or harm one beyond his desires for their salvation. “And we know that in all things (even and especially storms) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Where discipleship calls us to follow Jesus even into storms and hardship, faith calls us to trust God’s presence and leading, believing that he is in control and that these situations are for our ultimate good.  And that leads us to our final section this morning concerning authority.  In the story, the wind and waves rage and Jesus responds to the tumultuous acts of nature with a few words.  We are not told exactly what these words were, what we are told is [Jesus] got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm (Matt 8:26).

If you will recall the context around the story, there has been a discourse recorded between Jesus and a centurion, which centered on authority and faith.  The centurion has declared that authority is being able direct the affairs of others with an immediate response. (Matt. 8:9) For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  He has recognized in Christ an authority over sickness.  But suddenly, in this story an authority over nature is performed.  Jesus has spoken and nature has obeyed.

And the disciples don’t know what to do with it.  Where the centurion entrusts the future of his servant to Christ and presumably comes to a fuller confession of Jesus as Lord, the disciples find themselves stumbling and asking, What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him. (Matt 8:27)  These men, like many in our day, struggled with the authority of Christ.  How far does that authority go?  If the wind and the waves obey, what else and who else obeys him and must I submit as well?  In his words and deeds, Jesus was declaring and acting like God.

He even says I and the Father are one on one occasion (John 10:30).  On another he declares, (John 8:58-59) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him.  The stones are raised because Jesus is declaring himself to be God.  He even tells people to judge his claims based upon his actions – (John 14:11) Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

And now he is commanding the creation.  Matthew’s Gospel is setting up a clear conclusion for the observant reader – Who is it who calls men and women to discipleship?  Who is it that leads them even into life’s trials?  Who is it who reigns supreme, yet sleeps through life’s storms while we fret and worry?  It is none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord of Creation.

The Lord of Creation who calms the seas, heals the sick, casts out demons and walks on water is our master, teacher, Rabbi, savior, friend, brother and healer.  He bids us to come and follow.  He bids us to have faith in his power over life and death.  He bids us to trust even when he doesn’t calm the storms because he is the ultimate authority in all creation full of wisdom, grace and love.  So let me ask you this morning, What kind of man is this who bids us to come and die?  What kind of man is this who calls us to not be afraid, but to trust?  What kind of man is this that even the wind and waves obey?  He is no ordinary man, he is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Lord of Creation and he calls you to come and follow!

Therefore, we have no need to fear.  We have no need to question the situations of life.  We have no need to worry and fret, our Lord is at the helm and in an instant he can respond if he so desires and everything will be calm.  But even if he doesn’t, it isn’t because he lacks authority and power, quite the contrary, God has raised this Jesus (Eph. 1:20-22) which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church.

Jesus is the Lord over Creation!

Sermon Outline

I. Context – Faith, Authority and Discipleship (Matt 8:20, 22, 27)

II. Discipleship is

a. Following Jesus (Mark 4:36, Matt 8:23)

b. Following in Storms (Mark 10:29-30, Rom 5:3-5, 8:28, Mt 27:54, 8:27, 28:2, Acts 16:26, Lk 21:18)

III. 3 Lessons on faith (Mt 8:25-26, Josh 1:9, Rom 8:28)

IV. Authority brings obedience (Mt 8:26-27, 8:9, Jn 10:30, 8:58-59, 14:11)

V. Who is this? The Lord of Creation (Eph 1:20-22)

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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