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January 21, 2017: What Sort of Man Is This?

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Today’s Bible Reading: Genesis 44-45Psalm 20 Matthew 8:23-34Acts 12

Matthew 8:23-34:

Jesus is typically presented as “meek and mild,” a sort of easy-going fellow, hail-fellow-well-met type, who will go with the flow, kiss babies like a good politician, and generally fit in with other people. Christians, those who follow Jesus, are likewise often viewed as being those who should not rock the boat too much, and have very little of the fearful or “awesome” about them. These two stories change that perspective.

The first shows Jesus calming a storm. It is a “great storm” (8:24). Jesus is not in any way phased by the storm. So often that is true in our lives. We are surrounded by massive waves of circumstantial difficulties, complexities and controversies, illnesses, and even at times the very threat of death itself. And it seems to us, as it were, that God is asleep. It does not seem to bother him that we are in such danger. Of course, the reality is that he knows all, is fully aware, and knows the end from the beginning, and so he has no concern for how things are going to turn out. It feels different to us—and that is exactly why we need to exercise that seldom exercised muscle: Faith. “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (8:26). Faith in Jesus is the antidote to fear of a great storm. Fill your mind with who Jesus is, fill your heart with the truth of Jesus, put your trust in him, and let his perfect love cast out your fears.

Jesus calms the storm, and in fact he “rebukes” it (8:26). He, as it were, tells it off. Enough! Stop it! An extraordinary thing to do when surrounded by a storm at sea. And there is a “great calm” (8:26). At the presence and voice of Jesus, the Great Storm becomes a Great Calm. There is no gradual dying down of the wind, no dissipation of the force of the waves naturally over time; Jesus rebukes the storm, and now everything is as calm as a nice boating trip on a midsummer’s calm afternoon. Inevitably enough, they ask, “What sort of man is this?” (8:27). The answer being that he is not just a man. This man is worthy of worship—and is awesome, fearsome.

Well, then, from verse 28, we find Jesus on the other side, and there are two demon-possessed men. He casts out the demons, throws them into the pigs (ceremonially indicating the demonic uncleanness). What is amazing is that because of this graceful and extraordinary miracle, the people of the city beg him to leave (8:34). They are beginning to realize that this, to use C. S. Lewis’ much utilized expression, is no “tame lion.” He is above and beyond, cannot be controlled, will do things that interfere with their local economy, and instead of rejoicing that men who were so evilly sick are now fully in their right mind, they beg Jesus to leave them alone. So often we do that: I wonder how often the greatest barrier to God doing powerful things in our lives and our churches is our insistence that he not mess around with us too much, not disturb our peace.

This Jesus is a disturber of the peace. Storm: still. Demons: flee. You? Will you bow before him, in all his disturbing mighty power, and worship him, or beg him to leave you alone.

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  • Linda J Murphy
    January 21, 2017

    Amen! and for all those days when I was too frightened to believe: “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!”

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