Crossing the sea (Matthew 8:23-27)

Published on Wednesday, 20 December 2017 05:13
Life with Jesus must have been full of surprises for his followers. I suspect the disciples were anticipating a surprising experience on this occasion, although the one they went through was probably not the one they had anticipated. What would have been the surprise they imagined? They knew they were going over the lake to Gentile areas, as we can see from verse 28. Perhaps they imagined Jesus doing incredible works there and bringing in lots of new followers to the Jewish faith. Jesus had something else in mind for them.

At a more mundane level, they might have expected a smooth sail. After all, it was very calm when they set out. The description of the storm indicates that it was not expected. So in God’s providence the disciples did not get what they would have expected and did get what was unexpected. And I suspect Matthew is saying, ‘Welcome to the unexpected life of discipleship that the followers of Jesus have!’

Yet we must observe that Jesus did not abandon them when the going became tough. He remained with them throughout the period of trouble. Each of the disciples could observe that Jesus was with them. He was not present in a kind of hidden way that would require a great deal of searching before they could find him. Granted his method of being present may not have pleased them – he was asleep – but still he was there. Better to have a Jesus who is asleep than not to have him, is what Matthew is saying.

Jesus was leaving the crowd behind. He had taught many people and he had helped many people in Capernaum. I suppose the question could have been asked as to whether Jesus did anything with only his disciples present. Did they need to have special moments with him? Obviously, Jesus wanted that to happen, and was about to happen when they were out on the boat. Matthew is about to show his readers that disciples need space to see the abilities of Jesus.

There is another obvious lesson from what happened in the boat and that is that Jesus did not do what the disciples were expected to do. He did not take a turn in rowing the boat even although things were hard for them. Sometimes we can give the impression that Jesus should do everything instead of us doing what we should do. We may ask Jesus to bless the gospel in our community, but he expects us to tell people about it and then he will bless it.

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