Newtown Bible Church

Fear, Faith, and Incarnate Deity (Matthew 8:23-27)


“Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, Will give sight to a blind man? ... Will calm the storm with His hand? … Has walked where Angels trod? When you kiss your Little Baby, You kiss the Face of God! … The blind will see, the deaf will hear, The dead will live again. The lame will leap, the dumb will speak The praises of the lamb! … Mary did you know …” 

  • This beloved song well captures our emotions, by well capturing the contrast between the very natural picture of a mother holding her newborn baby, in all His weakness and dependence; with the reality of who that Child actually was. It captures the contrast of the weakness of humanity with the omnipotence of Deity - both in the Person of Jesus. It is this contrast of the real humanity of Jesus along side the reality of His Deity and His role as the Messiah that Matthew is so clearly laying before his readers as His records the glorious displays of Jesus’ power. 
    • At the very outset of the gospel the message of Jesus humanity is set in harmony with the reality of His Deity: “A Child is born (human) … call His name Immanuel (Deity).” So throughout His life there is the display of human weakness set in harmony with Sovereign omnipotence. 
  • In our passage this morning, Jesus’ display of omnipotence shines against the backdrop of the disciples weak faith. Jesus is sovereign Lord to be trusted and obeyed in every circumstance. 2 Displays of Sovereignty designed to Produce Fearless Faith: (1) Sovereign test of faith; (2) Sovereign display of power 


READ: Matthew 8:22-27


  •  (8:23) “And when He got into the boat His disciples followed Him” - He is now getting into the boat that He and the disciples started toward in v. 18 (“go to the other side”), but were delayed by the three encounters with people from the crowd (3rd is mentioned in Lk). Notice the leading of Jesus and the following of the disciples, a subtle pick up on the previous discussion (4:20, 22; 8:22). Mark 4:36 “They took Him along” simply looks at it from the angle of the disciples borrowing of the boat and then navigating it across the Sea, though Jesus initiated the move. 
    • Text does not say whose boat, though it is possible it belonged to either Peter and his brother Andrew, or James and his brother John, since they were all fishermen (4:18-22) of Galilee; maybe it was someone from the crowe. 
    • In either case, it would have most likely been one of the common fishing boats that were abundant along the Sea where fishing was a common trade (even today)Recently discovered fishing boat from the 1st century, which would likely have been the same type of boat, measured 27 x 7 ½ ft in size; fit about 12 men. 
    • These would have been scattered along the shore and easily available for use. 


(1) Sovereign test of Faith

A Sovereign Storm

  •  (8:24) And behold a great storm arose on the Sea, so that the boat was covered by the waves” - “Sea” here is the Sea of Galilee is a body of water 13 miles long and 8miles wide, is feed primarily by the Jordan River as well as some underground streams, and reaches a depth of 165 feet. At 696 feet below sea level it the lowest body of fresh water on the planet, and is surrounded by high cliffs (2000ft above the surface of water) on the east, and mountains to the NW that rise as much as 4000ft above sea level. In the summer months the temperature can rise to 104 F or higher in the shade. Therefore, 


“The difference in temperature between the surface of the sea and the high surrounding mountains makes it liable to sudden and violent storms, as the cool air from the uplands sweeps down the gorges and upon the surface of the water.” 


  • So, storms were common occurrences on the Sea and certainly these rugged and seasoned fishermen would have experienced many of them, but this one stands out; described as a “great storm” - (HCSB “Violent storm”
    • seismoß is usually translated as “earthquake” (Matt. 24:7; 27:54; 28:2; etc). Here the violence of the storm and its affect on the Sea is described in terms of the earth seeming to shake . me÷gaß further brings out the force, violence, and fierceness of the storm. Mk 4:37 and Lk. 8:23 “Arose a fierce gale of wind” - hurricane force wind; can have sustained winds of 74 mph.  
  • This kind of violent wind was producing great waves; possibly up to 9ft in height.
  • So the boat was “covered by the waves” - Mark 4:36 “breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up”; Lk 8:22 “they began to be swamped.” Same is used in the LXX to picture God’s destruction of Egyptian army with the Red Sea (Ex. 14:28; 15:5)  
    • So it is an intense storm, the boat is being tossed and seemingly ready to break apart, filling up with water by the second, the rain was torrential, the wind loud and violent, the sky dark making it difficult to even see; thus Lk 8:24 notes they were “in danger,” that is of losing their lives. As we will see in a moment, they were in a panic. It is really a chaotic scene - except for Jesus.  


Sovereign Rest

  •  “But He Himself was sleeping” (Mk. 4:38 “in the stern [back of boat] … on the cushion”) - an absolutely striking contrast to the frenzied commotion and hysteria of the disciples. Why does he mention this? 
  • (a) Gently display the Lord’s humanit: He is physically exhausted from the unrelenting demands of the people. Yet the point goes much deeper. 
  • (b) Jesus’ rest in God’s sovereignty; He was unconcerned for His life. This was the common theme of His life, whether it was the threatenings of Herod (Lk. 13:31-32), the death of a friend (John 11:6), or the attacks of the unrighteous (Lk. 4:30) Jesus was undisturbed by the threats around Him because He always did the things that were pleasing to Him and rested completely in the Father’s will.
  • ILLUST: Reminds me of reading about the art contest in which the participants were asked to paint a portrait of serenity, or peacefulness. Many of the paintings, as expected, contained beautiful scenes of gardens, sunsets, majestic landscapes, and the irenic calm of undisturbed waters of lakes, or quiet bubbling streams. However, one painting stood out in contrast to them all (and won), it was the scene of violent and raging storm of the sea, with large menacing waves crashing against the dark and ominous high stone cliff wall along the coast. The wind was howling and the rain was pouring down and yet in the midst of it all was little mother bird with her young peacefully resting in a cleft of the rock hidden and protected from the threatening danger and passion of the storm. 
    • The idea is that peace is not simply the absence of danger, but the ability to be secure and at rest when all around you is chaos. So, is the portrait of the Lord here, the violent storm all around, the boat filling with water and being dashed about, the panic of the disciples and here he is peacefully asleep on the stern. 
    • Though the Lord was at rest, His disciples were not and so frantically rush to the place where He is sleeping. 


Sovereign Opportunity: (For them to exercise faith) 

  •  (8:25) “And they came woke Him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We are perishing!”  - panicked cry of distress! “Lord” -somewhat ironic address here. (Mk. “Teacher” Lk “Master” [chaotic scene]. Here they are calling Him Lord, but not exactly with full understanding, or fully trusting in His sovereign power. 
    • This is the same “Lord” who has been regularly demonstrating His supernatural power over the physical and spiritual realm, but this is different. Why? Because now they are actually the one’s in danger, the immediacy of the problem is more pronounced (easier when its someone else); maybe they thought a storm was more difficult than the previous miracles displayed. 
  •  “save us” - imperative, passionate request. sw◊zw often used to speak of spiritual salvation, here of rescue from the danger of the storm. They are not asking to be saved from sin, but the storm!
    • The request itself shows their desperation and their assessment of the situation leaves no doubt: “we are perishing!” That is: we are being destroyed, about to be annihilated, HCSB “We are going to die!” NLT “We are going to drown!” Best to stay with “Perishing.” (Present tense for a future event, showing sense of certainty).  
    • Mark adds a further indictment by the disciples: “Do you not care that we are perishing?” No doubt as they are battling the storm their thoughts are wondering, “Why isn’t He helping?” And there would seem to be a sense of annoyance and indignation on their part (though Carson does not see this). 
      • The reasoning seems to be, if He cared He would do something. Or, in a bit more refined version that we sometimes rehearse in our mind, “If He cared we wouldn’t be in this storm in the first place!” Both are an expression of unbelief. Thus, the “and Jesus said,” looking them in the eyes, maybe with a sense of compassionate curiosity at the slowness of their willingness to trust Him, He immediately identifies the heart of the matter: “Why are you afraid, You of little faith.” 
      • That they go to the Lord and expect Him to be able to do something - though it is not exactly clear what they expected Him to do since they are shocked when actually answers their request. Nonetheless, their going to Him does show some faith, just immature and weak and little. 
  • This is not the first nor the last time He would address this issue with them: 
    •  (a) 6:30 - relation to trusting God for provision of necessities; (b) 14:31 (Peter on water) - relation to trusting Him to give the ability to do what He calls us to do; (c) 16:8 - relation to their spiritual dullness. 
  • What is He really rebuking them for? 
    • (1) Certainly it includes the things mentioned. Part of it was to chide them for their failure to act out on the things they knew to be true of Him. 
      • Everything the Lord had done, was doing, and would do was to engender faith in His people (cf. John 5). Just as in the OT, God’s provision and protection and His command to remember the miraculous was to be a constant reminder to His people to look to Him in difficulty and not to fear. Trust Him and rely on Him. The right response would have been for someone to yell, “Don’t worry, Jesus is with us!” 
      • We all know this; sometimes when you are going through a difficulty, or see someone else going through a difficulty and seemingly overwhelmed and anxious; you want to stop and ask them, or yourself: “Where is God in all of this?” We act as if God were not on His throne and in control (cf. Phil. 4:6).  
    • Here their lack of faith, their failure to trust in the midst of the difficulty lead to fear. The term it carries the notion of timidity and cowardice. 
      • (a) Psalm 55:4 David, surrounded by enemies, feared the “terrors of death,” which is translated by the LXX “feared death [same term].” 
      • (b) 2 Tim. 1:7 Paul uses the term to speak of Timothy’s temptation to shrink back from the persecution that was coming on account of the gospel. This would become and important lesson for them to learn down the road.
    • Upon the Lord’s departure the disciples would experience much resistance and persecution on account of the gospel, even as did the Lord (Matt. 10:24; John 15:18). John 14:27 transcends circumstances; rooted in character & nature of God.
      • The Lord wanted them to know that they need not be anxious, but rest in His care. The lesson on the boat would certainly be remembered when other dangers because of the gospel would arise. They would need to learn this lesson of trusting God in the midst of suffering, trial, persecution, difficulties that would come.
  • (2) However, the real heart of the rebuke goes much deeper than that. The Holy Spirit did not have Matthew record this event simply to teach us to trust Jesus in the trials and storms of life. The real heart of the rebuke is not so much for their fear of the storm, but their failure to rightly recognize Jesus as the Messiah who had come “to save His people from their sins.” 


“If they had truly come to terms with the kind of messiah Jesus was, could they really have thought that a squall on Galilee could swamp the boat and take the life of the heaven-sent Redeemer whose mission was to die in shame and rise in triumph for the salvation of his people? Could a storm snuff out the life of him who is the agent of creation?” (Carson)


  • He came to save hHis people from their sin; is He really going to die in a storm before He accomplishes His mission? They simply did not grasp His role as Messiah / Savior. Same smallness of faith displayed when He told them that “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (16:21). Mark 9:32 records “They did not understand this statement, and the were afraid to ask Him.” Same smallness of faith that would cause them to abandon Him in the Garden. 
  • So, the point is that their little faith is in proportion to their little apprehension and understanding of who Christ really is and why He had come. That is the point: who is this, really, that they have in the boat. 


(2) Sovereign display of power 

Power of the Creator.

  •  (8:26b) “Then He arose, rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became greatly calm”  - every movement is a demonstration of His complete control over the situation; never flustered, concerned, or anxious He simply rises and speaks with authority.
    • Note contrast; the one just asleep from exhaustion; now commands nature. God the Father ordained the storm; Jesus, God the Son incarnate, displays the same power to calm it for the good of His disciples. The storm is was a test for the disciples, to be sure; more so it was an opportunity to display His power. 
  •  “rebukes” not the disciples, but the wind and sea (here personified), like a father to a disobedient child; so their is complete obedience (cf. 8:27). Mark 4:39 records the words: “Hush, be still.” 
    • These are men well versed in the OT, certainly they would have remembered such passages as Psalm 106:9 “He rebuked the Red Sea and it dried up, and He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness;” in reference to the YHWH deliverance of His people from Egypt.  

Power of the Creator

  • This is exactly the display of power and even the attitude we would expect from the lips of the One who spoke all things into existence, sustains all things by the Word of His power, and providentially directs and ordains all things to the accomplishment of His will. 
    • The failure to grasp the normality of what happened is a reflection of the failure to grasp the true nature of His Person and power. He is actions are perfectly consistent with who He is; He speaks as Lord and master over demons, creation, and disciples. 
  • The greatest display of His absolute power, however, is seen in the following statement: “There was a great calm,” or “It became greatly calm,” or NASB “it became perfectly calm.” There was an absolute stillness; a degree of calm that matched the degree of unrest. Note the direct & intentional parallel here: “great storm / great calm” 


“J. Weiss explains that by ‘an astonishing coincidence’ the storm happened to lull at the moment that Jesus spoke!’ (McNeile). Some minds are easily satisfied by their own stupidity.” (ATR)


  • You have to be really creative to try and think of a way to get out from under the clear implications of such a display of power over nature. 
  • It would be one thing to cause the wind to stop and the waves eventually die down, but that is not what happened, it became completely, absolutely calm. That means that He immediately, and in absolute sovereign control over every molecule; every element of the atmosphere that was creating the wind, was redirected in an instant to accomplish His will. In His providence; that He ordains and sustains every atom in the universe at all times; while a miracle, it should not be surprising. 
    • Let’s make an important observation, to help correct our sometimes wrong thinking and speaking. Sometimes we speak of laws of nature as if they are a force, or autonomous power outside of, or separate from God. They are not, there is not some law outside of God. When we speak of law of nature it is in the sense of God’s normal pattern of operation within His universe. He is personally and actively involved in the function of every atom, in the entire universe, at every moment directing it to behave in the way that it does; even causes the grass to grow, sending rain on the earth to water it; causing plants to yield their fruit in season (Ps. 104)
    • It should not be a surprise when in that same power that acts and directs creation to do something different like causing a shadow to go the wrong direction on the stairs (2 Kings 20:9-11), the sun to stop in the sky and the “moon stood still” (Joshua 10:13), directs snakes to the camp of His people (Num. 21:6), or a diseased body to be completely restored, a dead body to receive life, sends a flood on the whole earth (Gen. 6), etc. He is simply acting consistent with His normal power displayed by His every moment providential control over the universe. 
  • So it is here. This is a matchless display of absolute authority and sovereign control over His creation. “It became greatly calm.” Amazing. 

Power of the Savior

  • Their reaction: “And the men were amazed, saying, ‘What kind of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” -“they were amazed” - ESV has “Marveled,” both are accurate translations. A common response to the Lord’s displays of power (9:33; 15:31; 21:20), teaching (22:22); in one sense a right response, and in another not. 
    • (1) Right because they had just witnessed such power; but (2) wrong because it showed they still weren’t really getting it. The response is still the fruit of the Lord’s mild rebuke to the disciples still ringing in their ears ojligo/pistoi. The question points in the right direction, but displays that the answer, so obvious and right before their eyes, has not yet been understood. 


“What kind of man is this?’ Readers of this Gospel know the answer - he is the virgin-born Messiah who has come to redeem his people from their sins and whose mission is to fulfill Gods’ redemptive purposes. But the disciples did not yet understand these things. They saw that his authority extended over nature and were thus helped in their faith. Yet they did not grasp the profundity of his rebuke.”

  • What is the answer to their question? 
  • 1) Only God who created has such control over nature (Job 38f; Is. 50:2; Ps. 107)
  • 2) Jesus though a tired man sleeping in the stern, effortlessly manifest absolute power over nature. This is God in the boat. This is the opening claim of Matthew: “God with us.”  
    • It was for this reason that Mark 8 “They were very afraid.” And Peter Lk. 5:8 “Depart from me for I am a sinful man” - in another display of Jesus power over nature, in that case the fish that swim in the Sea of Galilee. 
  • Question is: What is your reaction? Who do you say that He is (cf. Matt. 16)? How do you respond in difficulties? Do you feel and act as though He is not completely sovereign over the details? Another question: *Why is this important
  • (1) Trust in Life: The same one that spoke the universe into existence, who sustains every moment by His power, directs all things to its determined end, is the One who made the promise “All things work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose,” who said: “I will never leave your nor forsake you,” the same one who is now at the right had of the Father and waiting to return one day to receive His saints and then in power and glory to judge the earth and establish His kingdom, who will reign from Jerusalem on a totally rejuvenated earth for 1k years; then destroy the earth and re-create it.
  • (2) Trust Him with our eternal salvation: His power displayed over physical disease, the spiritual world, over all nature, is the same One who by His death & resurrection displayed His power over death; His authority and power to forgive sin, to keep His own to the end, to “raise them up on the last day,” He is Savior, Judge, Creator; the Lord Jesus Christ. 
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