Text: Matthew 8:23-27
There’s an old Christian spiritual song that goes like this: “He’s got the whole world in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands; He’s got the whole world in His hands; the whole world’s in His hands.” I would bet that most of us have probably sung it at some point in our lives. That chance goes up if you’ve ever been to a VBS or, as I did, grew up attending a Lutheran school. The point of the song is – as it sounds – that Jesus has the whole world in His hands, in His keeping. As St. John said back on Christmas, all things came into being through the Son of God – who, with the Father, continues to uphold them, as well.
This is the witness of the Holy Spirit through our text this week. Jesus demonstrated yet again that He is the Lord God almighty in the flesh. In particular, Jesus showed by calming the wind and wave that all things are under His control. Even though wind and waves caused the disciples to fear, they were of no concern to Jesus. Instead, He was asleep on a cushion. When the disciples woke Him fearing for their lives, He rebuked the sea and it became exceedingly calm. By the calming of the storm, Jesus shows that He is the Son of God and that all things are in His keeping.
Our text this week is set in the same chapter as last week: Matthew 8. Though it only follows ten verses later, much has happened. After Jesus spoke a word of healing on behalf of the centurion’s servant, He went into Capernaum and stayed at Peter’s house. Peter was married and, within his vocation as husband, cared for his mother-in-law. But, she was sick with a fever. St. Matthew writes that, “[Jesus] touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve Him.” That evening, Jesus continued to heal many who were possessed by demons and also all the sick who were brought to Him. We confess as Christians that Jesus Christ is true God and true man – that He has both divine and human natures. Therefore, how do you think Jesus – as a man – felt after healing and teaching all day long? Probably tired.
Jesus directed the disciples to get the boat. They did, and He got into it, St. Matthew said. As they were rowing across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, a great storm arose. Given the geography, this wasn’t an unusual thing to happen – and they can happen suddenly. Now, given, also, a boat with no sail and sides only about 4 feet high, we can see it’s not an exaggeration that, as Matthew said, “the boat was being swamped by the waves.” The storm was happening and filling the boat, but Jesus – being tired – was sleeping calmly. The disciples, however, were panicking. Finally, they woke Jesus up and said to Him, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”
Jesus did get up, but not because the storm worried Him. He said to the disciples, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” He got up, then He rebuked the winds and sea, and there was a great calm. The sense of the words is that the calm after Jesus rebuked the storm was greater than there ever was before. It wasn’t just that Jesus calmed the storm, but that He brought a true calm. At this, the disciples were astounded. They said, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?”
They asked this question, but the disciples should’ve known the answer. This is earlier in Jesus’ ministry, but He’s already done a ton of miracles. He’s cast out demons, healed lots of sick people; He’s changed the water into wine. Maybe the problem was this: in a Bible times mindset, the weather is a primal force. In essence, that means that the weather is gonna do what the weather’s gonna do; you don’t control weather, it just happens. And, the only one above the weather is God. He makes it rain, He allows drought and famine. We all live beneath the effects of the weather, but the weather is subject to God’s will. In our text, the weather was subject to Jesus.
The disciples started to connect the dots that the Holy Spirit already has connected for us. Jesus is the creator of all things and upholds all things by His might. Since the Fall into Sin, the elements – which were created by God as good – have become destructive elements. The weather rages and roars, it sinks ships and tears down homes. If we were left unprotected, it could even claim our lives. But, even that wild and destructive force has no power in the presence of Christ. When He rose from His peaceful sleep, He rebuked the sea and waves and they had no choice but to bow before the One by whom they were created. By the calming of the storm, Jesus showed that He is the Son of God and that all things are in His keeping.
As the wind and wave were subject to Christ and showed by their calm that all things are under His control, so also, are our lives within His care. As fallen human beings living within a fallen creation, our lives are fragile. To use St. Paul’s language in the Epistle [Rom. 8:18-23], we are often found groaning in our (and creation’s) bondage to corruption. We are subject not just to the rages of the weather, but our own bodies are falling apart. If our bodies aren’t falling apart, then our lives are falling apart. If neither of these things are happening, that is a true blessing of God; or, we could be deceiving ourselves and blind to the sin in our lives.
The Good News today is that there is nothing we suffer that is outside of Christ’s control. Nor, when we are suffering, are we invisible to our God. Instead, our God – who Himself suffered in ways unimaginable to us, to redeem us – remains with us, and we with Him. Jesus demonstrated His authority and power over wind and wave and, as He brought great calm upon the sea, so He is also able to bring great calm to our distress. In fact, He has done this already, in the forgiveness of our sins. We know that, for Christ’s sake – by faith in Him – we are forgiven and made right with God. When it is our Lord’s will for us to depart, we will be with Him and with all the saints awaiting the Resurrection.In His infinite wisdom, the Lord does allow us to experience things which seem unpleasant. But, these things are never without purpose nor outside His keeping. Rather, God shapes us by these things so that we might be more fully conformed to the image of His Son. This is the Holy Spirit’s teaching for us today. We have confessed this whole Epiphany Season that Jesus, the Son of Man, is also the Son of God. Just as all illnesses and demons were subject to His command, so also the weather. And, if even the weather is under His control, then there is nothing outside of His care, not even our lives. The Scriptures teach that God’s will for us is good; let us, therefore, pray to the Holy Spirit that He would lead us to commend our lives to Christ’s keeping and trust in His care.