Thursday, 7 June 2012

Who can this be?


Matthew 8.27

In Matthew 8.27 we read that the disciples asked a question, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

If the disciples needed to ask questions, then it is likely that we need to as well.  There is a story of a Jewish mother who used to ask her children each day when they came home from school, ‘Did you ask some good questions today?’   If we are to learn more about Jesus, we need to ask ‘some good questions today’, and where better to start than to ask,’ Why did the disciples ask the question, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
         
Why did the disciples ask this question? 
Matthew 8.27       ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

The incident in which the disciples asked this question was immediately after Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, and He gave a command to depart to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee):

Matthew 8.23-27:
23  When He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
24  And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves.
      But He was asleep.
25  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘LORD, save us! We are perishing!’
26  But He said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’
      Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27  So the men marvelled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’

The disciples knew their Scriptures very well.  Many of them knew most of it by heart.  We sometimes assume that they were ignorant fishermen.  This is far from the truth. Peter, James, John, Andrew, and Philip, all came from Bethsaida.  Bethsaida in the first century was a particularly religious place, to the extent that there is a record that there were no Gentiles living there.  Evidence in the Gospels suggests that John the Apostle was a priest, and ‘ as we shall see, they all knew their Scriptures well.

There is a well attested story of a Rabbi who was being interviewed by a panel of his peers for possible selection as the Chief Rabbi of Poland in about 1920.  The panel asked him to give them his Bible. They then drove a nail through the book and removed the nail.  They showed the candidate Rabbi the word through which the nail passed on page one, and invited him to tell them the word through the nail passed on all the subsequent pages….without looking.  The Rabbi passed the test because not only did he know his Bible by heart, but also he knew the position of all the words on every page!!   
Many of the disciples in the first century were similarly conversant with their Scriptures, and when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee that day, the disciples would have connected the miracle with Psalm 107:

Psalm 107.23-30:
23  Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters,
24  They see the Works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep.
25  For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26  They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble.
27  They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.
28  Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses.
29  He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.
30  Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.

When we compare Matthew 8.23-27 with Psalm 107.23-30, it is as if Jesus deliberately set out to do exactly as the Psalm suggested:

1. Compare Matthew 8.25 and Psalm 107.26-28:

8.25  Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, ‘LORD, save us! We are perishing!’

107.26-28  Their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble….

2.  Compare Matthew 8.26 and Psalm 107.28-29:

8.26        …Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm…

107.28-29   He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

The connections are almost verbatim.

The disciples made the connection between the miracle that Jesus did and Psalm 107, but why did they ask the question, or perhaps, what was the real question that they asked?

Was the emphasis in their question 1, 2, or 3?:
1.      Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
2.    Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 
3.    Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’ 

Or, perhaps, was their real question:
‘He has just rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Therefore, it is clear that even the winds and the sea obey Him.  It was God Himself in Psalm 107 Who calms the storm, so that its waves are still.
Therefore, Who can this be?  It is clear that He must be God Himself.

Jesus calmed the storm to show His disciples that He was God Himself in Whom they could trust, believe, have faith in, and walk with in newness of life and experience in God.

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