Matthew 8:18-34 Part 2

As I mentioned last Lord’s Day, space and time have reached a focused intensity in every word and deed of God’s Anointed One.  After all, the King had arrived to claim His Kingdom.  And, in that role, the Scriptures describe Him as “the Son of Man.”  That is – the One Who comes in the midst of the beasts who have dominion, and sets up His Kingdom, which the Word describes as ever increasing and never ending!  This is redemption and dominion.

And, as we have also seen, that Kingdom is no longer to be called “Israel” in terms of the one nation of Jews, and no longer is that one nation to be called “heaven and earth”; but the Kingdom is called “the new heavens and the new earth.”  And Israel is no longer one nation, but Abraham is the father of many nations; and those many nations are one in unity in the King!

But this King (we have to see this, now), Who is also the One without Whom nothing was made that was made – O Logos – is about to perform the ultimate act of Sovereignty:  and all of His words and deeds, in preparation for that definitive act of victory, are both figurative and real - complete!  And here’s what I mean by that (and it’s a real good example):  when Jesus tells the Scribe who wanted to follow Him anywhere, that there was no place to lay His head, and then gets into the boat and casts off to the other side – the Gentile side – that not only was figurative of His having forsaken Israel and the Old Covenant, but it was actually a damning act!  In other words, not only was it a symbolic act, but it was real!  God’s Anointed One, The King, The Word Himself, actually went through the ceremony of rejection!  So, not only was it a figurative activity, but it was condemnatory, and judgmental – a concrete act.  The new Warrior King had come; and He was making those judgments and taking those actions which his Kingdom required – in order to establish His authority and bring His subjects into submission.

Most favored nation status had been awarded a particular race of people some time ago; they were called a peculiar people, and God the Father had loved them dearly – so much so that He actually afforded them “Sonship.”  He put His mark on them and favored them with His presence.  And He gave them laws which reflected His Own character; and He put them into a land which was geographically and economically and aesthetically superior to all others; and He gave them His Own NAME – and that nation became the most glorious nation in all the earth!  Heaven and earth.

But with all that! – Sonship and glory and family and identification – and the very presence of God Almighty – this people did not want the Father’s authority.  This nation wanted to go its own way, and do its own thing.

So the Father sent His only-begotten Son – not an adopted Son, but the one begotten Son – into the nation.  And He Anointed Him King.  But the most favored nation had forsaken its adopted sonship to such a degree that it didn’t even recognize the begotten Son when He came!

So this newly Anointed One – the King – began the process of cutting off this old, stiff-necked people and building a new Israel – a new nation; and a new “heaven and earth;” and a new people that God could call His “son.”  And it would be everything the old son would never be.  It would be loyal to the Anointed King – the “begotten Son,” and it would grow to fill the whole earth, and would never turn away and seek its own way.  The New Israel would shine with the glory of the Father forever!

And God the Father loved this “new Israel” so much that He sacrificed His begotten Son – the Anointed One, the King – for the adopted one!

So you see majestic and glorious things were taking place as Jesus Christ speaks to a Scribe – and as He steps into a boat to leave one shore and go to another.  These are not just simple isolated events in the life of a man!  And, further, they aren’t just figurative events, either, as I said earlier!  The decrees of God the Father are being carried out by God the Son – the obedience of the begotten Son in place of the disobedience of the adopted son.  Cosmic and historic changes of vast proportions – the cutting off of the favor of God – the shaking of heaven and earth, the stars fall from the sky and the moon turns dark and the earth rolls and shakes as the time nears for God to forsake this people – and then to forsake His One begotten Son so that forsaking would never again occur!

So the King had a demon-possessed, rebellious, darkened people on this side of the shore, and a demon-possessed wasteland on the other.  Neither shore was under submission – neither shore was a place to lay His head.  As King and as He steps into that little boat to cast off, He leaves Israel to its darkness.  Verse twenty-three.

Mark says that there were a number of little boats – probably fishing boats – so Jesus had a number of people crossing over with Him.  More than likely James and John and Peter were in the boat with Jesus, and others were in other boats.  Remember, this was a fresh-water fishing village situated on the edge of a small lake in northern Israel.  And a number of the families who lived there probably had boats of some kind.  But they cast off to cross over.

Matthew says, here in verse twenty-four,


“And lo, a great tempest arose in the sea… so as to cause the boat to be covered under by the waves; but He had fallen asleep….”


Now, people, this is one of the more magnificent and glorious passages in all of Scripture; but again, it is one with which people have fancied themselves in their own imaginations for centuries.  I look at all this stuff, and I read all the work that’s been done with this passage, and I say, “Oh God, what have we done with Your Word?”  The Church has naturally gravitated to these great passages – they’re of tremendous interest – and unfortunately, we’ve manufactured epic mythologies out of them!  And in every epic there is disaster and salvation and heroes and mythological beings and gods and goddesses, and all kinds of nature manipulation.  And demons and mysteries – and – you can read them – all kinds of imaginative things.

But, as we’ve said before, let’s go back to the Words, and to the context, and try to shovel all the crud off to the side.  Let me tell you about just a few of the explanations for this passage!  The first one, which isn’t nearly as bad as some others, is that Jesus went to sleep, knowing the storm was coming, in order to test the faith of His followers – to see if they believed, or trusted Him.  I’m not going to spend time to go into what’s wrong with that – it’s so obvious – the text just doesn’t support that.  It’s pure fancy.

Another one makes the devil responsible for the storm.  So everywhere God is, the devil must be there too!  That’s the “offsetting principles of the universe” theory.  Another one (and these are fully developed, now, for the whole passage!) another one is that all these things came up as evil winds because Judas was in the boat!  Now how do we know that Judas was in the boat?  The text doesn’t say that!  This is eastern mysticism.

Another one – explanation of the passage – is that “wherever Jesus is, there is upheaval.”  Well, that statement may be true, but that’s no explanation for this passage of Scripture!  Another one says that this whole passage is a test of Jesus’ two natures!  And questions are asked, with, of course, some asinine answers, about whether Jesus was aware of the storm while He slept.  Did His divinity sleep?  Did He have foreknowledge of the storm?  Was He outside of His body when His human mind wasn’t working? 

Here is the most familiar one, of course, - there are dozens of these, I’m not going to spend any more time on them; but the most familiar one is that this passage describes the human soul – the wind and waves.  And it’s always in turmoil without Christ.  And when Jesus comes in, He calms the turmoil!  And, of course, this is called “spiritualizing” the text.  Everything in the Bible has to be internalized – and that’s Barthian Neo-orthodoxy!  While there may be bits of truth in the fact that, in Christ, there is more order and sensibility, Theology like that doesn’t ever deal with the hand to hand combat Christians engage in with their own sin!  Mortifying the self isn’t an especially serene adventure.  The seas are not calm!  Besides, that kind of exegesis doesn’t deal with the text and the context.  It takes the words of Scripture out of their time and space framework and places them into another dimension on order to use them in some other mystical way!

And not only does that leave these words dangling out there with no basis for understanding, but it also leaves the context without these words, and diminishes the understanding of the context.

So let’s see, then what Matthew says here.  “And lo, (significant event) a great seismos arose in the sea… so as to cause the boat to be covered under by the waves, but He had fallen asleep.”  A great SEISMOS!  Shaking!

Why would Matthew use this specific work?  Why would the earth be shaking?  If the text says that, shouldn’t we be asking that question?

Why should the earth be shaking?  What’s the significance of an earthquake – “shaking” – so bad that the waves were about to “cover under” the fishing boat?  Does it have anything to do with Israel being “cut off” from the covenant?  Does it have anything to do with God’s forsaking of His covenant Son – Israel?  It’s what we said Jesus was doing when He cast off…!

Listen to the text of Scripture from Revelation sixteen, verse eighteen: 


“And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done; and there were voices, and thunderings, and lightenings; and there was a great shaking such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty a shaking – and so great.  And the great city was divided into three parts… and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath….”


This is the phenomena associated with the Day of the Lord and the covenant making activity of the Glory Cloud.  Seven times in Revelation St. John reveals the shaking – the earthquake – and each time he emphasizes its covenantal dimensions.  Christ came to bring a shaking to the heaven and earth – one such as there had not been since the men came to be upon the land, so mighty a shaking, and so great.

And listen to Hebrews chapter twelve:


 “See to it that you do not refuse Him Who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused Him Who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him Who warns from heaven.  And His Voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying: ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things that can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things that cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we receive a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” 


Now, that’s the Hebrew’s passage.

Here’s what the puritan theologian John Owen says about that shaking in the book of Hebrews:


“He now declares from the Scripture, according to His usual way of dealing with those Hebrews, that all the ancient institutions of worship, and the whole Church-state of the old Covenant, were now to be removed and taken away; and that to make way for a better state, more glorious, and that which should never be subject to change or alteration.”


People, here is the Son of Man (with all the redemption/dominion significance of that term), casting off the shores of Israel and rejecting it in its darkness, judging and condemning the adopted Son of God for its rebellion; and now we have described for us with specific words from the apostle, a great shaking of heaven and earth – a term used in twelve other places in Scripture, all associated with the cutting off – the destruction – of the old covenant nation!  It is the removal of things that can be shaken!

So there is no other way to interpret this event – it is the opening occurrence in the process of the shaking and destruction of heaven and earth – Israel – and it is the figure of all those events to take place, as history drew closer to 70A.D.!  It is the shaking of the old covenant – all those institutions which prefigured the coming Christ.  It is the shaking of the foundations of heaven and earth itself, as the beloved nation of God was many times called.  And, of course, the shaking and destruction of the old is the making ready and institution of the new.

And Matthew’s graphic description and very specific language continues when he says that the great shaking arose in the sea… “so as to cause the boat to be covered under… by the waves.”

And this word “covered under” is a very specific reference to the “going down” or the “going under” or the “down into the deep” which is mentioned so many times in Scripture.  And being on the sea makes the description all that much more graphic, because “going down under” the water symbolizes the “deep” – or “Hades” – or the place of eternal woes feared by the Biblical prophets.

So now we have the shaking of heaven and earth; and also the figure being inundated, and the fear of that “going down into the deep.” 

And next Matthew tells us that the Lord is asleep.  Why?  And the disciples cry out for His help!  And you can say all you want about experienced fishermen crying out to a carpenter for help when the sea gets rough – but that’s not what this event is about!  Let’s get our minds off of trite things – this is the figure of the death and resurrection of the Son of God!  The Son of man!

The final cutting off, and the termination of the covenant, and the shaking of heaven and earth occurred at Christ’s death and burial.  The Scripture says there was a great shaking!  And at His resurrection that definitive shaking was over!  And the world was redeemed!  And He brought progressive rule and dominion to the Gentiles!  Just as He caused the shaking here to stop, He brings peace to the nations ruled by beasts!  The wastelands can now be rid of its vultures and beasts and demons!

But in the middle of the shaking, as they thought they were about to go down into the deep, the disciples approached Jesus to awaken Him.  And Matthew says, verse twenty-six: “And being raised, He commanded the winds and the sea….”  Again, Matthew is very specific in choosing terminology that let’s us know exactly what the situation is!  “And being raised…” passive voice – as in being raised up from the dead – Jesus commanded the winds and the sea.  “And there came a great calm.”

At the resurrection of Christ the victory is definitively won – the Kingdom is His – the price is paid – Satan and sin and death have all been conquered – the new covenant is instituted – the old covenant is terminated – the veil is ripped top to bottom – and Gentiles are brought into the covenant – and the Church is established – all figured here by Jesus, after the resurrection, being raised up from His sleep in the midst of chaos to command the shaking to stop.  By His spoken Word He recreates heaven and earth!

The disciples were afraid.  They were afraid they were “going under.”  They were afraid they would be inundated – that they would go down into the deep.  But you see the exact opposite was happening!  For Israel, the shaking meant destruction!  For the apostles and the Gentiles, the shaking meant a new heaven and a new earth!  “Behold, all things are made new!”

They were, indeed, afraid.  They woke Jesus up and cried out to Him to save.  “SAVE!” they said.  “RESCUE!”  And He said, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”

The trite and mundane reasons given for the fear of the disciples – and the faithlessness of the disciples – goes something like this:  These men had been with Jesus all day.  And they’d seen Him do many miracles.  And they knew that He was the Messiah.  Didn’t they know that He could save them?  They didn’t faith that He could – even after watching Him do it all day, and even after hearing Him preach on the side of that mountain!  They just didn’t trust Him to save them from peril!

And maybe there is an element of truth in that line of thought.  They certainly were fearful.  And they certainly didn’t faith in the Messiah of God to be asleep and, at the same time, attentive to their danger!

But, people that’s not the point!  Again the point has been completely missed.  They were afraid.  But the real reason was different!  Jesus had indeed preached – He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom.  And He demonstrated the Son of Man dominion over the elements of creation.  But when the time came for them to be in the old heaven and earth when it began to shake and fall and crumble, they didn’t understand it was happening.  They didn’t see the new heavens and the new earth in all its glory on the other shore!  They didn’t realize that the shaking was the destruction of the old and the establishment of the new.  That was the real reason for their fear and faithlessness!  They didn’t understand His Kingdom! 

And people, you need to wake up to the fact that you need to be faithers in the Gospel of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Our Lord shook heaven and earth for us and won a great victory for us with His Own blood.  And  most of the time it seems as if we act as if these momentous, cosmic events did not happen in our history!  We lie down and play dead as if we see defeat.  That’s faithlessness.  The Lord Jesus stands in His Kingly Warrior-garb – as Absolute Victor.  And He laughs at the farcical ravings and rebellions of men and nations.

The victory is already won!  The dead stopping of a major earthquake did occur in history, just as the resurrection of our Lord occurred in history.  These aren’t stories, they’re facts!  And now it is time for your understanding and the way you live to reflect those facts.

Jesus “went under” – was covered under – into “the deep” when He was in the tomb.  He did it for us.  We don’t have to fear being inundated and going under.  Regardless of how the world order looks around you, there is space/time victory of the Kingdom – and a glorious, ongoing feast with the King!  The disciples denied the reality of the Kingdom by fearing what their senses told them was happening, and Jesus called them “faithless.” 

But by the figure – the table – you and I affirm the Truth, and we deny false interpretations about what’s happening.  By this sign and seal we remember Him and all He is and all He did.  For He made the new heavens and the new earth – for His Glory and our enjoyment.