As chapter 8 of Matthew closes we see Jesus cross a storm tossed sea to heal two gentile demoniacs. While both of these narratives demonstrate Christ’s authority over the natural and supernatural world, for me the bigger message is about faith, as the crossing follows on discussions of discipleship and a lot of teaching and healing by Jesus. He must have fallen asleep almost as soon as they got in the boat. Crossing the Sea of Galilee wouldn’t have taken much more than an hour under normal conditions and they surely wouldn’t have set off knowing a storm was brewing. The fact that Jesus was asleep shows us his human side and the exhaustion of his work.
At some point in the crossing a massive storm comes up. The Greek used describes an earthquake and remember that several of the disciples were experienced sailors having been fishing that very sea for most of their lives. Panicked they cry out to Jesus to save them. He awakes, rebukes them for their lack of faith and then calms the storm. So what’s going on here? First, they had some faith as they decided to get Jesus to do something. Chances are they had tried hard to do what they could on their own before turning to Christ. Second they were full of fear and panic meaning that even then they weren’t convinced that Jesus could save them. Both show they had yet to fully understand who He was even though they had seen many miracles. Far too often we do the same thing. When storms come about what ought to be our first call is often our last. We mistakenly believe that in our power we can deal with the situation. Only when finding we are about to be swamped do we cry out to God for salvation. If we truly believed and had faith in God that He could and would do all He has promised us, we would cry out to Him first. The fact that we don’t betrays the fact we have yet to surrender all of ourselves to Him and recognize Him as He really is, just like the disciples. Also the storm that arises causes much fear and concern and again shows our limited faith in Christ. Its not that the storm is not terrible or dangerous as it can be. Our very lives may be taken by such storms. The fear of losing such does speak to our will to survive, but also our affection for this world over the world to come. Only through increasing faith can we be at ease with the idea that our time on this world is marked and will one day end and that is OK.
After the crossing to the other side Jesus and His band encounter two men possessed by demons. As an aside let me say if you believe and accept the idea of God and Jesus and Angels and even the devil, you must also accept the idea of demons. It is a natural conclusion from such belief in the supernatural. I do believe they were more active in the time of Christ as you send your solders to where the fighting is the hottest and with Christ on Earth, that is where the struggle was the most intense for the Enemy. The demon(s) recognize Jesus as deity, more so than the disciples had yet to do. Still this simple belief and understanding of who Jesus was did not save them. Later when writing his letter, James, the brother of Christ would say the demons believe and they shudder. He may have been recalling this event. What stands out here is that mere belief is not enough. One must give everything over to Christ, heart and soul. They must put their faith and trust in Him for EVERYTHING. This is not an easy task and it requires that we swallow our pride, humble ourselves, and recognize both our sinfulness and weakness. It means that we call upon Him first and do as He has bid, even going on dangerous missions to uncomfortable places and dealing with people we may not like.
So reader, where is your faith today? Is it as strong as it should be? Mine is not. I say this because I know there are areas I haven’t surrendered to Christ. This tells me I don’t fully trust Him yet. I am holding back. Either because of fear or pride I haven’t given over all yet, though it is His. I pray that through the power of The Holy Spirit I will surrender more and more to Him and my faith shall increase with every breath. I pray this for you as well. For when we have such faith, then we can have peace in the fiercest storm knowing that come what may God holds us in the hollow of His hand and nothing will cause him to let go. We as His children are dearly loved and dearly held.