The Gospel of Matthew: A Greater Fear.

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23–27 (ESV)

Jesus’ disciples were with Him in a boat sailing on the Sea of Galilee. As was common, a sudden and great windstorm occurred resulting in huge waves that swamped their boat; and other boats also (Mark 4:36). While in the midst of this unsettling situation, Jesus was asleep in the boat.

His disciples woke Him expressing great fear that they were going to die because of the storm. They even expressed concerned that Jesus did not care about them (Mark 4:38). They pleaded with Jesus to save them from the storm.

Jesus responded by asking them why they were afraid? He accused them of having little faith in Him. It was at that moment that Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea. The result was an immediate and complete calm. The Creator calmed creation.

However, the disciples reacted in a peculiar manner having witnessed the miracle. Instead of being relieved the storm was over, they were afraid of something else. Mark 4:41 says that they were filled with great fear; not of what, but of whom. They were now afraid of Jesus. They said, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

“In the early chapters of the Institutes of the Christian Religion, written by John Calvin, he makes a statement that goes something like this: “Hence that dread and terror by which holy men of old trembled before God, as Scripture uniformly relates.” What Calvin was saying is that there is a pattern to human responses to the presence of God in the Scripture. And it seems that the more righteous the person is described, the more he trembles when he enters the immediate presence of God,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“What is significant about this scriptural story is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm had made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ, they met something more frightening that they had ever met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy.”

Sigmund Freud believed that people invent religion out of a fear of nature. Because man is helpless before an earthquake, a tornado or disease, they invent a god who is more powerful than the earthquake, tornado and disease. Freud theorized that people invent God to help when life gets scary. We wonder what Freud would have said about the disciples’ response to Jesus?

“Why would the disciples invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a God in the first place. We can understand it if people invented an unholy god, who brought only comfort. By why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood or disease?  It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” concludes Sproul.

Is your view God too small? Do you regard God as your buddy or friend and not the One, True of God who is holy, holy, holy? Ask God to give you a renewed or revived sense of His holiness.

Soli deo Gloria!  

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