The second set of miracles prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
Last week we learned that being a disciple or “follower” of Jesus means being realistic about the cost and committing wholeheartedly. God is not interested in shallow commitments - He wants us to love him with EVERYTHING we have which is a whole person commitment.
Two examples were given: a scribe and a disciple: the first promises too much (what he cannot deliver) while the second promises too little (what he does not want to sacrifice).
There is a theme of “following” that follows us to our passage today and connects them.
The scribe said Matt 8:19 “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus told the disciple who wanted to bury his father first Matt 8:22 “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.””
We get to our passage and we have this introduction:
Matthew 8:23 CSB
23 As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
This might be implying that neither of the two people mentioned got into the boat, but we are not certain. Like many other part of Matthew’s account we are left wondering, “Did they get in the boat?” and perhaps that is the question we are to ask of ourselves? Would we get into the boat? Would we, are we, willing to follow Jesus completely?
It is the mark of the true disciple that they are followers. Not mindlessly, but in faith and submission to the one they want to learn from. Do you want to learn from God? Do you want to know him? FOLLOW him - his teachings, his character, his ways and be around him enough to know who he is and what he desires.
After they follow Jesus into the boat to go across the lake/sea, we are immediately thrust into the next triplet of miracles that are all introduced with the concept of this journey and following:
The first group of miracles demonstrated that Jesus had power over sickness. Many of the miracles parallel those of the great prophets of the Torah. His followers certainly would accept him as a prophet, but Jesus was much more than that. this next group of miracles demonstrates that.
NOTE: there are some threads that hold these miracles together as a set:
I encourage you to spend some time this week checking out these threads - it is a fun exercise!
[Luke 8:22-25, Mark 4:36-41]
The first miracle is a very famous one that makes its way into kids story books all the time:
Matthew 8:24–27 CSB
24 Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves—but Jesus kept sleeping. 25 So the disciples came and woke him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” 26 He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!”
In last weeks’ passage we were introduced to Jesus as the “son of man”. Now we are asking the question, “What kind of man is this?”
It should not be lost on us, that the men who are piloting the boat are fisherman who are used to rough conditions and have weathered many storms. These seasoned fisherman turn to the son of a carpenter when they cannot figure out how to navigate the storm.
When they came to Jesus they asked him to save them. What would they possibly mean by that? If they were afraid they were going to die - what did they think Jesus could do for them?
While I am sure they did not expect Jesus to calm the sea immediately, like he did, they probably expected him, like a prophet, to call to God for deliverance.
FAITH: though they did not completely understand who Jesus was, nor the authority that he has in both heaven and on earth, they had enough faith in him to turn to him in their crisis.
In both of the other gospel accounts, Jesus speaks to the storm first and then the disciples. In Matthew it is reversed. However, in all three, Jesus speaks to the disciples and rebukes the storm.
He asks the disciples… “Why are you afraid?”
What kind of question is that? Because everything around me is saying that I should be afraid! The boat is filling with water faster that we can bail it out, and experience tells us, as fishermen, that boats that fill with water sink and those people drown!
It is an interesting question that is not meant as a scolding but as a teaching. He then makes a comment about their faith...
They had enough faith to come to Jesus for help! Surely that counts for something. So what did Jesus mean? Why was their faith little?
If they thought Jesus was a prophet - they would have had the history of the prophets to see that God protected his prophets from calamity on the water - even Jonah, the anti-prophet.
If they thought Jesus was the “Son of Man” - the Messiah - then they would know that his kingdom is an eternal kingdom, so what could possibly happen to him that would cancel that? Nothing.
I believe that those are the points to be made. IF you believe either of these, then you should be able to trust God for the outcome.
How true this is of disciples today. We do not need to carry with us a spirit of fear because we have a God who is in control.
2 Timothy 1:7 CSB
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
But, again, it is not the faith of the disciples, nor the enormity of the storm that are the focus of Matthew’s passage. It is what Jesus did after that...
To rebuke is to correct, scold or to reprimand; as if the water and the wind were doing something wrong. Jesus speaks to them and they obey.
There is a TON of symbolism here:
Chaotic waters that bring about destruction (Gen 1, the flood narrative, Red sea).
The word of God that brings order out of chaos and tames the chaotic waters.
But again, Matthew is not really focusing on the storm, wind or waters. Jesus spoke and the winds stopped, the storm stopped, the waves were calm. The voice of Jesus brought peace in the midst of the storm.
WHY is this significant? Because THIS is the description of what God does:
Psalm 89:8–9 CSB
8 Lord God of Armies, who is strong like you, Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you. 9 You rule the raging sea; when its waves surge, you still them.
It is God, the one who made all things, that has the authority and strength to rule and command the elements.
Another passage that makes this connections is Psalm 107. It tells of a day when God is going to redeem his people and draw them back to himself. It starts like this:
Psalm 107:1–3 CSB
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord proclaim that he has redeemed them from the power of the foe 3 and has gathered them from the lands—from the east and the west, from the north and the south.
Then the Psalmist says:
Psalm 107:23–32 CSB
23 Others went to sea in ships, conducting trade on the vast water. 24 They saw the Lord’s works, his wondrous works in the deep. 25 He spoke and raised a stormy wind that stirred up the waves of the sea. 26 Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths, their courage melting away in anguish, 27 they reeled and staggered like a drunkard, and all their skill was useless. 28 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. 29 He stilled the storm to a whisper, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet. Then he guided them to the harbor they longed for. 31 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all humanity. 32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
In this Psalm it is God who caused the storm and God who calmed the storm so that the people would recognize the power of God and give praise to him.
The storm narrative in Matthew is the physical re-enactment of this Psalm!
When the disciples turned to Jesus, they probably expected him to call out to Yahweh to calm the storm, because that is what God does. Instead, Jesus spoke and the winds and waves ceased.
Read verses 28-30 again:
Psalm 107:28–30 LEB
28 Then they cried out to Yahweh in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distresses. 29 He made the storm be still and their waves became calm. 30 Then they were glad because they grew silent, so he guided them to their desired harbor.
Is that not exactly what happened in Matthew?
In Psalm 107 it was Yahweh who is given credit as the storm stiller.
In Matthew 8 is a Jesus who is given credit as the storm stiller.
Matthew wants his readers, including you and me, to understand that what happened on that water was not some lesson in faith for us to model, nor was it about God calming the storms of our lives (because he may choose not to!)
In calming the storm, we are given proof that Jesus IS God. This was not the action of a mere human, but of God himself, of Yahweh.
[Mark 5:1-17, Luke 8:26-37]
Matthew continues this theme of Jesus as the Son of God with the next miracle, which happens after they land on the other side of the lake:
Matthew 8:28–34 CSB
28 When he had come to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him as they came out of the tombs. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 29 Suddenly they shouted, “What do you have to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 A long way off from them, a large herd of pigs was feeding. 31 “If you drive us out,” the demons begged him, “send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 “Go!” he told them. So when they had come out, they entered the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. 33 Then the men who tended them fled. They went into the city and reported everything, especially what had happened to those who were demon-possessed. 34 At that, the whole town went out to meet Jesus. When they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.
Interestingly, this one is not found in very many children’s books, at least not in the United States. Shocker, I know 🤨
The narrative paints a picture of all things that are unclean to a Jew, all the things that portray death, and that which is vile:
Again, there is a lot we could unpack here, and Matthew seems to leave out a lot of details.
We could focus on the pigs, that normally could swim, but in this case drown.
We could focus on the townspeople that were very upset at the loss of their livelihood.
Matthew does NOT talk about the condition of the men after the exorcism, so apparently they are not the focus either.
What IS mentioned in the way the demons referred to Jesus and what they said Matthew 8:29 “What do you have to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?””
Though the disciples have not recognized Jesus this way yet, the demons recognized the true nature of Jesus as not only the Son of Man (human) but also the son of God (divine).
In Matthew, the Father recognizes the Son at his baptism in Matthew 3:17 “And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.””
Then, Jesus went into the wilderness and the Accuser (satan) twice refers to Jesus as the Son of God.
Now, the demons attach that title to him. They do not call him the Son of Man because they do not know him that way.
The demons also mentioned something about an appointed time when they will be tortured.
There is a lot that could be uncovered about this phrase, and a lot that is speculation, but the main concept is that there seems to be a day of judgement that will affect spiritual beings as well as humans. That angels and demons will be judged at some point and time and the opposition will face punishment and torment.
I will only use the Matthew reference for this as it is not the primary focus of this narrative:
Matthew 25:41 CSB
41 “Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!
That passage states that there is a place of eternal fire for both humans who do not know God as well as spiritual beings that rebel against God. Though “angels” could refer to earthly messengers, the eternal fire was prepared for the devil and “his” messengers. This “devil” is the same spiritual being that tempted Jesus in the wilderness. So whether the angels are human or spiritual, there is a judgement on both.
The beginning of this teaching in Matthew 25 starts with the Son of Man taking his eternal throne, and all of his angels with him, whom we also take to be spiritual beings.
Matthew 25:31–32 CSB
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
The rest of that teaching is about the Son of Man who takes his eternal throne and judges the nations (remember Daniel 7)
Apparently the demons are aware that their fate is sealed and that Jesus IS that Son of Man that will take the throne and administer the justice of God.
In the declaration of the demons we have the confirmation from the spiritual realm that Jesus is the Son of Man, and also the Son of God. And as such he has authority over both the spiritual and the physical world.
[Mark 2:3-12, Luke 5:16-26]
This last one is a SO SHORT in Matthew! However, the account found in Mark or Luke is found in many of our children’s books:
Matthew 9:1–7 CSB
1 So he got into a boat, crossed over, and came to his own town. 2 Just then some men brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.” 3 At this, some of the scribes said to themselves, “He’s blaspheming!” 4 Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? 5 For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then he told the paralytic, “Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 7 So he got up and went home.
While in Mark and Luke we get details of the crowds and the friends cutting an opening in the roof, this account is much shorter. It says little about any of that. The paralytic was carried to Jesus and He forgave his sins.
A note on faith here. This is the second time Jesus mentioned faith in the three narratives. The disciples had little faith and the friends of the paralytic had faith.
The disciples being saved despite their little faith is further indication that the effective working of God is not dependent upon our faith.
In this passage faith seems to be rewarded, but it appears to read that the faith of his friends brought about the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins.
This passage is not teaching that our faith can save others. Nor is it teachings that God will forgive the sins of others if we pray enough for them. We are left to assume that the paralytic had some form of faith as well that Jesus recognized. This further reinforces that Jesus was divine as only God knows the heart [2 Chronicles 6:30].
But, again, the most important message is NOT about the faith of the friends, the heart of the paralytic, nor the hearts of the scribes who were questioning Jesus’ words.
The scribes believed Jesus was blaspheming. This is a great bible word! It means to profane God’s name, tarnish his reputation or mock God. It was a very serious offense and it would be right for the scribes to be concerned about this!
What is their concern?
Well, Mark and Luke give us the insight into this:
Mark 2:7 CSB
7 “Why does he speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Luke 5:21 CSB
21 Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to think to themselves, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus was claiming that the man’s sins were forgiven. Who can forgive sins? Only GOD!
And THAT is the point!
Jesus was making a very pointed claim that he was God! This is the third time in three miracles.
Then Jesus performed a physical miracle to reinforce his claim of the forgiveness of sins. Remember, that is one of the purposes of miracles - to prove in a tangible way a truth that is not tangible. You cannot see sins being forgiven but you can see a paralytic stand up and walk.
Psalm 103 declares that God along does both: heal and forgive:
Psalm 103:3 CSB
3 He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases.
The miracle of healing the paralytic was also a healing of forgiveness, both of which come from God. We could possibly even rephrase this passage to say, “So that you will know that the Son of Man is also the Son of God, I say to you...”
We do not get the reaction of the paralytic other than he went home. We do not read about the reaction of his friends who must have been overjoyed - and even grateful not to have to carry him back! We do not read if the scribes were convinced that Jesus did not blaspheme, or if they were even more concerned now.
Here is what we do read:
Matthew 9:8 CSB
8 When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck and gave glory to God, who had given such authority to men.
They masses gave God the glory - even though they certainly did not fully understand what was happening. They still viewed Jesus as just a man - a prophet no doubt. And while Jesus was indeed a man, and the Son of Man (the human chosen by God to rule and reign), he was also the Son of God and God himself.
At the end of this section, Matthew is challenging us with the question, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” This is a question everyone will have to answer.
Jesus was not just a latter day saint. Jesus was not just a morally good human. Jesus was not just another great prophet. Jesus was not just a mythological character.
Jesus was and is the Son of Man and the Son of God - the God-Man, who brought the presence of God to mankind in order to forgive the sins of this fallen world.
That is what I believe. If you and I are to be followers of Jesus then we choose to do so because we believe these things and are convinced of them:
As followers of Jesus we are convinced that Jesus IS God, that he is the author and sustainer of life.
As followers of Jesus we are convinced that he is the supreme over all other spiritual beings and is the King of kings, Lord of lords and God of gods.
As followers of Jesus we are convinced the he is able to forgive sins and that those who believe in him are expunged from the penalty of their sins and accepted by the Father.
Jesus deserves our whole hearted devotion because he is God - and he is someone we can follow with confidence because he is the one who rules and reigns forever.