When reflecting back on this week, I want to share something I came across in my reading of Matthew 8:14-27 that has left me thinking about what it means to follow Christ. To see it, we need to notice how this passage is broken up into three main parts:
Jesus Heals Many
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus Calms the Storm
In 14-17 Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and then many are brought to him to be healed of illnesses and freed from demon oppression. Then in 18-22 we see from the crowd people who are coming wanting to follow Jesus, but on their own terms. They want to follow him, maybe get some benefits along the way, but not surrender to him. Then in 23-27 Jesus’s disciples get on a boat with him and find themselves in the middle of a violent storm. This storm was threatening their lives, but Jesus stood up and calmed the waves.
I think there are people wondering where Jesus is in their life, during their trials, when they have never said to him, “No matter where we go, or what happens, I’m getting in the boat! I’ll follow you!” They have never come to a point of wanting Jesus for who he is, no matter what happens, rather than wanting him on their own terms.
It is the disciples, who have surrendered to Jesus and got on the boat, that get to experience the awe and mighty power of Christ in the midst of the storm. They are out there, not knowing what will be next, but right next to the one who does. They are with the one who can meet every need, experiencing this amazing mix of real turmoil and life threatening odds, but also experiencing the presence and power of God.
You may not know what the seas hold for you in a life of following Christ, but what would you rather? Sitting plucking grass on the bank because the risk was too great? Or fully surrendering to follow him, with the risk of the storm, because Christ will be with you in it, and he is worth everything?
That was my wife and I’s story. Spending years wondering where God was, then realizing we were the ones trying to set the terms of what it meant to follow Christ. The depth of freedom cannot be put into words, when we left ourselves behind and stepped into the boat, and felt the fear melt away in the presence of Jesus. There were storms ahead, and they didn’t go away quickly, but he was there so we had all we needed.
And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 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. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” – Matthew 8:14-27