Matthew 8:23-27 & The Awesome

But that little ship did present a figure of the Church, in that she is disquieted ‘in the sea,’ that is, in the world, ‘by the waves,’ that is, by persecutions and temptations; the Lord, through patience, sleeping as it were, until, roused in their last extremities by the prayers of the saints, He checks the world, and restores tranquility to His own.  – Tertullian

So the boat is the church, the sea the world, the waves persecution and temptation, Jesus’ sleeping His patience, the disciples cries the prayers of the church, and Jesus stilling the storm His deliverance? Nope. That is a horrible way to read this text.  The boat is… a boat. The sea is the sea, the waves are waves, Jesus is Jesus, and the disciples are disciples. What then is the point of this story? How are we to relate to it?  You are meant to with these disciples, as disciples, marvel at the Christ.

While few may be in danger of allegorizing the text as Turtullian did, many may spiritualize the text and make application in a similar way.  “Come to Jesus when the storms of life suddenly arise and you will have peace.” There is truth in that, but that is not the point of this text. Jesus says, “Peace, be still” and all is calm except for their hearts.  Luke says “they were afraid and they marveled.”  Mark adds further insight recording they were “filled with great fear.” The storm is stilled but they are still in awe. Something more awesome remains in their presence.

“Awesome” has to be one of the most abused words in the English language. Films are awesome, CDs are awesome, clothes are awesome, gadgets are awesome, you might even have a friend who is awesome. No, that which is awesome arouses a complex mixture of dread, wonder, and veneration. Storms are awesome, tornadoes are awesome, hurricanes are awesome, earthquakes are awesome, volcanoes are awesome, tsunamis are awesome.  Here these disciples encounter the exceedingly awesome. When sinful men encounter the glory of the holy Christ, they are filled with awe.

The tragedy of their fear and little faith is that they were more in awe of the storm than the Sovereign, but that soon changed. They caught a glimpse of Jesus, and when they did faith flourished, worry wilted, and fear was properly redirected.

The tragedy of all humanity is that we were made for the Awesome, but we are enamored with the trivial. No wonder our faith is so small and our fears are so big.

One thought on “Matthew 8:23-27 & The Awesome”

  1. I have not been able to use the word “awesome” all week. Thank you though, I’m glad to know the real meaning of it now, despite the fact that it has caused a great amount of speech and literary anxiety.

    Like

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