Remembrance/Trinity 25 Matthew 8:23-34
MATTHEW 8:23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! 28 And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. 29 And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? 30 And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. 32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. 33 And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. 34 And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
When I used to ride motorbikes I didn't used to like to ride pillion, on the back. I would only do so if it was absolutely necessary and, even then, only for a short distance with someone I really trusted. The reason for this is that I liked to be in control.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt helpless, out of control, unable to influence things?
In today's gospel we read of the power of Jesus. He was in control of two situations that left other people fearful and helpless.
First of all the storm. Situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee is particularly susceptible to sudden, violent storms. Cool air from the Mediterranean is drawn down through the narrow mountain passes and clashes with the hot, humid air lying over the lake which is six hundred feet below sea level. This causes the violent winds that churn up the water.
They were undoubtedly in a fishing boat, probably belonging to Simon Peter or James and John. This would have seated about twelve people, with no sails. There were cushions at the stern, which Jesus slept on.
The disciples were all experienced fishermen but this storm really terrified them so they woke Jesus. Their fear contrasted with his faith because he was sleeping, knowing he was safe in God's hands.
Jesus showed his power over nature by stilling the storm.
When we think of the power of hurricanes and recent storms that have resulted in people losing their lives we should not underestimate the power of Jesus, that he could cause such turmoil to cease.
The second incident features Jesus in Gentile, or non-Jewish territory, on the South-East bank of the Sea of Galilee. The people there were not Jews, so they could keep pigs. The demons, knowing that they had to obey Jesus asked to go into the pigs in v32. They clearly needed a new home. Their intention was to destroy what God had created, and perhaps they also wanted to cause trouble for Jesus. Jesus agrees to their request.
A number of reasons have been given as to why Jesus agreed :-
a) The time had not come for the final judgement, although God's judgement on the world can start to be seen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
b) Jesus wanted to reveal the purpose of the demons, to kill and destroy.
c) Pigs were considered "unclean" animals, and the demons unclean beings.
d) Humans are more important to God than animals. That is not to condone cruelty to animals. Yet we have a different status to animals in the created order as we read in Genesis 1.
e) It provided tangible evidence that the demons had left the man.
f) It exposed the values of the people. We see this from v34 when they asked Jesus to leave.
Fear is a recurring theme in this Chapter. The disciples were fearful in the storm.
Just imagine the thoughts of the swineherds as they ran to tell what had happened. They were fearful of what the owners of the pigs would say. Fearful of Jesus' power. And fearful of being unemployed now there were no pigs to tend.
Fear has been a factor in the news this week. The government has been defeated over how long terrorist suspects should be held. They wanted 90 days, the opposition 28. The fear of terrorists was outweighed by the fear of losing civil liberties.
How do we feel about life? Are there times when we feel fearful, out of control?
Today is Remembrance Sunday this reminds us that God has his hand on human history. That, despite the terrible lose of life and suffering of war evil shall not prevail. We are grateful for the sacrifices that millions have made to safeguard our liberty. We are also mindful that war should be avoided unless it is absolutely necessary. Recent history suggests that some world leaders do not understand this.
Today is also a Sunday. A day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. This reminds us that God is in control, even after the suffering and apparent defeat of Good Friday. That resurrection hope can be shared by all those who share their life with Jesus.
He is Lord over nature, over evil forces, over sin and death. We can trust in Him.