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4th Sunday after Epiphany

Matthew 8:23-27

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Feb 3, 2019 

Jonah is asleep in the boat.  As a violent storm is about to break apart the ship, Jonah is the one man who knows why this is happening.  He is the one man who knows what can be done to save the ship.

But how can he be asleep in a storm?  Perhaps he was physically and emotionally exhausted after his frantic attempt to escape God’s command to go to Nineveh.  Or perhaps more was going on here, that God was foreshadowing another Man who would fall asleep in another boat, about a thousand years later.

Eventually, Jonah is awakened by the frantic sailors.  He is compelled to own up to his responsibility.  This storm struck the ship because of Jonah’s sin in disobeying the Lord.

Jonah does not have actual power over the storm.  But he knows how the danger can be averted.

So Jonah is thrown overboard, and the storm ceases.  The sailors are relieved, and fear the Lord exceedingly, and offer a sacrifice and make vows to the Lord.  They see that He was the one who saved them from death.

A thousand yeas later, a second Jonah, our greater Jonah, also sleeps in a boat.  A great storm is thrashing at the poor little ship, and the disciples cannot save themselves.  Yet the one Man who can save them lies asleep.

How can He be asleep in the storm?  Perhaps He was exhausted.  Before our Gospel text, it says that He was healing many who had all kinds of diseases.  Perhaps this was His one chance to get a little rest, and He fell straight asleep.

But does the Son of God need rest?  Yes and no.  If He uses His power as the Son of God, then no, He never needs to rest and He never gets tired.  This is how He is now as He dwells in glory at the right hand of His Father.  But in His earthly life, when He did not fully use His power as the Son of God, then He got tired.  Especially when He was working so hard for so many people, Christ felt the weight of His weakness and needed rest.

So we find Him snoozing in the boat, even as it is rocked back and forth on the waves.  Perhaps the gentle rocking at the beginning of the storm helped lull Him to sleep.

Here we see our Savior who took our weakness and limitations.  We see the Mighty One in the form of a servant, for us.

Yet the disciples see their danger and are filled with fear.  When all seems lost, they wake their Lord.

It is a little commendable that they go to Him to be saved.  “Lord, save us!” they cry.  Yet this is not so much a cry of faith as a cry of frantic terror.  Christ says, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Their faith is small because they do not see who is in the boat with them.  This is not a mere human.  Perhaps His weakness in falling asleep made them forget, or perhaps some of them had not realized yet who this truly was.  This was not a mere man who would simply allow them to perish.

This is a Man who is not only full of power, but also who is sinless.  The storm is not His fault.  He has not disobeyed His Father, ever, at all.  He has not brought this storm to them by His sin, since no such sin exists.

This man wakens, and He knows exactly what to do to stop the storm.  He has actual power over the storm.  He rebukes the storm with His word, and there is a great calm.  The violence ends, and the danger passes, at this Man’s mighty word.

Then the disciples are bewildered.  Who is this Man, that even the wind and waves obey Him?  Answer: He is the Son of God.  He has all power in heaven and on earth.  Through Him, all things were created in the beginning.

The sailors with the first Jonah did better.  They gave glory to the Lord, Yahweh the God of Israel.  The disciples of Jesus could have done the same, since here He was standing before them!  But in their small faith they did not recognize.

No less than He stands with us.  He is able to still every storm, although He does not do that yet.  He waits for a day when He will restore creation to its original, intended state.  No more storms that threaten.  No more waves that drown.  Then the whole creation will have a great calm.

But you may notice that Christ, our second Jonah, was not thrown overboard.  He was not the price to atone for the storm on that sea, as the first Jonah was.

Yet another time came when He was thrown, so to speak, into the storm.  Then the skies grew dark, not with storm-clouds, but with wrath and judgment.  Christ threw Himself straight into the wrath of God, straight into His Father’s judgment.  Christ did not do this for His own sins.  No anger of the Father existed because of anything Christ had done.  But He threw Himself away from safety, into the most dangerous place of all, into the punishment for all mankind’s sin.

As Jonah was in the sea for three days in the belly of the fish, so Christ was in the earth, dead, for three days.  He was thrown into the violent tempest of God’s judgment so that it could be stilled for us.  He took it so that we would not perish.

Now our second Jonah lives.  The grave could not hold Him, but had to spit Him back up.  He has conquered death and sin and hell, as surely as He conquered the wind and the waves.

He conquers them for us with His mighty Word.  He speaks forgiveness for our sins, and they are forgiven.  He speaks life out of death, and we live eternally.

Who is this Man, whom even sin and death obey?  He is the Lord Yahweh, the King of Israel, the Mighty One.

May the Spirit allow us to recognize who He is, and see that He is here with us.  So we will worship Him, now and forever.  Amen.

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