DUNCAN/Jesus controls the physical universe
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 8:18-27. It is here we see Jesus evidencing His control of the entire physical universe. We will see three things from this passage. First, the Lord Jesus wants us to count the cost of discipleship. Second, the Lord Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him as our first priority. And third, the Lord Jesus wants us to trust Him in all circumstances.
I. The Lord Jesus wants us to count the cost of discipleship.
The first truth that you see is in verses 18 through 20. In this section, we learn that the Lord wants us to count the cost of discipleship. Faith, you see, counts the cost, and pays the price. In that passage we read that the Lord Jesus saw a crowd around him and gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. And then a scribe came to Him and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” We don’t know exactly why the Lord Jesus determined at that point to cross to the other side of the sea and continue His ministry there, but it may well be like in other places; He wanted a break from the attention. This scribe acknowledged that the Lord Jesus Christ was a teacher of the law, one who was suitable to expound the word of God, and he tells the Lord Jesus that he wants to follow Him. In fact, he says, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go.” He is resolute in his profession of being ready to follow Christ.
The Lord Jesus, instead of welcoming this scribe, instead of praising this scribe, throws an obstacle up before the scribe and tells him in the words of verse 20 that “the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” The Lord Jesus is concerned that this scribe is a too-eager disciple who has not counted the cost of what it means to be a follower of the Lord. The Lord Jesus makes it clear that He will have no disciples who are not ready to pay the price. Commitment to Christ is too important to make without deliberation and without awareness of what it costs us. The Lord Jesus, in his answer to this scribe, reminds us of the fact that He has suffered for us – long before the cross.
II. The Lord Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him as our first priority.
In verses 21 and 22, we see that the Lord Jesus wants us to acknowledge Him as our first priority. Faith must not only count the cost and pay the price, but faith must recognize the priority of the Lord Jesus, the priority of His kingdom. Another disciple came to Him, we are told in verse 21, and said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me and allow the dead to bury the dead.” This is a surprising, a shocking passage. First, we have a disciple who is too eager to follow Christ. He’s so eager that he hasn’t stopped to think what it’s going to cost him. Now here’s a disciple who is unready to follow Christ. He has all sorts of reasons why he needs to put off all that following for now. He comes to the Lord, and he says, “Lord, I need to go home to help bury my father.” His father was either almost to the point of death or had just died and it was this son’s responsibility to bury his father. He came to the Lord with surely a reasonable request, in any other circumstance, a reasonable request to say, “Should not I fulfill my responsibly as a son and go bury my father?”
I want you to understand that Jesus’ answer is not insensitive to this man’s broken heart. Surely his heart is broken at the loss of his father. Jesus’ answer is not insensitive to our responsibilities to our families. Jesus is emphasizing that there is nothing in this life, even the death of a father, that takes priority over Him. God in the flesh was standing before this disciple and saying, “Follow Me.” The Lord Jesus was stressing to his disciples that He must be the priority in their lives. Is Jesus’ Lordship evident in our lives? Have we answered the call, “Follow Me”?
III. The Lord Jesus wants us to trust Him in all circumstances.
We learn in verses 23-27 that Jesus wants us to trust Him in all circumstances. The Lord Jesus wants His disciples to trust Him in all circumstances because faith not only counts the cost and pays the price, faith not only recognizes the priority of Christ and His kingdom, but faith rests on Christ, not on good circumstances. These men were experienced fishermen. Surely they had faced storms on the Sea of Galilee before. These fishermen surely must have been used to these storms, but you can imagine how violent this storm is because these men – out in their fishing boats, having been on the Sea of Galilee many times –feared for their lives. The waves are crashing over this boat and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was not a sailor, but the son of a carpenter, is asleep in the stern. This shows you what a clear conscious can give you even in the middle of a storm.
And these fishermen come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and they say, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!” The Lord Jesus Christ rebukes His disciples and then He does something astounding. He rebukes the storm. And something more astounding happens: the storm ceases! We’re told not only does the wind cease, but the waves cease! Things don’t work that way, friends. The winds cease and then the waves gradually die down. That’s how a storm abates. But we’re told that when the Lord Jesus Christ rebukes the wind and says, “Be still,” that the winds and the waves cease. This is a testimony to the sovereign deity of Christ. Even the forces of nature obey Christ’s Word. The disciples looked at one another and said, “What kind of a man is this who commands the winds to cease?” Precisely—that is the point. This isn’t just an ordinary man, this isn’t just a godly prophet, this isn’t just a wise man who knew a lot about the Word of God and has walked with Him for many years. This is the very Son of God. He controls nature. May we see from this passage that faith in Christ means lifting our eyes above the difficult circumstances of life and trusting in Him.
The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.