Monday, 7 December 2015

Daily Reading: Luke 8v22-25 'Who is this?'

Faith has been one of the key issues in this section of Luke’s gospel. The centurion has faith, John is encouraged to keep the faith and the sinful woman is reassured that she is saved by faith in Jesus, and we have seen that the characteristic of the faithful is to listen, keep hold of and obey God’s word. And faith continues to be central as Luke encourages Theophilus and the early church he is writing to not to lose their faith in the midst of threats.  In order to face crises and threats they and we need two things in place if our faith is to stand.

Recognise that Jesus is God

In the midst of all the examples of faith we see an instance of faith under fire. Stories like this are one of the features that prove the Bibles credibility – here cowering in the boat are the disciples, the future leaders of the church. It speaks volumes for Luke’s integrity and also for the change that the resurrection of Jesus brings about in the disciples.  Luke sets the scene for us in (22-23), Jesus tells the disciples to cross, they start and he settles down for a nap. But then nature kicks in and threatens, the winds howl and waves batter at the men in their boat.

Luke emphasises the danger the storm poses, this isn’t a little swell that makes some of them turn green, this is a “great danger” the boat is “being swamped”. I wonder what you imagine the boat to be like. It’s not a little rowing boat this is a significant boat, big enough to hold the disciples - at least 12+Jesus, if not the women of (1-3) and others. And these were experiences sailors, they would have been on rough seas, in fact this was where they had fished, they knew the danger they were in, that they were in real danger.

As they go to Jesus (24) it is in panic, it is in fear for their lives, you can hear it in their call to Jesus “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” There is no doubt about the natural outcome of their situation – bad storm, boat taking on water, boat sinks, lives lost. The danger they face is real, nature out of control, their lives are threatened and there is nothing that they can do about it.

Jesus actions are amazing, though we are over familiar with them, if this was a Hollywood film what would happen next as Jesus wakes? He’d stand up take the rudder and steer them safely to shore with muscles rippling and chin jutting out as man overcame the elements just by his bravery, strength and skill.  But that’s not what happened. Psalm 89:8-9 tell us  the LORD God Almighty rules the waves. Psalm 107:23-32 Tells us the Lord - God can save from and still the storm.  As Jesus gets up (24) it is not to take the rudder, it is as God made man to take control of creation. 

Jesus stands and rebukes creation and what happens? Creation recognises the creator’s voice and “the storm subsided, and all was calm…” When Jesus speaks creation acts as it would at God’s words, it’s no wonder the disciples are amazed and fearful and ask “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Do you hear the astonishment in their words at the conclusion this leads them to – he has God’s authority, he is God made man.

We need to recognise that Jesus is God made man; the one who stills creation, who stills the threat of sickness, who defeats the powers of evil and who conquers even death. Jesus is God made man and has God’s authority.  Why do we need to see it? Because we will only trust him in a crisis if we have fixed that in our heads and believed it in our hearts – he is able.

Live now by faith in the future

Having calmed the wind and the waves Jesus turns to focus on his disciples; “Where is your faith?” he asks.  Faith is not an abstract idea, it is not belief in theory or a set of suppositions or statements, faith is an application of your beliefs to your living.  Look at (7:1-10) how did the Centurions faith show itself? He believes Jesus can heal from a distance and sends people to say so. Look at the sinful woman, how does her faith show itself? It’s seen in her loving actions. How should the disciple’s faith have shown itself?

Jesus is not asking the disciples to take a blind leap of faith. But to believe on the evidence they have seen, belief is only faith if it is active.  Faith that counts is one that kicks in and recognises there is no safer person to trust than one who can deliver you. Jesus is challenging the disciples to trust in him, to act upon the evidence they have seen and heard and to make it the basis of their living.
It’s easy to be critical of the disciples but we have the readers’ edge we know everything that Jesus did, that he goes on to raise the dead, to die for them himself and to rise again defeating death. But the disciples are on a journey of faith and Jesus is teaching them here that they can trust in him because he can deliver them.

Faith is active it is belief applied and functions in a time of crisis. It looks at Jesus - God made man, our deliverer - and weighs the threat in the light of his majesty. The thought process is something like this – if Jesus delivers from death, sin and God’s judgement, if he is able to save from every threat, if he will one day bring everything under his authority as we glimpse here then I will trust him in the light of what I now face.

We need to realise, however, that it does not mean he will deliver me from hard times, crises and threats but that he will deliver me through them. Take this incident Jesus doesn’t leap up the moment the first rain drop splashes onto the deck and still the coming storm before it hits but he does deliver them through the storm, and it is in the storm that he reveals to them more of who he is and that he can be trusted, and challenges them to have faith.

We live in a world of storms and creation out of control, where evil is active, where sickness and death are part of life, where work is hard, where relationship as fraught. We are not immune to them, Jesus does not promise blanket immunity to his disciples, but he has authority over them and one day will come back and reality will be secure and good because we will live with God among his people and new creation.  But until then we will face threats, sickness, evil, death because we live in a world that is damaged and broken by rejecting God from his God place. It is against this background that we are called to faith, to trust in Jesus in the face of each of these. Jesus has God’s authority, he delivers and his disciples learn about who he is and that he is worth putting their faith in.

What Theophilus and the early church need to know as they face struggles and threats that could overwhelm them is that Jesus is worth putting your faith in, worth believing in beyond a shadow of a doubt because he is God made man with God’s authority, he rules, he delivers his people, and one day he will come and establish God’s kingdom for ever.  Do we know those two truths? How are they affecting our living? When we face the consequences of living in a broken world how do we react?

The encouragement this morning is to look again and fix our faith on Jesus – God’s authoritative deliverer, to remember our future that Jesus gives us a glimpse of creation renewed and threats stilled. And to live trusting in him.

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