What sort of man is this? 

In today’s Gospel (Matthew 8:27), Jesus and his disciples get caught in a storm at sea.   Not just a little cloudburst, mind you, but a “violent storm” (Matthew 8:24).   The word that Matthew uses to describe the storm comes from the Greek seismos, literally, “earthquake.”

Matthew uses seismos four times in his Gospel, and each time, it signals a deeper revelation about the identity of Jesus.   It’s as if Matthew were saying,  “Pay attention!   God is unveiling something important here!”   Let’s see what God is showing us through these earthquakes.

In today’s passage, Jesus is fast asleep in the boat amid the tumult while the disciples panic.   When they rouse him, it takes only one command to calm the wind and the waves.   Matthew is telling us that Jesus is no ordinary rabbi.   He is Lord over creation, even when he appears to be asleep.   Surely this comforted Matthew’s first-century readers when persecution came their way.

In Matthew 24:7, Jesus describes his Second Coming by saying that earthquakes will precede it as a sign that he is near.   Then, after the earthquake comes the revelation: all mankind “will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven” (24:30).   Here God reveals that Jesus is the powerful Son of Man (Daniel 7:13), the Lord who will reign over all of history.

Matthew’s next reference to an earthquake occurs during Jesus’ passion at his death.   In chapter 27, when Jesus gave up his spirit, “the earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (27:51-52).   This time the revelation comes through the Roman centurion and his men: “When they saw the earthquake . . . , they said, ‘Truly, this was the Son of God!’” (27:54).

Matthew’s final earthquake occurs at Jesus’ resurrection:  “There was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it” (28:2)   What is this revelation?   Jesus is risen.   He is God, sovereign over death itself.

Lord over creation.   Lord over history.   Victor over death.   True Son of God.   Surely Jesus can help you in your personal “earthquakes”!

Word Among Us