One of the very first Bible studies that the Farmer and I ever worked our way through was a Ray Vander Laan Bible Study. Simply put, years of Ray Vander Laan Bible Studies have profoundly changed the way I understand Scripture. Ray has always believed that to more greatly understand and appreciate the Bible, one had to have a sense of the land and the culture from which it sprang. Ray’s preaching and teaching ministry is focused on understanding the Bible in light of the historical and cultural context in which God placed it. This perspective on the Bible highlights God’s call for His people to be a transforming influence on their culture. It’s a grace to welcome Ray to the farm’s front porch today…
Come with me to the world of Jesus.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is in Capernaum. Jesus lived and taught in this city. At least ten miracles in the Bible happened here.
But there is something else that Capernaum is known for.
This was the home of the great scholars.
History records that some of the great sages of Jewish thinking came from this area.
Jesus came to a town that was both biblically literate and had heard the best teachers that Judaism of the time had to offer. This community is a community of the Book. Of the Scroll.
It is all about God’s Word.
Jesus comes to the place of the Book and everything He does comes out of the Book somewhere.
In Capernaum, there is a man possessed by demons. Jesus drives out the demons.
Now, some who saw it were not comfortable with what He did and they accused Him of driving out demons in Matthew 12 by the power of the evil one.
Jesus says, “If I drive out demons by Satan’s power, then Satan is divided against himself and his kingdom will not stand.”
Ah, in Jesus’ mind? There are two kingdoms.
One is the kingdom of the King that He came to speak of. The other one is the kingdom of the evil one.
Two kingdoms that are going to meet; two kings; two loyalties.
But then Jesus continues with these words, “You can’t steal the strong man’s stuff, unless you first bind the strong man.” Who is the strong man in the story? The evil one.
Notice what Jesus is saying, “I took something from that other king. I took this poor man whose life was a mess and I took him away from that other king. And that can only happen if you bind the strong man.”
In some way, the evil power in this world has been bound enough that Jesus at least can take away his stuff.
One day after binding the strong man in Capernaum, the town of the King at least in the mind of the people, Jesus said to the disciples, “Come, let’s go to the other side.”
What were they thinking?
“Really? Over there? That is everything we are not supposed to be. Really? Are you sure?”
And they set out. Fear on their faces maybe? Shaking arms as they row the boat?
I look at the story in Mark 4 and I think the other king saw them coming. So he does what that other king often does and he stirs up that lake. And a storm comes and the boat is rocked.
Jesus isn’t worried.
He is in the bottom of the boat sleeping on a cushion. And the disciples row until they lose strength and courage because they are about to drown. They wake Him up with interesting words, “Don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus got up, and He said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” And it was completely calm.
They were amazed. And they said, “Who is this?” They were terrified. “Even the wind and the waves obey.”
There is a different time where the disciples are out on the lake.
They have been rowing all night. There is a storm. Jesus is on the shore worshipping and praying and He watches them all night.
At about 4 AM He goes out to them walking on the water. They see Him come. Peter eventually gets out of the boat. Jesus stills the storm. They were amazed and said, “Surely this man is the Son of God.”
Now think about those two reactions.
In the stilling of the storm they are amazed and terrified and say, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him.”
In the other story, they are amazed and say, “Surely this must be the Son of God.”
Think of some other miracles that Jesus did.
Feeding big crowds of people, healing all kinds of diseases, leprosy, and blindness, and lameness, turning water into wine, raising the dead. And they don’t have that reaction. Why such an intense reaction to the stilling of the storm?
Let’s take the one where He walked on water. Listen a moment to the Book. “How can a mortal be righteous before God? He alone stretches out the heavens. He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed. He shakes the earth from its place and he walks on the waves of the sea.” God walks on the waves of the sea, it says in the Book of Job. Jesus began to walk on the waves of the sea and they went, “wow.”
They are from Capernaum. They know the Book.
This time they are amazed and terrified after Jesus is awaken in the bottom of the boat and He says, “Quiet, be still!”
Listen to the Psalm, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble. He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper, and He hushed the waves of the sea to silence.”
Does it make sense why Jesus stood up and said, “Be quiet!” those words caught their minds?
It is the Lord who hushes the waves in silence.
We should not think that somehow if we faithfully become part of the mission that Jesus has entrusted to each of us that somehow we will escape those storms.
The evil one will do whatever he can to prevent that mission, whether it is Jesus, Jonah, or you and me.
So we should expect the same.
If you accept that mission to put God on display, to speak and live those words of shalom to the chaos of a broken world, you and I should expect to face the storms the evil one creates.
But don’t forget who has the power to still the storm.
Ray Vander Laan has been a teacher for 35 years and is an ordained minister with the Christian Reformed Church. Since founding That the World May Know Ministries in 1998, Ray has taken over 10,000 people with him on his study tours of Israel, Turkey and Egypt.
The Mission of Jesus video study is the latest in That the World May Know film series. Join Jesus in His world, see how He became the foundation stone, the capstone, the central focus of that plan of redemption that God had. Go to Rome and hear how that good news of Jesus, how Jesus is Savior and Lord confronts the gospel of Imperial Rome. Join Paul in cities like Thessaloniki, and Philippi, Athens, and Corinth and discover the implications of God’s plan of redemption for a very pagan world. And come to the temple itself, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost, fully equipping them to go forth to continue Jesus’ mission themselves. The Discovery Guide includes maps, discussion questions, and teachings to help you and your group go beyond the films. Discover how Jesus triumphantly made God’s presence known on Earth, and how He asks you to do the same—bringing God’s shalom to the chaos of others.
[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan and their partnership of today’s devotion ]