And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. – Matthew 8:26-28 (ESV)
One thing I often forget when reading the Bible is that the chapter and sections breaks weren’t originally there. It’s common for people to consider those various breaks a “stopping point” when reading the Word and come back to it later as if the next section is a completely different story. But many treasures can be mined when we consider larger portions before and after these breaks and apply proper context.
One such example is found in Matthew 8. Verses 23-27 of this chapter are titled in many translations as “Jesus calms a storm”. Verse 28 picks up in a “new” story, with the title “Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons.” But when you read these verses as one continuous account, you might realize something crucial.
When Jesus got into the boat with the disciples, he was coming off interacting with a large crowd, where a lot of healings took place, along with the interaction with the scribe who hesitated in wanting to follow Christ.
Jesus was tired. It’d been a long day. So, when he got in the boat, he went to sleep.
Now, Matthew uses a word for storm here that far surpasses a meek summer rain shower. Commentaries go so far as to say that even a “furious storm” isn’t a true depiction. The Greek translation comes to “megas seismos” which can be literally translated to “megas – exceedingly great, high, large, loud, mighty, strong” and “seismos – earthquake”.
That was not a good time to be in a boat. Understandably, the disciples were, shall we say, concerned. And yet, Jesus asked why they were afraid! He proceeded to rebuke the storm, calm the lake, and remind the disciples of their lack of faith.
This is where most people stop reading and call it a day. But read one verse further, and you realize that Jesus and the disciples were approaching the country of Gadarenes (vs 28) where two demon-possessed men met them as they docked the boat. Men so fierce, no one could walk past them. Men possessed by not just one or two demons, but an entire legion of them.
It’s not a reach to consider that this incredibly violent storm that “came out of nowhere” on this lake was connected to the spiritual conditions they were about to discover on Gadarenes.
Now, we see how these two stories and section breaks connect and provide additional application regarding spiritual warfare and spiritual fortitude. Jesus called the disciples “you of little faith”. He knew what they were coming up against. He knew why the storm had come. And He also knew there was nothing to worry about.
Just as he calmed the storm on the lake, He calmed the storm in these men. He didn’t even have to cast the demons out—His very presence stirred them up to where the demons requested permission to enter a nearby herd of pigs instead. They knew they had no rights in the presence of the Son of God. Jesus granted their request, and they left the men. They were free. Healed, finally in their right mind, and a breathing testimony to the glory of God.
Sometimes, like the disciples, we need what we learned during the violent storm for what’s coming on the other side. There are lessons to be learned, faith to be stretched, and miracles to witness. We need faith in the storm, but we also need it afterward. That’s where there is always the biggest potential for revival, victory and healing.
As frightening as they can be, the storms have purpose. So fear not. The One who controls the wind and waves and has the power to cast out entire legions of demons is the One who died for you, knows the hairs on your head, and considers you of far greater worth than sparrows. Have faith! This storm will pass—and there is much to take with you to the other side.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox