Sermon title:  JESUS’ DIVINE POWER AND RESTRAINT

Matthew 8:23-34

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 22, 2018

 

 

 

 

If our God is Almighty—

and he most certainly is;

one of his names in Hebrew is El Shaddai,

which means “God Almighty”—

but people ask, if our God is Almighty,

what is holding God back

from wiping crime, violence, war, immorality,

and every other evil from off the face of the earth?

 

Some people mistakenly conclude

that God and Satan have equal power

and that Satan’s evil power

has been standing up against God’s power

and holding God back.

 

But that is totally false.

 

There is no basis for making a claim like that.

 

Satan and his demons

are just created beings—

angels that God created, and gave them free will.

And they have used that free will

to choose evil and rebel against God.

 

But the Almighty Creator could easily wipe them out in a moment—

along with all of sinful mankind.

 

Why hasn’t he?

 

What is holding him back?

 

Our lesson today will give us some insight

into that intriguing question.

----------------------------

 

Our sermons for the past couple of weeks

focused on the parables of Jesus—

illustrative stories that our Lord told

to teach important lessons.

 

But now our reading in the Gospels

takes us to a couple of actual events

that occurred in Jesus’ ministry,

as we just read in our Responsive Reading.

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke all report on these two events.

 

Each one of the Gospels

tells the same story,

but each supplies a detail or two

that the others don’t mention.

 

I put Matthew’s account in the Bulletin

for our Responsive Reading,

because his account is the shortest

and only his would fit on one page.

 

But Mark’s Gospel gives the most details,[  OPEN  ]

in Mark Chapter 4, beginning at Verse 35,

so I’d like to consider his version of these events

as we discuss together what happened.

 

It begins with a boat trip

across the Sea of Galilee

in Mark 4:35.

 

35 That day when evening came,

he said to his disciples,

"Let us go over to the other side."

 

36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along,

just as he was, in the boat.

There were also other boats with him.

 

These additional boats traveling along side

are not mentioned in the accounts by Matthew and Luke.

 

Only Mark tells about those other boats.

They must have been transporting

additional disciples

besides the Twelve Apostles—

or maybe some from the crowd

who wanted to hear more from Jesus.

In any case,

there were other boats traveling along

with the boat that Jesus and the Apostles were in,

andthe people in these other boats

were going to witness what took place next.

 

So, there would be quite a few witnesses.

 

Verse 37 says,

 

37 A furious squall came up,

and the waves broke over the boat,

so that it was nearly swamped.

 

38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.

The disciples woke him and said to him,

"Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

 

39 He got up,

rebuked the wind and said to the waves,

"Quiet! Be still!"

Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

 

40 He said to his disciples,

"Why are you so afraid?

Do you still have no faith?"

 

41 They were terrified and asked each other,

"Who is this?

Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

 

“Who is this?” they asked.

 

The disciples were beginning to realize

that Jesus was not just a miracle-working rabbi.

 

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen—

professional fishermen who had spent their lives, so far,

fishing from boats on the water.

 

They knew how powerful the wind and waves could be.

 

And this was a storm

that put even such professional fishermen

at fear of their lives.

 

Modern scientists tell us that the typical Atlantic hurricane,

over the course of its existence,

unleashes the energy equivalent of 10,000 nuclear bombs.

 

So, calming the wind and waves of a major storm

is not a small thing.

 

And Jesus’ disciples knew that very well.

 

No mere human being

could simply rebuke the wind and waves,

and cause the sea to become calm and still.

 

But Jesus had simply stood up in the boat,

and told the wind and waves,

“Peace!  Be still!”

And the fierce storm stopped in its tracks.

 

The sea immediately became calm and flat.

 

The disciples now realized

that Jesus was no mere human prophet or Messiah.

 

41 They were terrified and asked each other,

"Who is this?

Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

 

They realized he must be

the divine Son of God.

 

That realization of WHO Jesus really was

frightened and terrified them.

 

They saw themselves as sinful men

in the presence of God himself.

 

They all saw that he had exercised

the Almighty power of God.

 

A couple of years later,

after Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead,

he told them,

“All power has been given me in heaven and in earth.”

“All power” means Almighty.

 

He said that at Matthew 28:18.

“All power has been given me in heaven and in earth.”

 

So, why doesn’t Jesus stop today’s hurricanes.

 

Why doesn’t he

rebuke each tornado

and stop it from doing damage?

 

Why doesn’t he rebuke each hurricane today?

 

Some time ago,

we looked at the Book of Job,

where Satan the devil sent a wind storm

that knocked down the house

where Job’s children were sharing a meal.

 

All of Job’s children were killed

by that damaging wind.

 

Usually we can’t see

whether there are unseen spirit forces

behind damaging storms.

 

But in the Book of Job,

the curtain is pulled back briefly,

showing us a glimpse

of how there may be an invisible factor

that we can’t see,

when bad things happen.

 

Why is Satan still on the loose,

causing damage through storms

and through other means?

 

If we continue reading in the Gospel of Mark,[ OPEN ]

in Mark, Chapter 5, a second incident

that occurred in Jesus’ ministry

will give us more insight.

 

It was in our Responsive Reading

in the Gospel of Matthew,

and it is also found in Mark, Chapter 5.

 

Mark covers the same events,

but in this case Mark gives us some additional details.

 

We begin reading in Mark 5, Verse 1.

 

1 They went across the lake

to the region of the Gerasenes.

 

2 When Jesus got out of the boat,

a man with an evil spirit

came from the tombs to meet him.

 

Matthew tells us there were two men,

but Mark seems to focus on just one of them—

probably the one who was the fiercest,

or the one who took the lead

in confronting Jesus.

 

The other may have slunk back into the shadows,

or stayed some distance behind.

 

In any case, Verse 3 says,

 

3 This man lived in the tombs,

and no one could bind him any more,

not even with a chain.

 

4 For he had often been chained hand and foot,

but he tore the chains apart

and broke the irons on his feet.

No one was strong enough to subdue him.

 

5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills

he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

 

6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, 

he ran and fell on his knees in front of him.

 

So, this was a wild man—

a violent, unruly individual

who was a constant danger to himself and others.

 

Any observer would have said,

he was out of his mind.

 

You wouldn’t expect him to know anything, except madness.

 

But Verse 7 tells us,

 

7 He shouted at the top of his voice,

"What do you want with me, Jesus,

Son of the Most High God?

Swear to God that you won't torture me!"

 

So, even though Jesus had just arrived there by boat,

and had not yet made himself known to anyone in that country,

this man knew him by name,

and knew that he was the Son of God.

 

Verse 8 explains why:

 

8 For Jesus had said to him,

"Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

 

So, it was the demonic spirit living inside the man

who knew who Jesus was.

 

Demons used to be angels

before they rebelled against God.

 

And they used to live in heaven

along with all the other angels.

 

So, a demon would know who Jesus was.

 

Verse 9 says,

 

9 Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"

 

10 "My name is Legion," he replied,

"for we are many."

And he begged Jesus again and again

not to send them out of the area.

 

So, there were actually many demons living in that man—

like a legion of demons.

 

Verse 11 continues,

 

11 A large herd of pigs

was feeding on the nearby hillside.

 

12 The demons begged Jesus, "Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them."

 

13 He gave them permission,

and the evil spirits came out

and went into the pigs.

 

The herd, about two thousand in number,

rushed down the steep bank into the lake

and were drowned.

 

Who knows why the demons wanted to do that?

 

It certainly didn’t make any sense to a rational human mind.

 

But, Satan and the demons cause death and destruction.

 

Maybe the demons just wanted

to cause as much destruction as they could.

 

We don’t really know.

 

A herd of 2,000 pigs

would have been quite valuable

to the owners of the herd.

 

Jews would not have owned pigs,

because God’s Law through Moses

commanded the Jews not to eat pork.

 

But this was across the Sea of Galilee,

in the country of the Gerasenes—

non-Jewish people,

who ate pork and kept herds of pigs.

 

Verse 14 continues,

 

14 Those tending the pigs

ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.

 

15 When they came to Jesus,

they saw the man who had been possessed

by the legion of demons,

sitting there, dressed and in his right mind;

and they were afraid.

 

16 Those who had seen it told the people

what had happened to the demon-possessed man—

and told about the pigs as well.

 

17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus

to leave their region.

 

They evidently didn’t care about the man

who had been set free from demon-possession.

 

They didn’t rejoice

that this naked madman

was now sitting clothed and in his right mind.

 

They cared only about the destruction of property

that occurred when the herd of pigs drowned in the sea.

 

And they didn’t want Jesus

to do any more damage to their property

so they asked him to leave their territory.

 

But the pagan man

who had been set free from demonic possession—

he certainly cared about what Jesus had done for him.

 

Verse 18 says,

 

18 As Jesus was getting into the boat,

the man who had been demon-possessed

begged to go with him.

 

19 Jesus did not let him, but said,

"Go home to your family

and tell them how much the Lord has done for you,

and how he has had mercy on you."

 

20 So the man went away

and began to tell in the Decapolis

how much Jesus had done for him.

And all the people were amazed.

 

So, the message about Jesus

got preached to people in the Decapolis, anyway.

 

The Decapolis was a region in pagan Syria

that was named after 10 cities in the region.

“Deca” means 10, as in our word “decade.”

And “polis” refers to “cities” as in “Metropolis.”

 

Sometime later on, Jesus went there to preach,

but at this time he simply sent that man off home

to share his personal testimony

of the miracle Jesus had worked in his life.

=========================

 

So, how do these

episodes we just looked at

help us understand

what is holding God back

from putting an end to evil on the earth?

 

Well, the first part

where Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves

and stopped a storm dead in its tracks—

that

reminds us of God’s Almighty power.

 

No force in heaven and earth can resist him.

 

Our power is miniscule, compared with God’s.

 

Satan’s power is miniscule, compared with God’s.

 

Satan and all his demons together

have no power at all to hold God back

from taking action.

 

So, God must be restraining HIMSELF.

No one else could do it.

 

No one else could hold God back

from taking action against wicked humans and demons.

 

So, the only thing that explains God not taking action

is our heavenly Father’s self-restraint.

 

The 2nd part of our Responsive Reading

tells us the Lord has imposed upon himself

an appointed time when he will act.

 

We see that in Matthew 8:29,

which we read.

 

When Jesus encountered the demons

that were possessing this man and his companion,

Matthew 8:29 says the demons cried out:

 

29 "What do you want with us, Son of God?"

they shouted.

"Have you come here to torture us

before the appointed time?"

 

So, God has set an “appointed time”

when Satan and his demons

will be thrown into what Matthew 25:41 calls

“the eternal fire

prepared for the devil and his angels.”

 

That time is also associated with “Harvest” time for the earth.

 

Not harvesting  wheat or corn,

but harvesting the fruits

of Christian ministry over the centuries.

 

Jesus’ parables talk about him

gathering the “wheat” into his storehouse,

which he explained as

gathering his adopted children into heaven.

 

And then the weeds will be burned up.

 

God has set an appointed time for this,

which must be the best possible time for it.

 

Meanwhile, our Lord is patiently waiting.

 

He is waiting for the harvest to be ripe.

 

So, in a sense, God is waiting for YOU.

 

If he took action 20 years ago

or 30 years ago, or 100 years ago

to wipe out sinners from the earth,

where would you be?

Where would I be?

 

So, in a sense, God is restraining himself,

waiting for us.

 

In 2nd Peter, Chapter 3,[  OPEN  ]

the Apostle Peter explains it

much better than I can.

 

We find it in Peter’s short 2nd letter,

right after Hebrews, James and 1st Peter.

 

And there in 2nd Peter, Chapter 3, beginning with Verse 8,

Peter helps us understand

God’s restraining himself,

and what our response should be.

Peter writes,

 

8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,

and a thousand years are like a day.

 

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,

as some understand slowness.

He is patient with you,

not wanting anyone to perish,

but everyone to come to repentance.

 

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.

The heavens will disappear with a roar;

the elements will be destroyed by fire,

and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

 

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

You ought to live holy and godly lives

12 as you look forward to the day of God . . .