August 1, 2021 The Power of Jesus

The Power of Jesus and the Temptation to Fear

August 1, 2021



Read Matthew 8:23-34.


A storm arises on the great lake. It is a violent storm and the waves were coming into the boat and about to sink it! When they ask Jesus to save them, his reply is most fascinating:


26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”[1]


He attributes their fear to a lack of faith.


Faith is not some kind of mysterious force. That idea is promoted by the so-called “Faith teachers.” Faith is nothing more than trust. The Lord was in the boat with them, yet they did not trust him enough to feel safe. This matter of fear comes up again when Jesus casts out the demons in the Gadarenes.


We do see the great power that our Lord possesses. He only spoke a word and the wind and the waves are calmed. Some commentators have discerned that this incident on the lake is also a demonic encounter. When I first came across that explanation, I was rather skeptical. After all, there is nothing overtly stated by Matthew to that effect. After further study, though, I think it is just so. Our Lord is on his way to the Gadarenes where the demons likely know that he is going there and will confront them. It may very well be that they were trying to keep him from coming. There are passages that seem to indicate that disembodied demons dwell in the air and in the sea and so, they have a kind of power over the wind and the waves. Finally, Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea. But wind and sea are non-living objects. A rebuke only seems to make sense if there were living creatures who receive the rebuke.


Whether demons were behind the storm or not makes no difference. Either way, the great power of our Lord is made known as a great calm ensues upon his rebuke. We have a powerful Savior! So powerful that we can trust him when he is in our boat! Is the Lord Jesus in your boat? He is not in everyone’s boat, you know. Everyone, or at least most people, think that Jesus is on their side. But, I have talked to so many people that are living in sin and who think that everything is just fine. Jesus does not get into your boat until you become his. You become his when you renounce your sin and turn away from it. That is called repentance. You also exercise faith, that is, you trust in Christ’s death and resurrection to change everything about you. When you believe it, he will!





But, if Jesus is in our boat then we have no reason to fear!


When our Lord arrives at the Gadarenes, he is confronted by the demons:


And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”[2]


There is a time coming when a great judgment will take place. Every person – angels, demons, and humans – will be judged. For some, the result of that judgment will be torment. “Pastor, how can a loving God torment people?” The mistake of this common error is that some people think that love and justice are incompatible. Not only are they compatible but they support one another. It would be unloving for God to allow rebels, who hold on to their willful sins, into his kingdom. It would be unloving to God Himself because he hates sin. And, it would be unloving to the redeemed because they hate sin as well!


Not only will demons be tormented, but many humans will be tormented. “The time” to which the demons referred is in the distant future. But never let that idea put you at ease until you ensure that Jesus has taken away your sins! For, even though the Great White Throne Judgment is far away, once we die there is nothing that we can do to change what that judgment will be for us. If we are going to make peace with the Living God we must do so in this life. And here is what we must never forget: we do not know the day of our departure. A heart attack can claim anyone, even those in their thirties or forties. My best friend’s father died of a heart attack in his forties and he was not obese. He neither drank alcohol nor smoked. An auto accident can claim us unexpectedly, as it has many right here in Winfield. Some diseases take years or months to bring death. Others bring the end of life rapidly. My coworker’s brother, who was only in his thirties, was diagnosed with stomach cancer, admitted to the hospital, and died within one week after his diagnosis! Do not wait to give your life to Christ! There are no guarantees on your longevity!


As we read, Jesus casts out the demons from the two men. They enter the pigs and the pigs perish over the cliff.


The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. [3]


This is fascinating! Jesus had just delivered two men from demonic possession; yet the townspeople nearby, who would have known these two men, beg him to leave them alone! They want him to depart. This is almost inexplicable. You would think they would be filled with gratitude and would realize that, if he set these men free, then he could set others free from other bondages, such as disease, barrenness, spiritual oppression.


Indeed, this is the rational response to blessing. When the power to heal is made known, then people seek out the person or persons who have this power. When financial benefits are made known in return for a modest investment, the person or persons who offer these benefits are sought after.


The reaction of the townspeople is irrational. They want Jesus gone. Why? Matthew does not tell us. We may guess that, since the pigs all died, there was a loss of income (at least to the owner) and the townfolk did not like that. But that is not the reason. We know this because Mark tells us why they asked him to leave:


And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.[4]


They were afraid! In fact, Luke tells us that they had great fear:


Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. [5]


The country of the Gerasenes missed many blessings because of their fear. Jesus was a miracle-worker and a healer wherever he went. He set people free! There would be those who could have been healed. There were women who could have had children. There were some who could have been set free from a besetting sin. But Jesus left and and those who could have been greatly helped were not…because of fear.


Things have not changed in 2000 years. People are still afraid of Jesus, even though he is meek and humble of heart.


But wait. Aren’t we supposed to fear God? Yes, we are. Indeed, the fear of God is one of the most prominent themes in the Bible. It is a positive characteristic. Jesus taught us to fear God:


“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him![6]


So, we may ask, “When is it right to fear Jesus and when is it not right to fear him?” Even more generally, we may ask, “When is it good to fear and when is it not good to fear?”


In order to answer this question, it is quite helpful to recognize two directions of fear. There is fear towards God and there is fear towards anything besides God. It could be fear of circumstances, fear of man, or fear of certain animals. In our first reading this morning, when Jesus clamed the storm, the disciples were afraid of their circumstances. And our Lord rebuked them for their fear. We just read in Luke 12 that Jesus taught us not to fear men. Certain animals can cause us harm and if we come across them we might experience fear. Of course, if you were hiking in the forest and you came across a Grizzly bear, it would be natural to experience fear and you should take measures to either get away or protect yourself. But, neither should we be paralyzed with fear. We trust in God’s protection, if we belong to him.


I had a friend who had gone fishing deep in the woods on the West Coast. He had been in the forest for days and was walking back to his truck which he had parked on a narrow dirt road which had ended at a trail head. As he was approaching his truck he heard a sound behind him. He turned and saw two large Grizzly bears coming towards him. He was close to the truck but, because of the proximity of the bears, he realized that he did not have time to unlock his door and close it before they would be upon him. So, he leaped on the hood and then onto the roof and stared at the bears. He said in a loud voice, “I command you in the name of Jesus to leave!” The bears halted and just looked at him. He commanded them again. He kept on commanding them in the name of Jesus and they finally turned around and left. When he drove down the mountain, he reached a ranger station. He informed the ranger of the encounter. The ranger told him, “We’ve been looking for those two bears. They killed someone only one week ago. You were very fortunate.” Of course, he wasn’t fortunate. He was protected by the Lord Jesus! We do not need to become impotent because of the fear of circumstances, the fear of man, nor the fear of animals.


When it comes to fearing God or fearing Jesus, when is it right to fear and when have we gone astray in fearing?


The answer is simple. We ought to fear God when we have sinned or when we are tempted to sin.


By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,

and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. [7]


Fearing God will keep one from evil actions and even evil thoughts.


When we have already sinned, the fear of God should cause us to confess our sins to him and seek his mercy:


For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

4    For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

5    I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not cover my iniquity;

       I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”

and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.[8]


You see, when David experienced the heavy hand of God, he recognized that it was because of his sin. He feared this hand and his fear brought him to confess to the Lord, not to a priest, his sin. Then he received forgiveness.


So, when does the fear of God or the fear of Jesus become mistaken? It is whenever our fear causes us to flee from him rather than run to him.


It is good to fear the Lord, but our fear should cause us to come to him for mercy. If our fear causes us to avoid him we are making the same error that the Gadarene townfolk made. Their fear caused them to avoid Jesus rather than receiving him and the healing that he could bring to their lives.


This is the sad predicament that the unbeliever finds himself in. He is afraid that coming to Jesus will cause him (or her) to lose his (or her) freedom. He is afraid that submitting to Christ will cause a change that is too radical. He (or she) might be afraid that becoming a Christian will cause their family or friends to reject them. All these fears are unfounded because coming to Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin and makes us fulfilled by giving us the peace and direction that was missing in our lives.


Any fear or apprehension that keeps us distant from Christ is a terribly misguided and unfounded fear.


It is time to set aside every fear, every anxiety, every confusion that keeps us from enjoying the presence of the Lord. Learn from the disciples in the boat.


This is our great need! We need Jesus in our boat! If we have not surrendered our lives to the Lord Jesus and trusted in his saving work then he is not in our boat. Do not tarry. Repent and believe the gospel!


But the one who is a Christian already can be crossing the lake but has forgotten to invite Jesus to come along. There is a sense in which Jesus is always with the disciple of Christ because he dwells within every person who has been born again. But, unless we practice his presence, he may just be hidden away in our human spirit and we will not experience his presence. Brothers and sisters! We must experience the Lord’s presence! This is proven by what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea:


Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.[9]


Christians like to use this verse as a call to the unsaved. But Jesus spoke these words to his own people. It is an invitation to those who already belong to him! Dining with Jesus is simply experiencing the Lord’s presence.


We need to dine with Jesus! This means to invite him to be part of every endeavor, every action, every goal. But, it especially means to cultivate that intimacy with the Lord that can easily be lost. Remember the Lord’s words of rebuke to Ephesus in the Apocalypse.


 Is the Lord in your boat? When he is in our boat we experience gladness and fear is absent. When he is in our boat we can have no fear nor any anxiety about our circumstances, even in the worst storm!


“Lord Jesus, may your presence and power be with me in my every doing this very day. Amen.”






[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 8:33–34). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 5:15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 8:37). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 12:4–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 16:6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 32:3–5). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 3:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.