The disciples see the glory of Jesus (Luke 8.22 – 25)

Arnaud Weulassagou

Our text today is found in Luke 8, verses 22-25.

Can you remember a period or periods of your life when you were in deep distress?

For me, I remember I was a foreign student. To extend my residence permit, I had to find work. And at time I was in despair, because my residence permit was about to expire and I hadn’t found work. I started to accept having to go back to Cameroon, something that had happened to several other students who had, like me, come to study in France.

Up to that point, I had been convinced that it was God who had allowed me to be admitted to my school, to come to France, and to graduate. But when I saw that I hadn’t found work and that my residence permit would soon expire, I often found myself asking “Why God? Why have you led me here?”

And I think that this can happen to any of us, to arrive at a point where we give up on seeing God act, because we’re pressed to the limit in a trying situation, and we think God has forgotten us, or no longer acts for our benefit.

In the text in front of us, Luke records an episode where the disciples find themselves in such a situation. He reports that Jesus was sleeping while they were crossing the lake in a boat, while the disciples were panicking and desperate, confronted with a violent windstorm, but that finally they are delivered by the intervention of the Lord.

We’ll look first of all how Jesus slept, and the reaction of his disciples in the face of danger. In the second part we will see the deliverance of the Lord.

Jesus asleep and the distress of the disciples (Luke 8 v 22 – 24a).

Luke 8:22–24a [22] One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, [23] and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. [24] And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” 

Luke doesn’t tell us exactly when these events take place. He only says: “One day [Jesus] got into a boat…”

As we have often seen in Luke, the Lord often goes from one place to another to announce the gospel. Here we have one of these trips.

The events probably take place on the Sea of Galilee, since they arrive (v 26) in the country of the Gadarenes (a town in the region of the Decapolis), which is separated from Galilee by the Sea of Galilee. 

While they are sailing, Jesus falls into a deep sleep.

I don’t think that this was necessarily a planned sleep, where Jesus decides that “since we’re taking a trip in a boat, I might as well use the time to have a nap.” I think rather that Jesus is in the boat with his disciples, and though he tries to stay with them, he is overcome by fatigue and falls asleep in spite of himself, and he doesn’t just doze off, he falls into a deep sleep.

I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. It’s like when you are coming home after a party, or an exhausting trip and you’re in the car with everyone else. You’re talking, and at some point you nod off, and even if you try to remain in control, you wake up an hour later not knowing where you are.

This is probably what we see here with the Lord Jesus.

In general, when we find ourselves in this position, it’s not something we’re proud of. If someone were to take a photo, it’s not one we would want to see published on facebook.

This passage could be seen as further evidence that the disciples who wrote the gospels were not men of bad faith, but instead honest men. They don’t try to always paint Jesus in the most flattering light. They report just the event that happened. Sometimes, we might even wonder if they try to do the opposite. Let’s consider: if you were trying to convince people that Jesus is the Lord of creation, you don’t necessarily record that he had difficulty staying awake, and fell asleep because he was overcome with fatigue.

But the authors of the gospels, and Luke in particular here, don’t try to show us a Jesus who’s glorious as men would have it. On the contrary, they seek to show us how the all-powerful God, creator of the universe, finds himself in this position precisely because he has chosen to fully assume the nature of his creature.

The gospel is that Jesus, the Son of God, who received continual honor and praise from angels, who created the entire universe, who had only to say a word and every particle of the universe would carry out his will, this Jesus renounced his entire glory, he became a man, he became completely unified to the human race and shared in a weakness which he had never known before, and this to live for men. That having lived as a man, he could represent man before God, and make them righteous before His law. He thus undoes that which Adam had done in the Garden of Eden, when Adam had stood as the representative man, and had imparted to them all the guilt of his sin.

This text also speaks of the glory and the grandeur of Jesus, who agreed to lower himself for the salvation of His creatures.

While the Lord slept, we are told that a storm descended on the lake. It was so strong that the boat started to sink.  And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. [24] And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. [25] He said to them, “Where is your faith?” 

I can remember one occasion when I was genuinely afraid in an airplane. It was a short flight in Europe. It was during a time when there was a climate of anxiety surrounding air travel. I had taken a flight which was full of teenager, probably on a school trip. While we were in the air, the weather was not good. First, even though we were supposed to land at Orly, they had announced that we would be landing instead at Charles de Gaulle. Then we passed through a zone of turbulence. All of the teenagers in the plane started to cry out in fear. I was reading. But I immediately closed my book and started to pray. Normally I begin my prayers with thanksgiving, and generalities etc. But then my prayer was just “Lord, please save me.”

So personally, I can understand the reaction of the disciples. Confronted by the power of nature, there is nothing one can do. We all fear that which we do not know, and that which we cannot control. But in reading this, we might ask ourselves “but why did the Lord rebuke their lack of faith? It’s normal to be afraid if your boat is starting to sink.”

The answer is probably found in the way they express their fear. They say to the Lord “Master, we are going to die” (and you with us).

We have already seen in the gospels the Lord come to the aide of people in distress, and who express their need of the Lord. The problem here is probably that the cry of the disciples is not just a call for help, but a cry of distress mixed with complaint and despair.

But the Lord, after rebuking their lack of faith, reacts. And his reaction will leave a strong impression on the disciples.

The disciples see the glory of Jesus (Luke 8 v 24b – 25)

V 24b-25 : “24 bAnd he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

The disciples were distraught. Once I saw a friend who was learning to swim. He must have been about 1.85 m and well-built. Only while he was learning to swim, he swallowed some water (he nearly drowned) and started to panic. And so he started to thrash around to escape, and without saying anything, we all distanced ourselves from him. We all understood that we should stick too close, for fear of drowning with him. The instinct to survive is extremely strong, especially in someone about to drown.

It’s probably this instinct that drives the disciples at this moment. They go to the Lord and they probably shake up so strongly that he wakes up. Notice that not even the windstorm had awoken him.

The Lord wakes up.

If the slumber of the Lord demonstrates his humanity, when he awakes, his reaction reminds us of his divinity and demonstrates his glory to his disciples.

The end of verse 24 says : “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.”

We have already seen it, but by recounting this event Luke shows once more us why we call Jesus Lord. It is because he is the ruler of the universe. He has total, absolute authority over everything that is.

Next, Luke tells us the reaction of the disciples at the end of verse 25 : He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

The disciples realise that they had not comprehended that extent of Jesus’ power. They are frightened to death, as Luke says, “they were afraid, and they marveled”.  

They though that they were about to die because of the incontrollable power of the water and the wind. But now they realise that Jesus has a power even greater than that of the water and the wind, and they are terrified. Imagine if someone were to give that sort of power to a political figure who craved power. Or just to a man who was impulsive and irritated. It’s frightening to even think about what someone would do if given power greater than that of the elements.

But the reaction of the disciples is just that of normal humans confronted with a vision of the divine.

Before them, various other men had already had the experience of encountering manifestations of God up close.

Isaiah, writes about when God appeared to him to call him to be a prophet and he has a vision of God. In Isaiah 6:5 “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Daniel describes a vision that he has of a heavenly being : Daniel 10:5–9 [5] I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. [6] His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. [7] And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision, but a great trembling fell upon them, and they fled to hide themselves. [8] So I was left alone and saw this great vision, and no strength was left in me. My radiant appearance was fearfully changed, and I retained no strength. [9] Then I heard the sound of his words, and as I heard the sound of his words, I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.

Daniel recounts how greatly he was terrified. The presence of the divine being was such that even those who hadn’t seen it were terrified by it’s presence.

In martial arts, there is something that certain masters call the “etiquette”, to describe a sort of presence or force of character which commands the respect of the adversary and intimidates him. This etiquette is developed by a great deal of discipline and by mastering of the art. Whatever your charisma, or etiquette, if God were to appear before you, you would melt away, terrified by his presence.

Later, Daniel records that the heavenly being had to miraculously strengthen him for him to be able to continue the conversation.

The Bible tells us that we will enter into paradise with glorified bodies. Our bodies will be miraculously changed and transformed.  Christian doctrine teaches that in that state we will be able to no longer sin. Without this transformation, it would be impossible for us to tolerate the full presence of God.

As God himself said to Moses, “no man can see God and live.”

Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible God.” In Jesus, God gives us the ability to see him veiled in human form. But from time to time, Jesus revealed his glory. And in those cases, the disciples were terrified.

APPLICATIONS

  • Seeing the glory of God today? How? What is the impact?

I would suggest that having seen the glory of Jesus, and therefore of God, had a profound impact on the disciples which endured for the rest of their lives.

The witness of John, in John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” At the beginning of the gospel of John, he reminds the reader that he and the other disciples have seen the glory of the Son of God, and later in the New Testament, in his letter to the churches, in 1 John 1:1–2 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—

Here John says that we have seen with our eyes the glory of God and our hand have touched it. And now, we proclaim it. I suggest to you that the vision of the glory of God is what allows them to remain zealous to proclaim the gospel. Not only to live the gospel themselves to the end of their lives, but also to proclaim it to the point of dying for the gospel.

What about for us today?

Does it still happen today that God reveals his glory as did to certain men in the past? Yes, it happens. We have the testimony of men alive today who have experienced the presence of God in a particular way, and whom God has called to particular roles in spreading the gospel. But it doesn’t happen all the time to everyone.

But for all of us, I want to leave us with this passage: Hebrews 12:14 “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

I suggest that it is holiness that allows us to see the most clearly the person of the Lord.

If you have little zeal for the Lord Jesus, and little desire for him, it is because you know little of him, or nothing. Those who are zealous for the Lord are those who have a true vision of Him. Hebrews 12:14 teaches that no one can have a true vision of the Lord, no one can perceive his correctly without holiness.

Holiness is a matter of being apart from the world. Two weeks ago, Jason taught on the parable of the sower. The seed of the Word of God fails to grow in certain soil because the weeds strangle it. Holiness is to have a heart that accepts the Word of God and in which the pursuit of wealth, and the cares and the pleasures of the world do not crowd it out.

I think that we must each, in our conscience, examine that which might tend to limit the work of the Word of God in our hearts, and which closes us off from holiness, and the possibility of seeing God.

  • Jesus, a help in times of distress

The reaction of the disciples resembles the reaction of the people of Israel (“we will die here in the desert; we should have remained in Egypt”).

There is a place to express our needs to God, but that’s not what the disciples do here. They complain. It’s not a cry of “Lord, help us”; its rather a cry of “we’re done for”, which expresses unbelief in the ability of the Lord to rectify the situation.

« If you believe, you will see the glory of God »

I have a friend who is a pastor / church planter. This is one of his favorite phrases. It’s one of the things I’ve often heard him say.

I want to speak here to those who may be going through a frustrating situation that seems to never end. Given the age of those here in this church, this could include for example:

  • With respect to family, because of the wait for a partner, or those couples who desire to have a child, despite not having a great deal of life experience, I think I can understand how difficult a trial this can be for certain couples.
  • In one’s professional life, the search for a job, for example.
  • More generally, as human beings we are made to pass from one stage to the next. It’s maybe this that God has inscribed in our genes when he created man and commanded him to “cultivate and protect”, or in other words we are made to look after that which we have, but also to see it advance. The student wants to become a graduate, the young graduate wants to find work, the employee wants to advance in seniority, etc.

And it can happen that sometimes we find the wait too long, and that that plunges us into despair, and we give up hope of seeing God act. I don’t have a miraculous solution; I can only encourage you with the help of God’s Word, but I believe that the encouragement of the Word of God is more than sufficient when it acts on our souls. I pray that your soul would be strengthened to continue to hope in God. I pray that the expression from the core of your being would not be one of incredulity, of the sort “God, I’m dying, what are you doing?” but an expression of faith: “Lord, help me. Lord, watch over me.” 

I don’t know why in the providence of God some people are tested by long waits more than other. For example, I don’t know why some get married at 22, while other at 30 or later, or even never, as much as they might want to. I don’t know why some never know unemployment, or know it only briefly, while others go for long periods without work.

In my experience, I went through a year of unemployment, and I had graduated from a school where most students find work relatively quickly. So I saw all my classmates around me finding work, and “getting ahead in life”. Meanwhile, I remained unemployed. I had come from Cameroon to France to go to school. And I had come to this school in particular because I wanted to find work quickly, to make money, and support my family. So I was coming to the point where my work permit was about to expire and, and there were several times where I thought I would never find work. But by the grace of God, I found a job a few months before the expiration of my work permit and could therefore renew it.

Looking back on it, I don’t think that God needed all that time to prepare a good opportunity, but that God was preparing me, firstly for work, but that God also used this experience (of which he was in control) that I might know him better.

First of all God was preparing me. I think that I wasn’t yet ready to work when I had just graduated. Since I was young, I always had a problem with hierarchy. And during my year of unemployment, I had to learn submission to authority at church. I was disciplined by the elders of my church because I had done something wrong. Thanks be to God, it turned out well, I accepted their sanctions, and ultimately they were withdrawn. But it made an impression on me. I started my first job in a company that was highly marked by hierarchy. And it benefited me to have learned that before starting. 

And moreover I appreciate my work more. I realise that it is blessing of God, that it’s something he gives us. First, because of the income (my first paycheck almost brought me to tears of gratitude. I had gone hungry several days during the period of unemployment. We all have things that stick out in our memory. And for me during that time it was cherries.  During that year I don’t think I ever ate cherries, even though it’s my favorite fruit after pineapples. The problem is that they cost 10€/kg. Today every summer I’m reminded that it’s a blessing of God to be able to eat cherries in summer.

I likewise appreciate my work, because work is gratifying. The more you work and master what you do, the more you feel worthwhile.

Likewise, I think that more generally God prepares us behind the scenes. It’s as though God takes exactly the time necessary for things to take form where they’re unseen before they become evident.

Those things to which we aspire, or the positions we seek to occupy take time to come to fruition because God is preparing us. We must not spend the time between our prayer and the day we see what we’ve asked for complaining, but perhaps we ought to reflect on what we are asking for. What does that involve? How does God by his word tell us to handle this or that? How does He ask us to pursue a certain position? 

After this trial led me to know God better: first, because it was the period of my life where I read the most theology, where I spent the most time in prayer, and my prayers were the fruit of what I was reading and discovering about God. It would be difficult to completely explain. But it seems to me that being in a state a weakness allows someone to better experience the presence of God. The Bible speaks of God as the saviour of all men. You cannot experience God as saviour except when you experience his help. And those who need help are those who are in a state where lack something and know their own weakness. At such times, your attention is much directed towards God because you’re waiting on him. And when He acts, you cannot attribute his blessing to chance, and you know that it doesn’t come from yourself. You know that God is working for your benefit. God has personally drawn close to you. And to experience that is pure joy, if not the greatest joy.

Listen to what Job says when he goes through trials, when he has lost everything. That God should finally reveal himself to Job and respond to him, leads him to say in Job 42:5 “My ear had heard of you, but now my eye has seen you.”

God surely hears our prayers…God surely answers our prayers. But perhaps during the wait, God is preparing us for that role which we desire, or whatever else it is that we seek. Or perhaps God is using this trial that we would experience a closer walk with him, that we would know him better.

My prayer for you is that your soul would be strengthened, that there would be no unbelief in you, but rather confidence in God. Consider that Jesus, the ruler of the universe, the Lord of the angels, left his glory and put himself in a position of profound weakness. To the point of being utterly weary, and that he has done all of this because he loves us. If he has given his life in this way, he is undoubtedly concerned by that which concerns us. And he will certainly take care of our concerns.

I pray that your faith in Him would be fortified. As Jesus said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who died before being restored to life, in Jean 11:40: “…if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”

And I hope that this word of Jesus reaches your heart, and that you hear Jesus say to you : “If you believe, you will see my glory.”