|Jesus Calms the Storm ....||Bob Moore|
According to Origen Proverbs 22:21 originally said, "And do thou portray them [the scriptures] in a threefold manner." The three manners he referred to are the historical application, the spiritual application, and the prophetic one. Each issue of Pilgrims Promise will discuss the prophetic meaning of one of the episodes in the Bible. This issue examines when Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm.
The gospels record a spectacular miracle of Jesus. The disciples, by command of the Savior, had begun crossing the Sea of Galilee by boat. Meanwhile, Jesus had gone into a mountain to pray. A storm arose. Matthew relates, "The ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea" (Matt 14:24-25).
The appearance of Jesus walking on the water when he came to his disciples, who were valiantly trying to steer their boat during a storm, has prophetic significance. The events surrounding this scene help to interpret it.
This incident began with the execution of John the Baptist. He had condemned Herod, King of the Jews, for adultery. The Jews themselves were committing spiritual adultery. Although espoused to their Creator, they preferred to fraternize with Rome, the kingdom of this world. The High Priest, Caiaphus, even chose to sacrifice Jesus to retain the favor of that Empire (John 11:49-50). Herod, at the insistence of the daughter of his unlawful paramour, beheaded John. The Jews, with the approval of Pilate, crucified Jesus, the head of all the prophets. Since John the Baptist, no prophet has come among the Jews. Their rejection of the head of the prophets stopped the gift of prophecy from blessing a people who had enjoyed it from their inception.
Jesus symbolized the flight of prophecy from among the Jews by fleeing them himself. Matthew records, "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart" (Matthew 14:13). He went to Galilee in the land given the Samaritans. A multitude from all the cities followed him. Moved with compassion for them, "because they were as sheep not having a shepherd" (Mark 6:34), he both taught and healed them.
Jesus' flight to Galilee, a land once ruled by Israel but then occupied by converted heathen, symbolizes the flight of the gospel to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected the Savior. It thrived among them, although they had been a spiritual desert before then, not yielding the fruits of the Spirit. Without lineage in the holy covenant, they had no previous inheritance, nor any representation among the elders of Israel. They were without a shepherd. Jesus became a shepherd to them, teaching them the things of his kingdom through the preaching of the apostles and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. By them they were healed and became "a royal priesthood, an holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9).
The multitude that followed Jesus was without food, showing that they had no inheritance in the spiritual bread God had given the Hebrews through the scriptures. The disciples suggested that the multitude return to their cities to eat, but Jesus knew that the philosophies of this world can never satisfy and sustain the human soul. Instead, "he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass" (Matthew 14:19). Since "all flesh is as grass" (1 Peter 1:24, Isaiah 40:6), the Savior's invitation, like the later appeal of the apostles, invited the people to place their carnal desires under subjection. Believers should not live after the flesh, but must "mortify the deeds of the body" (Rom 8:13). Paul taught that those buried with Jesus in baptism put "off the body of the sins of the flesh" (Colossians 2:11).
Once they were seated on the grass, Jesus blessed the five loaves and two fishes that he had. Five is the number of grace. Jesus, by whom came grace (John 1:17), is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). The fish refer to those who place the deeds of the flesh under them through baptism. Jesus commanded his apostles to be fishers of men. The early Christians called themselves "fishes" because they had been regenerated by water. Two fish are mentioned because baptism should separate believers into two different persons. In baptism they crucify the old carnal man and become new creatures in Christ.
After blessing the loaves and fishes, the apostles distributed them among the multitude. This foreshadows the Lord's Supper, in which the bread is distributed by the Lord's disciples to those regenerated by baptism. Origen concluded that this event taught that only those healed from sin through the gospel could participate "in the bread of the Lord and his cup" (Commentary on Matthew, Bk 9, Ch 25). Five thousand men, besides women and children, were fed, showing that the meagerness of the gospel of Christ is sufficient to feed the world. Afterwards, the remaining food was collected in twelve baskets. Each apostle had a testimony of the abundance of the Lord and a witness against their doubt. From that abundance they could take the gospel into all the world as commissioned, and feed the sheep.
Jesus highlighted their commission by sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee alone. Meanwhile, he ascended a mountain to pray to his Father. After his earthly ministry, Jesus ascended to the Father. When he did, he commanded his disciples to be witnesses of him throughout the earth. The sailing of the apostles into the Sea of Galilee without the Savior represents the movement of their testimony across time, while the Savior remains at the right hand of God. The ship that carries the disciples represents the church. It is buffeted by a storm. Today, the church is being buffeted by the winds of Satan. Much of society is now dedicated to the perversion and overthrow of any vessel that carries the testimony of the apostles. While on the sea, the storm became too great for the power of the disciples to direct the ship. Jesus appeared to save them in their distress.
Today the church is fragmented. Christians sometimes feel alienated, almost persecuted, in the land of the free. The testimony of the apostles as recorded in the scriptures is being discounted by many who either reject it or revise it to suit their private passions. It is insufficient to save the church from the assault that steadily assails it. Jesus must appear in the midst of this turmoil and save his church.
Jesus came to the apostles' ship by walking on the water. Water is a symbol of the grave. The old world died in the flood. The leprosy of Namaan perished in Jordan and the old man is crucified in baptism. Jesus walking on the water symbolizes his power over death, won in his resurrection. Peter, who wanted to sit at the right hand of the Savior in the kingdom, tried to walk on the water, but found he could only do so if helped by the Christ. Even so, the righteous need the intercession of their Redeemer to overcome death. The church needs his intervention to escape the destruction now threatening it.
Jesus came to the apostles and their ship in the fourth watch. The Jews divided the night into three watches, the Romans into four. The gospels say that the Savior appeared in the fourth watch to show that he came very close to the end of night. This means that he will rescue his church near the end of its voyage across time. Since the testimony of the apostles was vouchsafed among the Gentiles, Jesus will stabilize his church at the end of the Gentile dispensation.
Paul said that the Gentiles were grafted into the gospel because of the blindness of the Jews. He went on to say that that blindness would continue "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11:25-26). The approach of the ship to the other side of the Sea of Galilee represents the . fullness of the time of the Gentiles, in which the gospel will go to the house of Israel. America has been divinely blessed so that it can gather the dispersed of Israel. The teaching of the apostles has been carried across both the sea of time and the Atlantic Ocean and taken root in the land of the free. Although the church is currently being tossed so that the Lord's disciples cannot steer it toward its intended destination, the Savior will appear, quell the storm, and the church will complete its work.
When Jesus entered the ship, he calmed the storm. Those in the ship, or in the church, worshiped him, saying, "Of a truth thou art the Son of God" (Matthew 14:33). The intervention of the Lord will evoke praise from believers because they will know by his appearance that he is the Son of God. After Jesus appeared, the ship quickly came to the other side of the sea. The people there knew of Jesus and brought their sick together so that by only touching the hem of his garment they were made perfectly whole.
Jesus will gather the dispersed of Israel. Then they will say, "The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them" (Jeremiah 16:15). As they gather, they will bring with them "the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her . that travaileth with child together" (Jeremiah 31 :8). "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Isaiah 35:5,6,10)