A Storm, A legion, and A Sin: Matthew 8:23-9:08 (Sermon)


This will date me. There is a scene in a Disney movie I watched as a kid, the Little Mermaid, where Ariel and the fish Flounder were talking to Scuttle, the Seagull. They found some stuff in a sunken ship and asked Skuttle about it. He picked up this [a fork] and said, “This is very special. The humans call this the dinglehopper. They use it to straighten out their hair.” He demonstrated. Was he right? No. He got it wrong. Although one could call a fork whatever, we don’t call it that. And though we could use it as a comb, we don’t. We use it to eat. It is important, but not in the way, Skuttle thought. I bring this up because Jesus can become a lost relic from a bygone era. He can be misunderstood and forgotten. Important, but not in the right way. What sort of man was he? 

  • Was he a great teacher? Yes. 
  • Was he a great healer? Yes. 
  • But was that all? No. 


As we read the book of Matthew, we discover more and more about who he was. I am going to have B. W., C. S., and L. S., and read for us. If you have your Bible, open to Matthew chapter 8. We will be starting at verse 23. Would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word?


And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 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. 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?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. 


And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.


Thank you. Let’s pray. Dear Father, we treasure your Word. It is light and life to us. We want to encounter you. Open our eyes to see you, our hearts to love you, our minds to know you, and ears to hear you by your Spirit. In Jesus’s name, we pray, amen. You may be seated.


We are continuing our series in Matthew, preaching verse by verse, chapter by chapter. Jesus is the king God promised long ago. He came to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). 


He taught and healed, fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Chapters 5 through 7 show us what and how he taught. He spoke, unlike the religious leaders of his day. He communicated as one who had authority like that of the prophet Moses. But he was more than that. 


He was a healer. Chapter 8 begins with three demonstrations of his healing. Jesus healed with the power of the prophet Elijah. He had authority over sickness, blindness, epilepsy, and paralysis. But he was more than that. 


He was the Messiah Isaiah predicted 700 years before. He came to lead his people into his kingdom. The question for us is, “Will we follow?” He desires our devotion. 


In the passage we are studying, we will encounter the following: 

  • A Storm 8:23–27 
  • A Legion 8:28–34 
  • And a Sin 9:1–08 


If there is one thing you remember, it should be this: Jesus exceeds expectation, arrests attention, and desires devotion. 

Jesus exceeds expectations, arrests attention, and desires devotion


In 1986, two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufa, went to the sea where they fished. The water level was low because of drought. At the shoreline, they discovered something remarkable. They called in others to investigate. What they pieced together unlocks for us a picture of Matthew chapter 8. Archeologists unearthed this: 

What is it? It is hard to tell from the projection. But if we traveled to this museum, we would see it was an old boat. So reconstructed, it could have looked something like this: 

This boat was 27 feet long and 7 and 1/2 feet wide. It dates from around 40 BC to AD 50. It was much like the fishing boat the disciples would have used to travel across the Sea of Galilee. It would be tight, but you could fit a dozen men. The experts call it the Jesus boat. In chapter 8, Jesus instructed his followers to get into such a boat and travel across the same body of water where Moshe and Yuval found it buried. 

STORM 8:23–27 

That day, the weather became rough. Like Lake Michigan at its worst, the swells could have been as high as twenty feet. Water washed over the sides. In those days, there were no Coast Guards, life preservers, or modern safety features to help. Many of the disciples made their living fishing these waters like their parents and presumably their parents before them. They were in trouble and knew it. When fishermen are frightened, you know the storm is terrible. Was Jesus scared? No, he was sleeping. They woke him by saying, 

“Save us, Lord; we are perishing” (Matthew 8:25, ESV).  

Jesus responded like he wanted to hit the snooze button one more time. 

“He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ ” (Matthew 8:26, ESV). 

His response mirrored what he had just told them in his Sermon on the Mount. 

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:27–30, ESV)

The disciples weren’t worried about a pair of dress pants for a job interview or shoes for school. They thought they were going to die. I can picture them thinking, “Jesus, the situation is life-threatening. It is good we are going to you and asking for help.” These disciples believed he could do something. They had left their nets, families, homes, and plans to follow him. They had faith. Why was he so rough on them? What did he want from them? He knew their hearts. He knew their imperfections and the chinks in their armor. Yet, he cared about them and called them to follow. He heard. He knew what they needed. And he answered their plea. 

“Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26, ESV). 

Jesus stopped the storm. He loved this little band of brothers. He had compassion on them. He wanted good for them. So, how did the disciples react? 

“And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’ ” (Matthew 8:27, ESV). 

They didn’t expect this from Jesus. Maybe they thought he would lend a hand with the sail, do some rowing, or tell them to abandon ship. But, instead, he commanded the storm to stop. His authority extended beyond teaching and healing to the ability to control the elements. It echoed the power of Psalm 65: 

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, 

      O God of our salvation, 

                  the hope of all the ends of the earth 

      and of the farthest seas; 

the one who by his strength established the mountains, 

      being girded with might; 

who stills the roaring of the seas, 

      the roaring of their waves, 

      the tumult of the peoples, 

so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. 

                  You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. (Psalm 65:5–8, ESV, Italics mine)

Psalm 65, speaking of God’s power, certainly sounded like Jesus in Matthew chapter 8. Jesus was more than a great teacher and healer. He stilled the roaring of the sea. And the followers marveled and wondered, “What sort of man is this?” 

Jesus exceeds expectations, arrests attention, and desires devotion


What storms do you face? Do you run to Jesus when your world is a wreck? He can be trusted. He may not calm the storms as you wish, but he promises to bring a blessing out of the darkest days for those who love and trust him. 

A LEGION 8:28–34

The second story tells us that Jesus had the disciples take this boat to a region called the Gadarenes. There, two demon-possessed men lived in tombs. They met the disciples. These were powerful and dangerous men. The townsfolk feared them and kept themselves at a distance. Ironically, the demons in these men were terrified of Jesus and wanted to stay away from him. The book of James in the Bible tells us that the demons shudder at his name (James 2:19). So, they asked Jesus to send them out into a nearby herd of pigs. This is the third time we see Jesus cast out demons in the book of Matthew, but the first time we hear what an exorcism looks like.


In my nearly forty years as a Christian, I have felt and seen evil. In India, this last summer, I saw a pastor rebuke demons in people. But, I have yet to experience what we see happen in Matthew 8. 


In the parallel accounts, the speaking demon referred to himself as Legion. In Roman soldiering, “Legion” meant 3,000 to 6,000 soldiers. This considerable evil presence Jesus sent into the pigs as they had requested. The pigs, numbering 2000, stampeded off a cliff and drowned in the Sea of Galilee. The men were free, and the herders were unemployed. They went to the town, and we don’t know what the herders said in town. We can only guess. 

  • Were they excited that these two oppressed men were free from their demons? 
  • Were they excited that the demons feared Jesus? 

We don’t know. We know the town folk came to Jesus and asked him to ship off. Why? Possibly they were afraid of what would happen if he stuck around. 

  • After the storm, the disciples marveled at him. 
  • After the legion, the townspeople evict him. 


What would you have done? What if Jesus did some crazy miracle that seemed to impact you negatively? Coming near Jesus and following his way of doing things can be uncomfortable. It can be humbling. I can mean losing control. It can mean forgoing a purchase or promotion. It can result in change or risk. Following him can be challenging. 


Is following him worth it? Yes. Jesus was more than a man. He was more than a great teacher and healer, and storm stopper. He was a demon caster. Friends, the benefit of following Jesus outweighs the cost. He wants our devotion, and it is always worth it in the end. 


Jesus respected the community's request, got in the boat, and left. Back to Capernaum. Home. In chapter 9, people brought him a paralyzed man.

“And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven’ ” (Matthew 9:2, ESV). 

Jesus did the unexpected. He healed this man’s soul, not his body. He forgave his sin instead of making him walk. I tried to picture being there that day. Then, I imagined, what if this happened here after church? Someone comes to you and introduces a visitor wondering about youth ministry. “This is Barry.” What if you first say to Barry, “Son, your sins are forgiven”? That would be weird. 

  1. Who are you to call Barry a sinner? You have never met him. 
  2. Barry was not asking for forgiveness. He wanted to know about the youth ministry. 
  3. Finally, who are you to forgive Barry’s sins? Only God can do that. 

That may have been the feeling some had with Jesus two thousand years ago. Why did Jesus say what he said? What was he getting at? Was he connecting sickness to sin? No. He was making a point about his authority. He demonstrated he was more than a teacher, healer, storm stopper, and demon caster. He was a forgiver of sin. That is our most significant problem. It is worse than a tornado and the devil. Sin is scarier than storms, more dangerous than demons, and more problematic than paralysis. What sort of man is this? Jesus could give what everyone needs. And to some, that was offensive. So we see in verse 3.

“And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming’ ” (Matthew 9:3, ESV).

They thought he was presumptuous, even sinning, doing only what the divine could do. (They may have based their understanding on Daniel 9:9. Which states that forgiveness belongs to God.) 


Jesus addressed their internal gripe by calling himself the Son of Man. (Jesus did that using the third person. As a side note, we have not talked about this yet. That was common for Jesus. We don’t do that in America. But it was common back then. We must know that is part of the cultural and historical distance between us and the text.) What is that? Pastor Mike brought it up last week. The Son of Man was code from Daniel chapter 7 concerning the Messiah.


I saw in the night visions, 

                  and behold, with the clouds of heaven 

      there came one like a son of man, 

                  and he came to the Ancient of Days [That is God]

      and was presented before him. 

            And to him was given dominion 

      and glory and a kingdom, 

                  that all peoples, nations, and languages 

      should serve him; 

                  his dominion is an everlasting dominion, 

      which shall not pass away, 

                  and his kingdom one 

      that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV)

The devil, the demons, and God, the Father, referred to him as God’s son. However, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man. Which was it? Both were correct. Jesus was more than a teacher, healer, storm stopper, demon caster, and forgiver. He had the authority to forgive because he was God (Matthew 1:23). To demonstrate this, he made the lame man walk.


How did the crowd respond to that? They feared. The disciples marveled and wondered. The demons fled. I think the town’s people rejected him. Did the crowd in Capernaum understand who was in the room? Matthew tells us they glorified God because God gave this authority to men. Were they like Skuttle, right but mostly wrong? He was more than a man with the superpower of forgiveness. 

Jesus exceeds expectations, arrests attention, and desires devotion. 

How should we respond? Jesus wants our devotion, not rejection. He wants our faith, not a fear that puts distance between us.


Some of you are in a proverbial storm. Life is a whirlwind of chaos and clamor. God wants to help. Trust in him. Go to him with whatever faith you have. Talk to him. Call out to him. Give him your concerns, worries, burdens, and pain. He cares for you. He may not remove your immediate predicament, but he promises to be with you. He desires your devotion. 


Maybe you have seen God work like the townsfolk, which alarms you. Maybe you like how things are and don’t want to change. You enjoy control. Don’t be like those who send Jesus on their way. He wants your devotion. He is your hope and help and more valuable than anything else. We get to know him through his Word. We experience him through the Spirit. We can see him in our faith community. Don’t run him out, but run to him. He desires your devotion.


Maybe you have a sin that you need God to forgive. He died to pardon all who trust in him. God is trustworthy, truthful, pure, and powerful. If you admit your sin, he will overlook your past if you go to him (1 John 1:9). Turn from self to the Savior. Believe and embrace forgiveness. Give him your devotion. 

Don’t mistake Jesus for only being a great man, teacher, healer, storm stopper, demon caster, or even forgiver. He is the Son of Man and Son of God, the Messiah, God with us, Immanuel. He is more than meets the eye. Orient your life around him. He is the one we are to devote our lives to. 


This week, I talked with some friends at church, Steve and Justine. I would like them to come up here. They have been walking with Jesus for some time: giving him their devotion. God has done a great thing in their lives recently. I want them to share part of their story now. 


Let’s pray. 

Dear Father, thank you for Steve and Justine. Please help them to keep following you into your kingdom. Thank you for not leaving us or forsaking us. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to forgive, help, and heal us. He is in control. We believe. Please help our little faith grow. God help that person in the audience that is struggling with the storms in their life, help that person with fears in their life, that person who is struggling to give you control and proximity, help that person who is just not understanding you rightly, provide them with grace and forgiveness. As we turn to communion, help prepare our hearts to look inward to our need and heavenward for our hope. In Jesus’s name, we pray, amen.

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