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FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY.
THE TEMPEST STILLED: AND THE DEMONS
SENT INTO THE SWINE.
Matthew viii. 34.
AND, BEHOLD, THE WHOLE CITY CAME OUT
TO MEET JESUS; AND WHEN THEY SAW HIM, THEY BESOUGHT HIM THAT HE WOULD DEPART OUT OF THEIR COASTS.
In the Gospel for this day, as in that for last Sunday, an account is given of two distinct miracles of our Lord Jesus Christ. The two former miracles evinced His power to heal diseases which were considered to be incurable; and that it was not necessary for Him to be present to see or to touch the sick in order to heal them: His mighty power could effect the cure at a distance, by speaking a word only, as well as if He were in the presence of the sick person. The miracles to which our attention is this day directed, proved that He was able to controul the course of nature, the winds and the sea; and the powers of darkness, the infernal spirits.
The first of these miracles excited the astonishment of His disciples; the other the consternation of the whole city, in the neighbourhood of which it was wrought.
With regard to the first of these miracles, the Evangelist informs us that when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him; and behold there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves : but He was asleep. Our blessed Saviour was fatigued with His journeyings, or with His exertions in addressing the people, and the pressure of the multitudes around Him to hear His parables and witness His miracles; and therefore as soon as He had entered into the ship and they had launched forth,82 He laid down His head on a pillow, in the hinder part of the vessel, and fell asleep. A sudden storm of wind then came down on the lake, and the waves beat into the ship so that it was now full,88 and they were in jeopardy, in great danger of sinking. The disciples of Jesus as fishermen must have been accustomed to meet with these storms in the course of their occupation. But this was so
82 Luke viji. 22.
83 Mark iv. 37, 31.
uncommonly violent, that they were in great alarm for their safety. Being unable to manage the ship, and fearful that it would go down with them, as the waves beat into it so violently, and it seemed to be filling with water, His disciples came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish. Here we see the confidence they had in the mighty power of their Lord and Master. In ordinary cases one might suppose that their skill as fishermen would have given them every advantage that could be desired. The storm must have been dreadful indeed, to make sailors cry out in this manner.
What a contrast to the violence of the tempest, and the agitated frame of mind of the disciples, was the state of the Lord Jesus at this time. He was asleep, all peace and quietness, as if no cause of alarm had existed. When they awoke Him, instead of participating in their apprehensions, He saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, Oye of little faith? He chid them for their fears ; they were in no danger of being engulphed in the sea when He was with them. And they might also have remembered, that it was in obedience to His command that they had set sail to cross over to the other side of the lake. And to show them how safe they were under His protection; then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea ; or, as St. Mark describes the fact, He said unto the sea, Peace, be still; and the wind
ceased, and there was a great càlm.84 So that not only was the storm hushed, but the waves at once subsided, and they were immediately in smooth water. No wonder that the astonishment of those who witnessed this surprising and sudden change in their circumstances, in consequence of the word of their Lord and Master, should be greatly excited. The men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him! They had never before seen a perfect calm succeed in a moment to a tremendous storm and hurricane. What an undeniable proof of the Divine power of the Lord Jesus did this miracle afford! How great the confidence which His disciples might be expected to place in Him on all future emergencies.
But we are to remember that it is for our benefit that this stupendous miracle is left on record; that we may be led, especially in the time of our spiritual need, to make our supplication to Him that the blessings of His great salvation may be vouchsafed to us. The prayer of the disciples of Christ is one that is most suitable for us to adopt. Lord, save us, we perish. Unless He be the Saviour of our souls, we must perish everlastingly. But whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.85 Those who by faith look to Him for salvation, as the dying
84 Mark iv. 39.
85 John iii. 15.
Israelites looked for healing to the brazen serpent in the wilderness, shall not be denied the blessing. He who manifested that He had power over the elements of nature, the stormy winds, and the tempestuous waves, has all power in heaven and earth,86 which He exercises for the benefit of His people that call upon Him.
The other miracle related in the Gospel for this day, to which the text refers, exhibits the Divine power of the Lord Jesus in a very different, but not less surprising manner. When He was come to the other side of the lake, into the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. St. Luke describes one of these persons, it is supposed, as a certain man which had devils long time, and wore no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.87 And St. Mark speaks of him, as a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs, and no man could bind him, no, not with chains ; because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains; and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces; neither could any man tamehim. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.88 In what a dreadful state was
86 Matthew xxviii. 18.87 Luke viii. 27. 43 Mark v. 2-5.