The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 8:23-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 30, 2013

Mat 8:23  And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him:
Mat 8:24  And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves, but he was asleep.
Mat 8:25  And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.

And when he entered into the boat.] Concerning dangers of life. This section may be divided into two parts, one containing the preliminaries [vv. 23–25], the other describing the miracle with its immediate consequences [vv. 26, 27]. a. Preliminaries. These regard the state of nature, our Lord himself, and the disciples. Origen, Euthymius, Bede, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas,Dionysius, Salmeron, Maldonado, Jansenius, Lapide, are of opinion that the storm was brought on by a special disposition of divine providence; Chrysostom, Theophylact, think of a providential permission of the storm; but it suffices to assume that our Lord made use of the natural phenomenon, as he knows how to direct natural occurrences to a supernatural end. The Greek word employed by St. Matthew properly denotes “an earthquake,” while the expression used in the second and third gospel signifies a “hurricane.” Inland lakes like the Sea of Galilee, surrounded by high hills and mountains, are subject to sudden and violent hurricanes, on account of the close vicinity of the cool mountain air and the heated surface of the waters. St. Luke adds: “and they were filled and were in danger,” while St. Mark graphically says: “and the waves beat into the ship, so that the ship was filled.” In contrast with this outward uproar our Lord “was asleep.” Though this sleep was the natural consequence of our Lord’s fatigue from the labors of the preceding day, it may be called voluntary [Maldonado,; cf. Opus Imperfectum, Lapide] because it was intended to assist the weakness of the apostles [cf. Bede, Ambrose, Chryspstom, Paschasius]. It is true that “disciples” means not only “apostles”—the term “apostles” occurs only once in the first, the second, and the fourth gospel each, and seven times in the third—but also followers of Jesus in a wider sense [Lk. 6:17; 7:11; 19:37; John 6:66; 7:3; 19:38], and Christians in general in Acts 6:1; 9:19. Though Mk. 4:36 states “there were other ships with him,” it is hardly probable that they accompanied our Lord [Bede, Glossa Ordinalia, Lapide]; they either carried the Perean pilgrims home across the lake [Schegg], or they followed their own particular pursuits. Bed. believes that they did not even feel the effects of the tempest; but the smallness of the lake forces us to assume their share in the danger as well as in the miraculous delivery. That the apostles applied to Jesus for help is evident from the fact that the multitudes had been dismissed before, and from the impossibility of a near approach of the boats in the fury of the tempest. The disciples’ prayer is couched in so abrupt phrases that it vividly expresses their anxiety: “Lord—save us—we perish!”

Mat 8:26  And Jesus saith to them: Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith? Then rising up, he commanded the winds, and the sea, and there came a great calm.
Mat 8:27  But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?

And Jesus saith to them.] b. The miracle. Here we have first a description of the miraculous event, and then of its immediate effects. Chrysostom, Schegg, etc. are well impressed by the order of the first evangelist, who tells of our Lord’s blame of the disciples before narrating the miracle; Godet [Lk. i. 409] thinks this arrangement less in accord with Christ’s wisdom. That the disciples were not without faith may be inferred from their words “save us”; that their faith was little follows from their other words, “we perish.” The want of faith consisted in the disciples’ persuasion that they could not be saved by Jesus sleeping [Euthymius; cf. Theophylact]. At any rate, Jesus stills first the tempest of the disciples’ minds, before stilling the storm of the waters [Chrysostom]. Thus the souls of all present are better disposed for the coming miracle. The word rendered “he commanded” is interpreted variously in the Vulgate: imperavit, here; præcepit, Mt. 12:18; comminatus est, Mk. 1:23; increpavit, Mt. 16:22. The second gospel gives the very words addressed to the furious sea by our Lord: “Peace, be still.” To rebuke the sea is in the Old Testament represented as peculiar to the divinity: Ps. 18:16; 104:7; 106:9; 89:10; Nah. 1:4; Is. 51:10; cf. Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, Dionysius, Jansenius, Lamy. Those accustomed to the Old Testament must therefore have recognized our Lord’s way of acting as a sign of his divinity. That the “men” present were highly impressed with the sudden calm of the sea is evident from their words, “What manner of man is this.” Not even the greatest prophets had ever been known to perform such miracles. Chrysostom, Cajetan, Sylveira, think that the “men” pronouncing these words were the disciples alone; Jerome, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Lapide, see in these “men” the sailors alone; Knabenbauer refers us to Euthymius, Tostatus, Maldonado, Jansenius, Barradus, Fillion Schanz, Grimm, for the opinion that the “men” comprise both the disciples and the sailors of the other boats that had set out with our Lord from Capharnaum. Tertullian, Hilary, Opus Imperfectum, Bede, Paschasius, Bruno, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius, Salmeron, Jansenius, Lapide, Grimm, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer etc. see in this miracle a symbol of the church and of every faithful soul passing through the storms of this life. Many a time the Lord appears to be asleep, and he has to be waked up by the prayers of the saints to help us in the storm.

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