Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 8:23-27
Posted by Dim Bulb on June 26, 2016
Mat 8:23 And when he entered into the boat, his disciples followed him.
“His disciples followed Him” into the ship, to cross the lake with 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.
“A great tempest.” The Greek, word “σεισμος,” generally signifies an earthquake; but in Luke 8:25; Mark 4:37, the word used is λαιλαψ, which denotes a hurricane. All lakes bounded by mountain ranges are subject to such.
“But He was asleep.” This was a natural sleep, brought on by our Lord’s own voluntary act, with the view of showing His human nature, and that He was subjected to its ordinary wants; and also, of showing His own power, of testing the faith of His disciples, and of confirming it, by a display of His Divine power. This boat, as indeed does the whole passage, in a mystical sense, represent God’s holy Church, through every phase of her chequered history.
St. Chrysostom tells us (Hom. 23, in Mattheum), that the sea represents the world; the wind and storm, the attempts of evil spirits, and wicked men, to upset the Church. The sleep of our Lord, while the hurricane was raging, reminds us that, sometimes, He permits persecution, and other trials, to assail His Church, to such a pitch of violence, as to threaten her utter destruction, which, no doubt, humanly speaking, they would long since have compassed, only that the Almighty helmsman, when fervently invoked by His suffering children, awakes from His sleep, allays the storm, restores tranquillity in His own good time; and, after testing the faith and heroism of His followers, scatters her enemies, humbling them to the dust, and showing how little human malice, or human strength, can prevail against the never-failing promises of an Almighty and Infinitely veracious God. Never, perhaps, did a more violent hurricane assail the Church of God, never did the enemies of God, devils, and their wicked instruments, the powers of this world, combine, with more apparent success, to swamp the vessel of God’s Church, than at this moment. But the children of God know on whom they have to lean. They have unbounded confidence in the midst of the storm, which assails them. They have Him on board, whom “the sea and the winds must obey,” who, by a single fiat of His will, can at once destroy their enemies. Relying on His promises, and holy protection, they never cease to cry out, with the firmest confidence of being finally heard, “Lord, save us, we perish.”
Mat 8:25 And they came to him, and awaked him, saying: Lord, save us, we perish.
“We perish.” We are on the very point of perishing, and of being lost.
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.
“O ye of little faith?” This He probably said before the miracle, as St. Matthew, who is careful to observe the order of events, records it, although Mark and Luke say, it was after it. This excessive fear, which St. Mark tells us (4:38), made them imagine that our Lord was utterly unconcerned for them, shows how weak their faith was. They had on board the Lord God, whose Divine eye never sleeps. The suddenness of the storm, or, as the Evangelists express it, of the hurricane, which overtook them, utterly bewildered them; so that they hardly knew what they were about. They were not long accustomed, at this time, to the converse of our Lord; and, hence, it was no wonder, that the dreadful danger that they were in, should have caused such fear.
“He commanded.” The Greek word means, to command authoritatively. St. Mark (4:39), gives us the form of command used. “Peace, be still.” While His sleep indicated His humanity, this miracle proved His divinity. God alone can command the elements; according to the words of the Psalmist, “Thou rulest the power of the sea, and appeasest the motion of the waves thereof” (Psa. 88); also, “He said the word, and there arose a storm of wind, and the waves thereof were lifted up,” &c. (Psa. 106:25) The words of this verse are strongly figurative, and expressive of the sovereign power of our Blessed Lord over all creation, animated and inanimate.
“And there came a great calm,” without a vestige of the storm remaining. This shows the reality of the miracle. For, after a great storm, and commotion of the waters, the waves also continue, for some time, in a state of agitation, and the sea never becomes suddenly calm, save in case of a miracle, as here.
Mat 8:27 But the men wondered, saying: What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?
“The men wondered.” This may refer both to the disciples and to the men who manned the boat, as well as to those in the other boats which accompanied them across (Mark 4:36). It may also include the multitudes on the shore.
“What manner of man is this?” He must be surely, something even more than we regarded Him. He has worked greater wonders than Moses or any other. The very elements are obedient to His will. It need hardly be observed, that the whole occurrence which took place, while our Redeemer and His disciples were crossing the lake, was clearly typical of the future condition and circumstances of God’s holy Church, and never more so than at the present moment (A.D. 1876).