Master, Master
Based on Series of Sermons on the Repetition of Name and Titles
Preached in PCC Worship Service, 7 July 2013
Part 1 of 2


We are continuing our series of studies on the repetition of names and titles in the Bible. We come now to Luke 8:22-25, where we read in verse 24, “And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish.”

In this article, we’ll make some observations from this passage and in the next, we’ll draw some lessons from it.

Observations

Verse 22, “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” The LORD was ministering up in Galilee at this time and the lake being referred to is the Sea of Galilee or sometimes known as the Lake of Gennesaret.

According to Mark, it was evening time. That day had been a very busy one of ministering to the people. The Lord was on a boat preaching to the great multitude that had gathered on the seashore, and included in His sermon was the famous parable of the sower and the seed.  

Then having concluded His sermon, He sent the great multitude away, and instructed His disciples to go over to the other side of the lake, referring to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. And so the disciples, using that same boat He had been preaching from the whole day, launched forth as they had been instructed. Again from Mark, we learn that there were other boats that launched out together with them as well. 

Now just bear in mind that it was the Lord Himself who instructed His disciples to launch out into the Sea. The disciples were not the ones who initiated this journey. They were simply following instructions. We will come back to the significance of this fact later on.

Verse 23, “But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.”

Sudden storms in the sea of Galilee were not uncommon. The sea is about 700 feet below sea level and is depressed with hills surrounding it. The hills on the east side were particularly steep. Cool air rushing down the ravines and hills around the lake can collide with the warm air above the lake, and that can create an instant storm in the confined quarters.

Both Luke and Mark use the word storm, but Matthew is more descriptive. He calls it a great tempest in the sea or literally a mega “sea-quake.” The whole sea was shaking as a result of the storm.  

Notice, in verse 23, the phrase, “and they were filled with water.” Quite clearly, it was the boat that was being filled up with water because of the great waves that were sweeping over it, but Luke uses the plural. He says they were being filled rather than it was being filled with water. He does this because he is describing the storm from the perspective of the people on board rather than from the perspective of the boat itself, which Matthew and Mark both do. Luke personalises the language so that while the boat was the thing that was being filled up with water, it was the people who were in danger of being overwhelmed by the storm. 

Again, remember that these people who were onboard were no mere passengers or novice sea-travellers. They were experienced fishermen and sailors who had encountered rough seas on many occasions. But on this occasion, they were utterly powerless and helpless. They were being overwhelmed and overcome by this furious storm and they felt that theirs lives were in great jeopardy or danger as verse 23 says.

But not everyone on board the ship felt that way. In the midst of all the motion and commotion, there was one who had fallen into a deep sleep. In contrast to the disciples who were panicking, the Lord was asleep and at peace. Quite clearly, Jesus and His disciples had very different reactions to what was going on. It was the same storm but viewed from two different and contrasting perspectives. One was a reaction of panic and anxiety while the other was a reaction of peace and tranquillity.

Verse 24 says, “And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.”

The disciples had come to the end of themselves in terms of their ability and skill to navigate out of these rough waters. They honestly felt that they were going to go down into the sea and drown. And so in their desperation, they decided to turn to the Lord. Matthew records the disciples as saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” while Mark has it as, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

It is only in Luke’s gospel that we read of them as saying, “Master, master, we perish.” There is no contradiction for the disciples indeed could have said all those things. The different gospel writers simply capture different parts or aspects of their cry. Luke not only captures the earnestness and urgency of their plea, but also their affection for the One whom they are calling upon. He is not just anyone but He is their Master and Lord. He is the One whom they love and serve and are devoted to.

And they know that He cares and is concerned about their well-being, and He can be relied upon to help them. And so they cried out, “Master, Master.” The Greek word translated “master” is interesting. Luke is the only New Testament writer to use it, and in all the six times that it appears in his gospel, it is used in reference to Christ. The word means overseer or superintendent or commander. The person addressing Christ in that way is demonstrating an attitude of obedience and submission to Him.

We see that for example in Luke 5:5 when after a whole night of fruitless fishing, Jesus instructs Simon Peter to launch out into the deep and let down his net for a catch. Simon Peter answered, “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.” As if to say, “We are very experienced fishermen and we have let down those nets countless times through the night and yet we’ve got nothing. You are a carpenter by training and not a fisherman. Nevertheless, because you are the Master and commander, we will follow your word and let down the net for the last time today.”  

Well, we know the rest of the story. After Peter puts in the net, a huge multitude of fish is caught and the nets begin to break. Peter immediately recognised that Jesus was no ordinary man. He fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” That miracle took place on the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Galilee, the same sea that they were now in in our text. 

“Master, Master,” they cried, “we are going to be destroyed.” In response, the Master, having been awakened from His sleep, arose and rebuked both the wind and the raging water. The result was that they ceased, and there was a calm. Notice how Luke records the miracle of the silencing of the storm in two steps – first the activity of the wind and waves ceases, and then there was a calm. Both Matthew and Mark even tell us that it was a great or mega calm. So from a mega tempest or sea-quake to a mega calm – all in just an instant of time.

Verse 25, “And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.”

There are three parts to this verse. First, the Lord’s rebuke for the disciples’ lack of faith, second, the disciples’ response of fear to what had just taken place, and third, their question of amazement. Let’s consider them briefly.

The Lord rebuked His disciples by asking them a rhetorical question, that is, a question that does not need to be answered. “Where is your faith?” The point that the Lord was making was simply that the disciples failed to exercise the faith that was expected of them. They ought to have been much more trusting than that, given all that they had previously seen and heard and known of Him. 

Now in Matthew’s gospel, we read that the Lord said to them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” And then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and calmed the storm. In Mark and Luke’s gospel, the order is reversed. The Lord first rebukes the storm and then He questions His disciples about their lack of faith.

How do we reconcile this seeming contradiction between the gospel accounts? Probably the best solution is to see that the Lord actually spoke to His disciples, not once, but, twice concerning their lack of faith: the first time before He calmed the storm, and the second time after He calmed the storm.

This is not surprising or unusual if you consider that there were really two storms that needed to be rebuked and calmed that night. There was, of course, the literal storm that was raging on the Sea of Galilee. But there was also the figurative or metaphorical storm that was raging in the hearts of His disciples as a result of the first storm. And in a way, this second storm required more attention and more effort to calm than the first. Nature is very obedient and responsive to the word of the LORD. One word and it is enough, it is done. But fallen human beings, including those who have been redeemed, are not so quick to respond. Often, they need to hear the word more than once before they will obey.

When the Lord first spoke to the disciples about their fears and lack of faith prior to the calming of the storm, the disciples must have still been afraid and lacking in faith. The storm in their hearts continued to rage. And so after the literal storm had been stilled, the Lord spoke to them a second time about their fear and faithlessness. They really needed to hear that second word and rebuke from the Lord.

Luke goes on to say in verse 25, “And they being afraid, wondered…” The disciples were filled with fear and amazement at the miracle which their master had just performed. Now this fear which they had in verse 25 is not to be confused with the fear which they had prior to the calming of the storm. That earlier fear came about because of the terrible storm. They were afraid that they were going to lose their lives and die in it. But their later fear had to do with the One who had suddenly and dramatically stilled the storm. Their first fear was a hysterical kind of panic and anxiety, which was not good; while the second kind of fear was a holy awe and reverence for Jesus, and that was to be commended.

This incident on the Sea of Galilee clearly demonstrates both the humanity and deity of Jesus. His humanity is particularly seen in that He fell asleep in the boat. Angels and spirits do not, and certainly God Himself does not sleep. The Psalmist says in Psalm 121:4, “Behold, he (the LORD) that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” But the Lord Jesus was fully man and so He could and indeed He needed to sleep. He was totally exhausted after a hard day’s work of ministry and He had expended all His energy, and needed to replenish it through sleep.

Another way that we see the humanity of Jesus in this passage is found in the last part of verse 25, where the people say, “What manner of man is this?” In other words, they recognized that Jesus was fully man. The problem of course is that they simply didn’t know which category of man to classify under since He was in a category all of His own. They knew of no category of man that could command the winds and the water, and obtain their immediate obedience; and thus their utter amazement at what He had done.

And this is precisely the reason why we say that this passage also demonstrates to us the deity or divinity of Jesus. Only a divine person can speak to the elements of nature and get them to do His bidding without delay. The Lord Jesus has the exact same power as the God of Jonah, and the implication is that He is God Himself. And what Jonah told the pagan sailors about His God is fully applicable to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Jonah 1:9-10 we read, “And he (Jonah) said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him, Why hast thou done this?”

Then a few verses later, we read, “So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging. Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.”
The Lord Jesus is indeed the God of the Hebrews, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. He is no local deity. He is not one god among many gods. No, He is THE Most High God, who has taken to Himself human nature in order to dwell among men…

…to be continued, next Issue

—Linus Chua