Matt’s narrative in chapter 8 of his gospel is an interesting redaction of Mark’s original stilling of the storm story. Redaction is the fancy word used in gospel studies for editing. When we say Matthew redacted something we are saying Matthew edited/altered/added to or changed words he inherited from Mark. Why? To emphasize, highlight or make a point.
Matt inserts a section right before the storm section about the disciples claiming they will follow Jesus wherever and whenever (follow is a very key term in Matthew for discipleship). In other words Matthew sets up the storm story very different than Mark.
Matt. 8.18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” 21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.
The section above is unique to Matthew’s version it is not the introduction to the stilling of the storm in Mark. While Mark 4.35 is parallel to Matthew 8.18, verses 19-22 are unique to Matt. The point? Matthew is setting up this story totally different than Mark because I think his point is quite different. 2x in this introductory Matthew chunk the word follow is used. Then as we get ready for the disciples to get into the boat that heads into the storm Mark says in 4.36 “Leaving the crowd behind, they (the disciples)took him (Jesus) along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.” Matthew on the other hand says in 8.23 “Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.” Now it seems like a small edit. But it highlights something crucial for Matthew.
He sets up the story with the disciples saying “hey this following you thing?” “All good Jesus! Can do! Not a problem!” Jesus offers a little warning. “I’m homeless though guys you still good with that? I don’t go with typical family conventions what I am following is a bit bigger than convention.” What happens next? They follow Jesus into the boat. This is the third usage of follow in these few set up verses in Matthew none of which are found in Mark.
Then you know what happens… the storm comes up and the disciples freak out.
It is pretty clear Matthew has a different emphasis than Mark.
The point? Matthew seems to be saying that when following Jesus you will be following him into storms that threaten your very sense of safety. Following Jesus means coming face to face with your fears and knowing they can drop away. Following Jesus means you are making a commitment to face the internal demons that appear to loom on the horizon and to weather storms.
What if Matthew wants us to know one of the fundamental components of following Jesus is facing your deepest fears. Storms are always vertigo inducing if it is a violent one and you are in a boat. I was in Dallas yesterday. And as I went to bed there was an incredible storm outside. No fear for me. I was at the Comfort Inn and Suites. But in a boat? Not for me.
But when we follow Jesus insecurities will be surfaced if we want to grow and develop. And Jesus is apparently not worked up at all that our ego needs to face the dark stuff that makes us fearful. He stilled the storm but it is clear he thought they wussed out.
What is it like to be calm and centered in the midst of storms that essentially exist in the stories we tell ourselves in our heads? Those are far more terrifying than an external storm and far more prevalent and frequent. This comes to the very center of the idea of human development and our ability to hold more and more complexity in our lives in tension. This is the course of exploration that starts in Sept on SEL.
SEL, Spiritual Explorations Live, is an online community from all over the nation that comes together on Sunday nights at 6:00pm EST for in real time dialogue to hit on topics such as ego, storms and fears. Video seats, chatboards, and noteboards enable us to have the safe conversations about how to live out of imago dei, out of the way that God has made us. You can check out more about SEL here. On September 14th we’re going to launch a new small groups series at SEL, a series that has us talking about a key missing ingredient in spiritual formation. If you are interested in joining the conversation contact us at email@example.com. If your small group is interested in video seating for the upcoming conversations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.