We are studying Matthew 8:23-27 for Sunday, June 13. It’s the brief story of Jesus “stilling a storm” during a crossing of the Sea of Galiliee. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider or discuss in class:
If we were Jesuits, we might approach this text by “composing the scene” – that is, picturing ourselves there in the story, and building up the scene sense by sense, in as much detail as we can. What do we see, in the darkness, on the sea, in this boat …? What do we hear, in this windstorm, with frightened sailors shouting directions and whatever else? What do we feel? Taste? Smell? What do we notice as we do this, about the situation, or about our own response to it? Do we get any new insight into the scene? What is it? [And then maybe spend a little time with that insight.]
If we were Jungians, we might feel this story presents us with an archetypal scene: water, a storm, a boat, a crossing, danger, rescue. So we might want to sit with it and see where it seems to echo with our own lives (since archetypes normally do), and see what having Jesus in this story brings to those parts of our lives. How does that help, or does it? What seems to be going on?
Even if we weren’t Jungians, we would probably notice that there are a lot of symbols packed into this short story: water, a boat [as our former pastor said, “whenever you read ‘boat,’ think ‘church’”], wind [Spirit? demonic chaos? both?], crossing from one place to another. We might be able to identify even more. Where or how do those symbols connect with our lives today? Do we gain some insight from that? What insight?
Jesus is in the boat, but he’s asleep. What does this tell us? Why is this important? What difference does it seem to make that Jesus is asleep?
We might want to spend some time thinking about the two lines of dialogue.
The disciples say “Lord, save [us], we are perishing!” What do we notice about that? [For instance – could we say the same thing? Would we? When?]
Jesus says “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Is there an answer to that question? [Why don’t the disciples answer this question?] Is it a rhetorical question? Do we think Jesus is suggesting they didn’t need to be afraid? Afraid of what? Why not? What does their faith have to do with it, in this case?
And then Jesus tells the wind and waves to quiet down, and they do; the disciples are amazed. What did they expect?
[More personal] Do we ever act like this?
Image: “Der Plausch am Weg” [the chat on the way], Oswald Achenbach, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
2 responses to “Reflecting on Matthew 8 23-27”
Mark’s account of the story (MK 4:35-41) includes an exclamation by the Apostles of “don’t you care?” And that seems why Jesus would upbraid them for their lack of faith. Jesus does, of course, care.
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Thanks for that thought, Tim! I still think the question is deeply thought provoking. I think most of us are more likely to think being afraid in the face of life-threatening peril is natural and obvious, so we wouldn’t ask “why” about it. Jesus’s question calls that into question, I think. Which maybe I especially notice because I am not very fearless or brave myself.
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