If you’ve ever been mad at the weather for being weather, or hated an illness for causing someone you love to suffer, you’re in good company. Jesus did the same thing – only He scolded weather and illness, and these forces obeyed Him.
Now I’m not struck by the fact that elements that exist inside a created universe are subject to the One who created it, but by the fact Jesus reprimands these non-intelligent forces of nature like disobedient children.
“Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them.” – Luke 4:38-39.
Maybe He used this approach, consistent with the aminism-like outlook that pervaded society of the day, because it met with the expectations of his audience. Perhaps they’d be more unnerved at that early stage of His ministry by the thought that Jesus had dominion over disease than the notion of him exorcising the woman of a fever-causing demon – as the rebuke implies. Lots of mystics in those days claimed to be able to go toe-to-toe with evil spirits, but not many claimed to have true authority over life and death.
But in other moments in the Gospels, Jesus heals people without rebuking their illnesses. He didn’t lecture leprosy to death or badger blindness away. But He did rebuke the fever that afflicted Simon’s mother-in-law.
And was He talking to the microbes?
Why did He choose to scold the storm? As I speculated with Peter’s mother in law, did He do it for the sake of his audience, the members of which were accustomed to a view of the sea as a malevolent entity with a will of its own? I’d like to be able to explain it that way, but would that be mere rationalizing?
The author(s) of an Australian Christian website called Holy Spirit Workshop suggest that the wind and waves were, in fact, misbehaving: “These were the winds and the waves that no longer behaved as they were designed to and as they had done so before the flood. Winds that were generated when the windows of the Heavens released their waters and the waters of the deep came forth during the first 40 days of the flood.” (from The Eight Rebukes of Jesus, posted in July 2011).
Sort of sounds like the wayward tree roots that enveloped Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers. The young hobbits would have been done for, if not for the intervention of Treebeard – whose race, the Ents, had ‘awoken’ the trees of the forests into a consciousness of sorts in bygone eons.
Now that sort of storytelling makes for great fantasy fiction, but that’s not what the Bible is, is it?
I’m not suggesting that the ancient, yet living, breathing Word is literal history. But it’s a great deal more than a bunch of ancient wisdom dressed up in fables and folktales, to be sure. As I’ve said ad nauseam in Disciplehood over the years, I think there’s room for us to doubt that everything in the Bible is necessarily fact, but I firmly believe that it contains 100% pure Truth about God and His creation.
So the notion that inaimate forces of nature like wind, waves and illness can misbehave really seems out of place, doesn’t it? We live in a world where people get sick because of germs and their own bad choices. Storms are caused by the constant, random collisions of air pressures, temperatures humidity and aridity – not by malevolence or mischief in the seas or skies.
Or could there be more to what we’re tempted to dismiss as legends and lore than we think? Is it possible that in our efforts to scientifically and rationally explain and understand our environment, we’ve chosen to shut our eyes to everything that can’t be measured and quantified?
And if that’s the case, are we shortchanging ourselves?
I say ‘shortchanging’ because if we seek to understand something but the very method we use to learn about that something causes us to dismiss an integral aspect of the thing, we’re failing before we get started, aren’t we?
But far more importantly, there’s Scriptural reason to think that our disbelief in a genuine power reduces its efficacy in our lives.
“He (Jesus) could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.” – Mark 6:5-6
Jesus couldn’t do many miracles, because of people’s lack of faith.
Is it possible that the reason there are so few spiritual healings in the Western World that people in the Western World don’t believe in spiritual healing? Is it possible that God isn’t doing more in our lives because we doubt that He wants to, or that He even can?
In Matthew 17:20, Jesus told His followers that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. Moved any mountains lately?
What storms and fevers does Jesus want to rebuke in your life? And is it possible that it’s your unbelief, in both Him and in yourself, that’s holding Him back?
Peace be with you.