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In Luke 8:22 we read,
22 Now it came about on one of those days, that He and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over [dierchomai, “to pass through, or pass over”] to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out.
This story did not happen in sequence or chronological order, but “on one of those days.” It is one of the times when Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. In this case, as we will see, He crossed the lake first to test the disciples’ faith, and secondly, in order to heal the demoniac on the other side. Matthew places this event earlier in Jesus’ ministry (Matt. 8:23-34), telling us that when they returned to Capernaum, Jesus called Matthew Levi as the twelfth disciple (Matt. 9:9).
Yet Luke places the story after the parable of the sower in order to build upon that parable. The sower sowed the seed of the word into various types of ground, showing that all had opportunity to hear the word with their physical ears. Yet not all heard the voice of God with their spiritual ears. Since “faith comes from hearing” (Rom. 10:17), and hearing by the inner ear that hears not man but the voice of God, it usually requires some sort of trial or test to know for sure if a man has truly heard.
This appears to be Luke’s main purpose in positioning this story after the parable of the sower. Though Jesus had said in Matt. 13:16, “blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear,” Luke omits this statement in his account. Matthew’s purpose was to show that Jesus was seeing the disciples with the eye of faith, knowing that their intent was good, and indeed they would develop eyes to see and ears to hear. However, the fact that Jesus had to explain the parable to them tells us that their ability to see and hear was still very low.
Luke’s purpose was to focus upon this blindness and deafness that yet remained in the hearts of the disciples in their early years of training. Therefore, he gives us an illustration of the disciples’ weakness and lack of faith immediately after this parable.
We read in Luke 8:23-25,
23 But as they were sailing along, He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended upon the lake, and they began to be in danger. 24 And they came to Him and woke Him up, saying, “Master, we are perishing!” And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. 25 And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
It seems that the disciples were living examples of the word of truth being choked out by “thorns” (Luke 8:14). They had indeed heard the word, but they were “choked with worries” and were in danger of not bringing “fruit to maturity.” So Jesus made them confront their worries in order to uproot the thorns in their hearts.
As Jesus had said earlier in Luke 8:17, “nothing is hidden that shall not become evident.” All lack of faith will come to light when we follow Jesus. This is the irony of being led by the Spirit, for we are led into situations where our faith is tested, usually resulting in the exposure of our weakness—not so that we should be condemned, but so that we should see our hearts clearly and be able to make the necessary changes. Unfortunately, however, other people (especially relatives) only see the failure and use it as a lesson NOT to be led by the Spirit. “See,” they say, “they should never have tried to be led by the Spirit. Such a path only brings trouble.”
They do not understand the purpose of the four gospels, which is to show how the disciples were trained in faith and eventually were empowered to move mountains.
The test of faith lies in the crossover from one shore to the other. That is where the winds blow fiercely. That is where our faith is tested. But it is better to cross over to the other side than to remain safely at home, where our lack of faith remains hidden and we continue in our illusion of faith.
In Luke 8:22 Jesus says, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” Luke puts a compound Greek word in Jesus’ mouth, dierchomai, “to go through, pass through.” The word dia means “through, to reach penetration.” The word erchomai means “to go from one place to another.” Hence, it means to “cross over” the lake.
As usual, even though Luke’s gospel was written in Greek, we must keep in mind that it reflects Hebrew thought patterns. The word “Hebrew” is Heber, or Eber, which literally means “an immigrant, one who crosses over.” The book of Hebrews showed the Jews how to cross over from the Old Covenant system to the New. Hence, the title of the book is not the Book of Jews nor is it the Book of Israelites, but the Book of Hebrews. I believe that the Apostle Paul wrote this book, and Luke was his scribe.
Therefore, we ought to view the story of Jesus crossing the lake as prophetic of crossing over from flesh to spirit, from hearing men to hearing God, and from persuasion to faith. This story shows Jesus, who was led by the Spirit to cross the lake, giving His disciples a test of faith, and so the central question in Luke 8:25 is, “Where is your faith?”
Years later, of course, we see Paul’s example of faith in Acts 27:22, while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in a storm along with Luke himself. While the rest of the passengers and crew were afraid for their lives, Paul and Luke heard the word of the Lord and were able to encourage the others (Acts 27:36).
Though written in Greek, the structure of this story is Hebrew:
A. Departure (Luke 8:22)
B. Words of the Lord (Luke 8:22)
C. The Effect: Obedience (Luke 8:22)
1. The Lord asleep (Luke 8:23)
2. Storm descends (Luke 8:23)
3. Disciples in Danger (Luke 8:23)
1a. The Lord awakened (Luke 8:24)
2a. Storm rebuked (Luke 8:24)
3a. Disciples rebuked (Luke 8:25)
C2. The Effect: Wonder (Luke 8:25)
B2. Words of the disciples (Luke 8:25)
A2. Arrival (Luke 8:26)
The structure reveals the most important lesson in the middle. In this case, the story had two midpoints (3 and 3a). It is first the disciples’ response to danger, and secondly by Jesus’ rebuke: “Where is your faith?”
Knowing the structure of the passage is helpful, because we can then see how it relates to the parable of the sower and faith-based relationships with both God and man.
We conclude, then, that this story was how to become a true Hebrew, that is, how to cross over from the persuasion of men to genuine faith that comes only by hearing God’s voice. When we hear men preach, or when we read men’s books, we learn things that we did not know before; but how do we really know if the heart has been affected, or if the learning has remained stuck in one’s head? How do we cross over to the heart realm of true faith?
Luke’s story gives us one very large clue. If adversity causes us to fear, then we are not yet walking in mature faith. Fear of surrounding circumstances is an indication that we do not truly believe that Jesus is in our “boat,” or if He is, then surely He must be asleep, caring little that our lives may be in danger.
1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love.” Neither is there fear in faith. The first speaks of fear in relationships; the second speaks of fear in circumstances. The love relationship removes fear of circumstances, for such a relationship has confidence that He will never leave us, even if He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.