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In the second century B.C. Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a Syrian Greek tyrant, ruled over the Jewish nation with an iron fist, claiming god-like power over all of nature. In the end, though, he was stricken ill and weak, prompting this pitiful epitaph in 2 Macabees 9:8, “Thus he who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea, in his superhuman arrogance, and imagining that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all.”

In stark relief when compared to the bluster of earthly rulers like Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Jesus didn’t proclaim his deity by governmental decree, with military might, or through political power. Instead, he simply exercised divine authority in daily life—like when he literally commanded a storm to be still and all of nature hastened to obey him (Matthew 8:23-27).

It is no wonder that Matthew reports Christ’s disciples “were amazed” (8:27) and that Mark adds “they were terrified” (Mark 4:41). In ancient Israel, “the sea was a mysterious, dangerous place, characterized by chaos and possessing the power to kill without warning…To some biblical writers the sea acted as a symbol, ‘a principle of disorder, violence, or unrest that marks the old creation’ (cf. Ps. 107:25-25; Isa. 57:20; Ezekiel 28:8).” Biblically speaking, only God himself was able to tame the chaotic sea—only God could impose his will upon that uncontrollable force (Psalm 65:7, 89:9, 104:6-7).

That Jesus demonstrated God’s sole and total authority over the waters—and that he did so with such enormous ease—had to be stunning for anyone to witness. As theologian Craig Evans comments, “In contrast to the Greco-Roman despots like Antiochus IV and the later Roman emperors, about whom all sorts of hyperbole were inscribed,…Jesus is the genuine article. He speaks the word, and it happens.”

Amazing. And terrifying. And more wonderful than words.

Soli Deo gloria!

 

Works Cited:

[MAT, 196; SLU, 204]

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