He Couldn’t Save Himself

There’s a famous story in which Jesus calms a storm while he and the disciples are in a boat, on the lake, being battered by the wind and waves (Matt. 8:23-27.) If you’re like me you have the idea that it would be nice if Jesus calmed every storm in your life. Since he doesn’t, we believers have come up with a famous saying about the calming of storms. We sometimes say “Jesus may not calm the storm but he will calm the sailors in the midst of the storm.” That’s true and often very encouraging.

But what if Jesus neither calms the storm nor calms the sailors? What happens when the boat is swamped by the waves, sinks to the bottom, and all the sailors die screaming in terror? That happens too, you know.

In fact, it happened to Jesus. The authorities arrested him, beat him, and nailed him to the cross. They even commented on it as they did it. “He saved others,” they said “but he cannot save himself.” (Matt. 27:42) In fact, the Bible confirms that those religious leaders were right – Jesus didn’t save himself. He died. The “boat” of his body was swamped by the wave, overwhelmed by the storm, and sank into the deep darkness of the abyss. He who calmed the storm, and calmed the sailors, was drowned in a tide of violence.

Ah, but then something happened on the third day, didn’t it? We are now in the season of Easter and we know the rest of the story. Jesus was raised from the dead!

Did you notice how I phrased that, though? I didn’t say “Jesus raised himself from the dead” I said “he was raised.” Even in death Jesus did not save himself. The Bible tells us that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 3:15, Rom. 4:24.) It was the Father, through the Holy Spirit, who raised his Son up and saved him from death (Psalm 40:2, Rom. 8:11.) So, in a sense, the teachers of the law were right – he couldn’t save himself, but his Father loves him and saved him through the Holy Spirit. He saved him through death, but not from death.

There is a profound lesson in that for all of us. There will be times when Jesus will calm storms for us. There will be times when he will calm us in the midst of the storm. But there will also be times when we will not be saved from the storm but we will be saved, in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, through death because of the storm.

None of us are getting out of this world alive. For every one of us there will eventually come a storm that will, like Jesus’ cross, overwhelm our bodies and send us sinking into the depths of death. Even though we will all eventually sink and all eventually drown we will also all eventually be made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22.) Notice how I phrased that. I didn’t say we will all eventually make ourselves alive by our faith or belief. I said that, just like our brother Jesus, we will be made alive. We can’t save ourselves but our Father who loves us will save us – even from death itself – in the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit.

~ Jonathan Stepp

5 comments so far

  1. Ted Johnston on

    Well said Jonathan.

    You words remind me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34a about not worrying about our lives, and about trusting God – seeking above all his kingdom (his rule in our lives). But notice in 34b that he concludes with a rather enigmatic sentence: “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In short, though we are not to worry; though we are to trust God instead; this trust is not naive – this is not a “health and wealth” gospel message. Despite our trust, trouble will come. But God will not leave us, and as you note, he will bring us the ultimate deliverance.

  2. janehinrichs on

    Pastor Jonathan, this blog entry is a great reminder to me and all of us who read it. God is bigger than any storms that come into our life, but He uses them in different ways to fulfill His purposes in our lives. Sometimes He calms them. Sometimes He calms us. Sometimes the storms overwhelm everything and wash all we see away. But even in that God is in control and will see us through. He will triumph. Sometimes it just takes longer to see that victory.

  3. Pastor Jonathan on

    Thanks, Jane! You are so right, it sometimes takes longer for us to see the victory but we know that it is ours in Jesus.

  4. janehinrichs on

    Amen! Thanks for your encouragement Pastor Jonathan!


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