What does Matthew 8:23 mean?
ESV: And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
NIV: Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.
NASB: When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.
CSB: As he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
NLT: Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples.
KJV: And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
Recently, Jesus responded to the growing crowds around Him (Matthew 8:18). He instructed His disciples to go with Him, by boat, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which was the size of a large lake. Now Jesus climbs into the boat and they climb in after Him, beginning to set out on the water. This was probably another instance where Jesus chose to take some time away from the spotlight (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12). Since we find Him fast asleep in the following verses, He was likely quite tired.
A 2,000-year-old fishing boat was found in this region in 1986. That boat was about 26 feet long, or about 8 meters, and could hold 15 men. It may have included a single, simple sail. This boat may have been similar to the boat used in this passage.
This body of water is relatively shallow, and the hills around it are steep. This lends itself to extreme changes in wind and weather. Calm seas can become choppy and dangerous quickly, which is what apparently happens during this trip (Matthew 8:24).
Matthew 8:23–27 demonstrates Jesus' authority over nature. Out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat, Jesus is sleeping soundly. A sudden and violent storm springs up, pouring water into the boat from the waves. The disciples fear for their lives and wake Jesus to ask Him to save them. He asks them why their faith is so small and then immediately calms the storm with a rebuke to the wind and waves. The disciples marvel and wonder what sort of man Jesus is if even the wind and sea obey Him.
Matthew begins a series of stories revealing Jesus' authority over sickness, demons, and even the weather. Jesus heals a humble man with leprosy and great faith. He then heals the servant of a Roman centurion who understands that Jesus does not need to come to his home; He can just speak a word. Jesus praises the Gentile man's amazing faith. After healing many more, Jesus and the disciples get caught in a deadly storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stops the storm with a word. Later, He casts demons out of two men and into a huge herd of pigs.
Matthew 8 follows the conclusion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–2). He turns to telling a series of dramatic stories to show Jesus' power and authority over every kind of disease, over demons, and even over the weather. Jesus also gives brief teachings about the hard road of following Him on earth. He calms a violent storm with a single command and casts demons from two violently possessed men. Matthew will focus mostly on miracles until shifting focus to Jesus' teachings and parables in chapter 11.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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