They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Walking on Water

Jesus Walking on WaterThe only miracle in the New Testament where the disciples say, “Truly this is the Son of God”, was the miracle of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:23-33). Could the reason for this be found in the Hebrew bible? In Job 9:8 it says, “He [God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” What about Psalm 107:28-30, where it says, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” Also, in this story, Jesus walks by the boat on the water. Listen to the next passage in Job 9:11 talking about God. ”When He passes me, I cannot see Him, when He goes by, I cannot perceive Him”. Could it have been that those disciples knew their Text and realized that God was present among them because Jesus had done what the Text said God alone could and would do? The miracle of calming the sea does not necessarily prove that Jesus was God. Moses and Elijah also performed miracles with water. What made the miracle so profound was that He walked on the sea and by doing so, according to the Text, claimed to be just like God. Also, like the Jonah story (Jonah 1:4-6), both Jesus and Jonah were asleep in the bottom of the boat, just before the storm was calmed. The disciples must have thought, “It’s happening again!” However, this time, the greater Jonah (Jesus) went toward His mission from God instead of running from it.

How many times have we seen this happen in Scripture where something that Jesus did was fulfillment of the Hebrew text? The Bible is one long interwoven thread – we just have to study it enough to be able to trace the cord!

Jesus Calms the Storm

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

— Mark 4:35-41

Although Matthew and Luke also record the miraculous story of Jesus calming the storm, Mark’s gospel gives more details and records Jesus’ words as he spoke to the storm. The story is familiar to us; Jesus tells his disciples that they are going to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. While they are crossing, a huge storm comes up and threatens to sink the boat. Amazingly, Jesus is asleep on a pillow in the bottom of the boat! The disciples awake Jesus and plead with him to do something. “Don’t you care if we drown?” they cry out. Jesus rebukes the storm and says to the wind and waves, “Quiet! Be Still!”. At once the storm dies down and it is completely calm. The disciples were terrified even after the sea was calm and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” Admittedly, this was a great miracle, but they had already seen him heal people of various diseases including leprosy, make a paralyzed man walk, restore a man’s shriveled hand and even drive out demons. Why were they terrified enough in this case to say, “Who is this?” What about this act by Jesus to calm the storm convinced them that this rabbi that they were following was without a doubt the son of God? The answer, as usual, is in the Hebrew text! Jesus showed himself to be God by doing the same things that God did in their Hebrew Scriptures. Let’s take a look.

The first connection is from the Psalms, in 107:28. The psalmist, in describing God says, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble and He stilled the storm to a whisper. They were glad when it grew calm and he guided them to their desired haven.” Then, in Psalm 65:7 it says, “Who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of the waves?” Also, Proverbs 30:4 says, “Who has come down from heaven and gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands and wrapped up the waters in his cloak?” The disciples knew the Psalms and knew that this man who had calmed the sea must be God because this is what God does!

Another story that would have had a huge connection is the story of Jonah. Like Jesus, Jonah is asleep in the bottom of a boat, during a huge storm and the sailors wake him and ask him the same question as the disciples asked Jesus. “Don’t you care if we drown?” In the Jonah story, God also calms the storm. All these same details demand that the Jonah story be part of this God story that Mark records.

The third story from the Old Testament that the disciples would have no doubt thought back to, is the Exodus itself. When the Israelites were backed up against the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army was approaching, the were terrified and cried out to the Lord and to Moses. Moses told the people, “Be Still!” These were the exact words that Jesus used to calm the storm. The Messiah who was to come to Israel was supposed to be like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15). Because Jesus used the exact words that Moses had used as God’s messenger, the disciples must have made another connection and thought to themselves that Jesus was the second Moses! He is the one who is to come to us, the prophet!

To look back to the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus and his disciples would have known so well is like looking at the same room from a different window. Looking at the New Testament through the window of the Old Testament doesn’t change the story, but it makes it so much deeper and richer. The deeper you dive the deeper it gets. There is so much more in the text than we see on the surface. This story of Jesus calming the storm is just one of the many examples.

Kick Against the Pricks (Goads)

The Conversion of Saul, Michelangelo Buonarroti

The Conversion of Saul, Michelangelo Buonarroti

I wanted to write a short story on what I had learned about this little saying that I had heard before and was in a song Johnny Cash wrote (When the Man Comes Around). First of all this saying is found, not in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament, in Acts 26:14. Paul is describing his Damascus Road experience to King Herod Agrippa II. Paul says that God said to him, ”Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (the King James version says, the pricks). I had always wondered what that meant. A little look at the Hebrew meaning gave me some interesting results.

From the study of the various Hebrew words that mean, “to teach”, I learned that the verb “lamad” is a root word and part of the meaning of the word, “ox goad”. The letter “l“ in the Hebrew alphabet is “lamed”, and is formed in the shape of a goad or prod that is used on animals for making them go where you want them to. The letter in the alphabet actually has a hook on it that makes it look just like a goad or prod. The Hebrew word for ox goad is “malmad”, and is an instrument fitted with a nail or sharp point. Ox goad in Hebrew means literally, “the thing that teaches” (see above, lamad). Ecclesiastes 12:11 says, God’s words are” like goads, like firmly embedded nails” to prod us.

When God asked Saul why he was kicking against the goads, He was telling Saul that He had been trying to get him to go where he was prodding him to and he wouldn’t go. Paul had heard Stephen speak yet did not listen and continued to kick against the goads. He had continued to fight against God’s words by doing what he had been doing in persecuting every Christian that he could find. God finally stopped Paul by speaking to him from heaven and blinding him and putting him in darkness for three days.

An interesting side story to this one is, to the early rabbis, Jonah was the classic example of someone who kicked against the goads. He clearly heard the word of the Lord to go to Nineveh but he chose not to obey and went the opposite direction. What did God do to Jonah? He put him in darkness for three days! So, Paul is treated just like one of the other great prophets in the Scriptures! The Bible is such a fascinating book!

Here is a bit more on the word from the Hebrew:

The Hebrew letter for “l” is “lamed” (also the word for the number 30). It can be represented many ways – as shown below:

Like many ancient writing systems, the Hebrew alphabet was originally represented through a series of pictures or pictographs. The original pictograph for lamed represents a goad.