“And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'” (Matthew 8:27, ESV).
In Mathew 8:18-34 the evangelist records three encounters between Jesus and various people. First, there is a crowd from which some offer to follow Jesus. To them Jesus warns of the cost of discipleship (8:18-22). Second comes the calming of the storm with the twelve apostles’ confusion and wonder as to the great power he demonstrated (8:23-27). Finally, there is the healing of the two demoniacs in Gadara who confessed him as “O Son of God” (8:28-34).
Reading these accounts sequentially, we are impressed that the two men possessed by demons seem to have had a more complete recognition of Jesus’ true identity than did those who were his constant companions. Perhaps this is an illustration of Paul’s later observation that it was the foolish and insignificant of the world to whom the Gospel most appealed, because “the foolishness of God is wiser than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25).
I struggle to find the most effective and efficient means of presenting Jesus and his message to men and women who have never heard the gospel preached. I have had the privilege of speaking to audiences in remote villages where no Christian to my knowledge had ever spoken. How does one, in a few minutes, hours, or perhaps days, introduce such hearers to the amazing Son of God? How does one take advantage of what is likely to be a single opportunity to bring a lost soul to Christ?
The question posed by the apostles in the storm-tossed boat may be one key approach: “What sort of man is this?” Jesus was absolutely human, and the ideal human. But he was and is also absolutely, perfectly divine. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). He possessed, while on earth incarnate, every characteristic of the human race (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18), including the ability to be tempted. Yet he lived a sin free, perfect life (Hebrews 4:15).
What sort of man was he? He was perfect; he was unique. He was both human and divine. There has never been and will never be another human completely like him. Yet, he also makes it possible for all who follow him to become like him in certain essentials. Because of his sacrifice we can be free from sin and guilt (Romans 8:1). Because of his resurrection we have hope of immortality (1 Corinthians 15:20ff). Because of Jesus’ life and message, we may become children and heirs of God (Romans 8:16-17).
Peter confessed him in theological terms, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). But many other titles and descriptions abound in the New Testament records of his mission and purpose. He is “The holy and righteous one” (Acts 3:17); “The author of life” (Acts 3:18); “The apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1); and “The founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), to name only a few of the appellations given to him.
Beyond all else Jesus is the unique Son of God through whom the Creator has revealed himself and called all mankind to faith and obedience. What sort of man is Jesus? The one through whom God has fulfilled his promises and accomplished his purpose. The sort of man – indeed, the only man – whom we can trust with our eternal souls (1 John 2:1-2).