“And He arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly and said one to another, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him’?”
Pondering Who He is will cause us to be both drawn to Him and driven from Him.
That’s the meaning of the Latin phrase “mysterium tremendum” a German scholar named Rudolf Otto coined early in the 20th Century to try and describe the Holiness of God. For years he studied human feelings when confronted with the Holy and discovered several things.
First, he found people have a difficult time describing the Holy. Second, he found a contemplation of God’s Holiness will at times evoke indescribable peace, while at other times overwhelming fear and trembling—like Isaiah’s experience in the Temple after King Uzziah’s death (Is. 6:1-8) and Peter’s reaction after Jesus’ directed them to a miraculous catch after a night of fruitless labor (Lk. 5:1-8).
Such was certainly the case in today’s Manna. After encountering one of the violent storms on the Sea of Galilee that can come up so quickly, the disciples began fearing for their lives (vv.35-38). Some of them were seasoned sailors; yet, still they felt compelled to awaken their sleeping Savior and ask Him, “Do you not care that we perish?” (v.38b).
How we grieve our Lord’s Holy Heart with such careless, callused indictments!
Instead of learning from His Example—“And He was in the back part of the boat asleep on a pillow” (v.38)—they began accusing Him of not caring for them or their well-being. No wonder the prophet Isaiah called Him “a Man of sorrows” (Is. 53:4).
Yet, He did not get up and rebuke them for waking Him up; instead, He “rebuked the wind and the waves and said ‘Peace, be still’” (v.39a). Then, He used that as a teachable moment by asking them “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
It’s interesting that they then began to “fear exceedingly.” Suddenly, their fear of the howling winds and dashing waves was replaced by a “mysterium tremendum, awe-filled, holy fear” of being in the Presence of Someone Who was unlike anyone they’d ever met before (v.41).
Like Moses (Ex. 3:1-6), they suddenly realized they were “standing on Holy Ground,” even though they were in a tiny boat on the Sea of Galilee. And, again, this creates within us a “dichotomy of the Divine” whereby we’re filled with both trembling and terror. The disciples had never been around this “manner of Man” and neither have we. It’d only be later on. . .after His crucifixion, death, Resurrection, Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. . . that they’d begin to realize they’d been in the Presence of Holiness Incarnate when Jesus had walked among them. May His same “mysterium tremendum” Presence overwhelm us today and spur us on to “live holy lives because He is Holy” (Lev. 11:45).
By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated November 24, 2010