23 August 2020

Book: Matthew

All Sermons

He Saves Desperate People

Bible Passage: Matthew 14:22-33

If you were there would you have gotten out of the boat? In the middle of the violent and roaring winds would you have thrown your leg over the side? In the middle of waves which battered the side of your boat and maybe even threatened to capsize it would you have hopped out? I would like to think I might have been like Peter that day and hopped out, but I really don’t think I would have. Would you?

In that moment there would have been plenty of things playing into our decision. Of course there was the horrific storm, but if we were one of the disciples we would have been skilled fishermen on a body of water that was known for having violent storms rise up seemingly out of nowhere. What really seemed to strike fear into the hearts of the disciples was what they thought they saw… a ghost. The sea was already an unknown thing, a thing that was nearly uncontrollable and at any moment could rise up and take your life. Maybe the figure appearing out in the distance was a phantom—a sign of their impending doom. So they were afraid. And if I had been with them and had similar thoughts, I don’t know if I would have hopped out.

So why did Peter? Why did Peter leave the seeming safety of his boat? Was it his incredibly strong faith? If you were to go back to Matthew 8 you could read the account when Jesus calms the storm. There are some similarities between this account and that one. In both the winds and waves were brutal. In both the disciples are gripped with fear. But a key difference is that Jesus was present with them then and was not now. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Peter could not see Jesus and as a result was gripped by fear. It doesn’t seem that in this moment Peter’s faith was so incredible as to cause him to step overboard.

Was it his determination? Even that on closer examination doesn’t seem to be the case. When Jesus made known to his disciples that he wasn’t a ghost but that it was himself walking on the water. Peter didn’t run out to greet him, but instead posed a kind of test. “Lord, IF it is you tell me to come to you on the water.” At first, Peter doesn’t seem all that convinced that it was Jesus.

Well then maybe once he realized that it was Jesus it was his own focus which caused him to hop out onto the water? Well as soon as Peter’s feet touched the water, his own lack of focus becomes evident. He felt the wind against his body and he saw the waves which were ready to strike and he lost focus and he began sinking into the deep.

The disciples provide an interesting contrast to what we saw in them last week. Last week the were overcome by their own pragmatism and rationality when instead of bring a problem to Jesus the told him to deal with it by sending the people away. But here they aren’t being pragmatic at all, instead they are overcome by their own superstitions and fear. They had just seen that Jesus had authority over creation when he took 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and fed more than 5000 people with it, but this situation was maybe above his pay grade. The terror creeping in became too much. The doubt that already present in their heart came rising up. 

We shouldn’t pretend that winds and waves weren’t a very real threat, they were an enormous and very real threat. But maybe what changed in the disciples was that this was now their problem. They were directly impacted whereas in the feeding of the 5000 it was the people who were hungry not them. The chaos of the world around them became quite real, it was all too real, and in a way it became even more real than Jesus himself.

Do you know why I am relatively certain I would not have gotten out of that boat? Because I know that the winds and waves and chaos of this world is all too real, and yes to my own shame they sometimes seem much more real than Jesus. And maybe you too would have been seated right there with me clinching your eyes and holding on for dear life.

What chaos in this world has taken hold of you? What is it that seems so much more real than your Savior?

I do not want to insinuate that I somehow think that you have no faith. I cannot read your heart, but I choose to believe that as a Christian you put your trust in your Savior most of the time. Yet if you trust in the Lord most of the time, most of the time you will not see why that is problematic. It is only when we are threatened by the chaos of this world and our lives are rocked by wind and waves and you and I are clinching our eyes, screaming out in fear, and holding on for dear life that we begin to realize how little determination, how little focus, and how little faith we actually have.

It is precisely then in that moment when we finally despair of ourselves and we see Jesus and we hear his call and he shows us that he is always present to save and to calm.

In the middle of their terror the disciples thought Jesus was a ghost, but knowing their fear and terror immediately, without skipping a beat, Jesus said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” This is a profound statement. To make it intelligible English the phrase is translated, “It is I.” But  Jesus literally says, “Take courage! I am!”

When God had called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, Moses was gripped with fear at the prospect of it all. Moses said, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt.” God replied, “I will be with you.” And then Moses asked, “Who should I tell them who sent me?” And God said, “I am who I am. Tell them, “I am has sent me to you.”

Do you see? Jesus is showing us who he is. “I am who I am. I have always been. I will always be. I am present. I am here.” There walking on the water that night was the eternal God and it was only his presence which provides courage. Through these words he reminds us that he is real and that he is really present. It is this reality which then provides us with calm and courage.

In his fear and lack of focus Peter began to sink into the sea, but he knew Jesus was there to save. And he called out, “Lord save, me!” Immediately, without hesitation, Jesus reached out and caught Peter. He was present to save.

In the beginning chapter of Matthew an angel appeared to Jospeh, Jesus’ step father, and the angel told Jospeh something important about Jesus. “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” And then Matthew continues on by saying, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” w (which means “God with us”)

Jesus has always been present to save. That is his whole purpose for coming to earth in the first place. He came to rescue us for our lack of faith and our inability to focus and to trust. He came to reach out his hand and pull us out of the raging sea of our own sin. He came to give us courage in the face of a chaotic world by giving us the certainty of an eternal future with him. His resurrection from the dead sealed the deal.

Then Jesus and Peter walked back to the boat and they got in. And as soon as Jesus got in, the wind died down. And they all knew that this was I Am. This is the one who is present and has all authority over all things and they stopped and they turned that boat into their own church and they worshipped him, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus is present and he has authority. He has authority over sin and death. He has authority over wind and wave. And though he is authoritative he is not distant or reclusive but he is here. He is with us through his Word. He is with you in your heart. He is with you through his promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Suddenly then once when we hear his voice and see again his presence it is quite real. More real than even our greatest fears. And instead of doubt we are given trust. Instead of fear we are given courage. And we too worship him as he rules over all of us. HIs resurrection is what shows us that he is truly the Son of God but. But his promise to return to earth at the end of time gives us full assurance of his authority. Amen.