The first thing I would like to point out to you from the text I just read in Matthew 14 is that Jesus deliberately sends His disciples out into the storm. Yep, you heard that right, Our Loving Savior intentionally sends them into a dangerous situation. So too does He with us, we who are also His Baptized disciples. He sends us out of here, from the place were we are at one with God, where we are atoned in Christ & have the fullness of His grace which is indeed having heaven in faith by the hearing of His gospel promise of forgiveness and life. Yes, we are called to do this same thing as the original disciples.
The common equation of worldly religion is supposed to work something like this: You have a god, then you meet the troubles of the world, then you overcome them, & your life is successful which proves your faith. But that’s not how God really works; at least not the God that is revealed to us in Christ & in the bible. Jesus said: “In the world you will have troubles.” So we are actually promised by God that we will have difficulties in life. But that is not all Jesus promised. He went on to say: “Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” What Jesus is saying is that your God has overcome it for you.
This is the greatest comfort ever isn’t it? How’s the worlds efforts going right now at overcoming their troubles? Put it mildly, not so good, right? How about our own efforts? Maybe better, but honestly, we’re also fighting a losing battle there too, right? Okay, some days are better then others. We feel great. Other days, well not so much, eh? Life really isn’t this “onward & upward” progression that the world & glory religion promise.
Jesus, well, He didn’t have any kind of illusions about this world & life. He knew & knows exactly the kind of mess, the kind of storm, He sends His disciples out into. Jesus had & has no delusions about the Gospel & the Christian life being one of prosperity & glory that is free of pain, suffering, or even death. There are no “risk-free” zones in life.
We do know Jesus was tempted in that direction; we heard about His trials in the wilderness in that regard. The devil knew if he could get Jesus on the “no risk” & all glory track, he had Him. Then the Gospel’s whole message would be ruined. Everyone who listened to Jesus would be drawn away from the promise to sight. Nobody would know who Jesus really was. The cross would be eliminated so sin & death would reign.
But Jesus rejected the devil’s temptation. He sends His disciples out into the storm. And what happens to them there? The storm gets worse: the wind & waves are against them and they make no headway. Life piles up with greater problems & they become afraid.
Suddenly a figure appears out of the darkness. It’s Jesus coming to them in the midst of the storm walking on the water. And, no, Jesus didn’t have any rocks to stand on. There is truly something otherworldly in this story from Matthew which is exactly what is intended. It’s intended to give His disciples, which includes us, a picture of the condition in which faith finds itself.
Faith is tested in this life because we don’t see any visible success. If we have any glory, which yes we all do occasionally, it doesn’t last. Eventually, all life’s storms come back. And when they blow our way, our human weakness shows. Faith wavers & fear grips us.
It happens to us all. So who among us wants to say this doesn’t happen to them? Who among us wants to say they have no fear & their life is a big success so pattern your life after me? Who wants to say: I have a lot of certainty before God because of the things I do & experience? Not I. I can’t say that. I have many events that shake my faith. So any of you want to be takers & claim the title of “victorious Christian”? I hope not because that is not the Gospel message and that is not the real substance of our Christian lives.
Right at the heart of story, we have Peter climbing out of the boat. Now Peter is kind of an impetuous guy; he often acts before thinking. But ya gotta love His heart. He really wants to be a dedicated disciple. So He yells: “If you’re Jesus, call me out of the boat.”
He takes a few steps, loses focus on Jesus, looks at the storm instead & starts drowning.
Sound familiar? I’ve been there & I know you been there too. Do you think from watching the news that maybe theres a ton of other people out there drowning too? A bunch of people where forced to take a good look at life & panic set in. I don’t say that with glee either but with sympathy because I had those ideas too. If we, who have been given the promise by God Himself, sealed in Baptism, of adoption & eternal life sink in life’s storms, can you imagine the how the storm hits people who haven’t been given faith? It’s scary for those have no promise from God or who’s religion robs it from them.
When trust in God isn’t there or it gets lost in the storm, it’s the worst thing imaginable.
But the good news for Peter & for us is that Jesus reaches out to us. We don’t have to go find Him nor does He ask us walk on water ourselves or calm the storm ourselves. Jesus says to Peter as He does the Church & to us: “Oh ye of little faith. Why did you doubt? The storm is not the truth. All the problems, pain & suffering of what you see in life isn’t what God has said about you or promised to you. God said: “You are my beloved child with whom I am well pleased.” God is guiding your life not the events you see out there.
Now if you took your cue for the news this week, from what you see & feel & experience, you would never know that would you? It’s nothing but confusion, chaos, fear & panic out there this week. That’s the storm of life hitting a fallen world that has lost trust in God. They are flailing about trying to hold on to all that they think they have which is physical life. They are groping for certainty in everything from government & politicians to medical science to even toilet paper. Anything to keep afloat in the storm.
I am hear today as God’s called preacher to tell you what you see is not true for you. I want you to remember the text from 1 King 19:9 where Elijah hides out from the storm. It says that God wasn’t in the storm; God isn’t found in what you see in the world & experience in life. 1 Kings 19 goes on to say that God silenced the storm for Elijah then spoke. God was in the calm and God then spoke to Him. So in the midst of the storm of the sea that day for Peter stood the Truth; Jesus. He calmed the storm and then He spoke.
The reality is that God is one who control history & guides your life. He has you safely in His Everlasting Arms. God’s promise is true not the storm you see, feel & experience. You have been given the calm, unmovable, & utterly certain presence of God’s Word.
That’s the meaning of the Bible story I read from Matthew. Peter, & all of you out there, don’t believe the world around you when it throws you chaos & turmoil. Don’t believe it to be the last & defining Word that God has for you. Yes life’s uncertainties will be there until you die. Yes, there’s no escaping them. But you & I have no need to fear the storm.
So, like Jesus in the wilderness, we don’t need to test God either. We are sent out into the world to be salt & light for the world but we have no special immunity from the world’s problems or the curse of the law. God has a purpose, a vocation or calling for you, & yes you do have eternal life & are above the law but it’s only in faith, in hearing, for now. When you go out into the world, the law & human reason apply. That’s why we applied special measures for meeting here today. Physically, the laws of nature still rule.
No, you don’t get immunity from or all the answers for the things happening in this world.
But spiritually, you are given God’s Word of promise that makes a new reality; a new creation & a new life for you – the life of faith. In Christ, God has come to calm your storm today & speak directly to you. He is here today to say: “I give you my peace.”
That’s the point of Matthew’s story. God’s spoken Word of promise – the Word He first gave to you personally in baptism – applies always; it lasts forever in spite of the storm. Jesus said to you that His hand will grip you before you sink. The truth is, no matter how bad things get, no matter how absent God appears to be in the storm, God is truly with you. That’s because Jesus does get back into your boat & immediately the storm is gone & He speaks again to renew His baptismal promise to you.
When Christ Jesus is present with His church, when 2 or 3 gather to hear His Word spoken, when the awareness of His presence is what dominates His people & your life, there is peace. The peace which passes all human understanding. The peace that the world neither knows nor can give. The peace that endures eternally and never ends.
And that’s how Matthew concludes this story. By saying the disciples took a 2nd look, saw the storm was gone, & they worshiped Jesus as the Son & the Living Word & the very presence of God. That’s why you & I are gathered here in the face of the world’s fear. Here we really have God’s peace, the source of certainty, because we hear His promise. We come & hear His small voice calming the storm. Jesus says: “You are mine always.”