Sermon — Rev Tony Sikora — No Crossing Except by Water and the Wood.
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s (evening’s) sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 6th chapter (Mark 6:45-56).
Beloved in the Lord,
It’s been a long day. You’ll remember that our text actually began with last week’s Gospel reading. The 12 had just returned from preaching the good news and they were eager to give their report to Jesus. They were excited and they were tired. Jesus intended to lead them to a desolate place that they might rest. But their only rest was the boat ride to the other side of the sea. The tired twelve were then given the task of feeding 5000 men and their families. Jesus provided the sustenance and the 12 were the dispensers of His grace. The multitudes ate and had their fill. The 12 were busy giving out and gathering up.
Now it’s late. It’s been a long day. And Jesus sends the 12 out into the sea. It will be a long night. Weary disciples will pour out their strength in the hopes of getting to the other side. And they will not make it, not on their own, not by their strength.
Such is the life of the Church and such is the life of the Christian. It’s been a long day and Jesus sends you out into the sea, where the waves are rough and the wind is contrary, where all your strength, and all your skill, and all your buddies, and all your labors, all that you are will never be enough for you to get to the other side. The wind and the waves and the weakness of your flesh, the Devil, the World, and your sinful nature, are all against you. The sea is full of dangers. The waters are ready to swallow your little boat. Leviathan circles round about you, seeking an opportune time to pounce. Yet, Jesus sends the 12 and Jesus sends you knowing full well what will come upon you. And, Jesus sends you seemingly without himself. For Jesus is going up on a mountain to pray.
The temptation to fear begins with doubt. Why isn’t Jesus coming with us? We never cross the sea without Him. Why is He sending us out alone? It’s one thing to wander into rough waters, or to be caught up in a sudden storm, but it’s another thing to be sent out on your own. Doubt about Jesus, hard hearts about loaves and the fishes, leads to fear. Fear focuses the eyes and intensifies the heart.
What the eyes see and what the heart doubts brings terror to the 12. Looking around they cannot see Jesus. They cannot understand why they’re crossing the sea. It’s been a long day and they’re tired. They’re struggling to move the boat, striving to keep the boat afloat. Making every effort to advance in the face of the wind, laboring against the waves, and after hours of hard work, they have gotten nowhere. I think you can relate. I know I can.
As it is with the 12 so also with the church, so also with you. False doctrine pummels the Church. The authority of the Word is questioned. “Why are we out here anyway?” Doubt plagues her members. “Did God really say what the Bible says about Marriage? Did God really say what the Bible says about sex? Did God really say what the Bible says about the origins of life?” The temptation to see what is not given to see, and to possess what is not yet to possess only causes strife in the boat. Theologians of glory rage against theologians of the cross. Disputes, arguments, power struggles, those thinking they know best want to steer. “Do this, do that! Follow my methods! Do it my way!” Hearts faint with every wave against the boat. Souls distress even as they grow weary and begin to realize the limitations of their flesh, the weakness of the boat itself, the power and strength of the wind and waves, the world and the devil, sin and death. Fear seizes the heart even when the Lord draws near, supposing Him to be an agent of judgment. Why? Because the heart doubts Jesus, because “they had not understood the loaves.”
Jesus walks on the water making His way to the 12, the Church, even you. If you see Him wrongly fear and terror will lay hold of your heart. The miracle of the loaves is meant to inform your understanding of this life and this world. The miracle of the loaves gives us a picture of Jesus’ heart. He miraculously feeds the crowds because they were like sheep without a shepherd. First He gives the Word, the sure and certain revelation of the Kingdom of God. Then He sets before them a feast. He preaches and He gives sustenance. This reveals His heart because His Heart is always moved for the good of His 12, His church, you.
Thus, Jesus makes His way to the boat. He who fed 5000 from so little, comes to His beloved walking on the water, trampling down Leviathan, unimpeded by the wind and the waves. What the strength and merits of 12 men accomplished in many hours, our Lord transgressed in a matter of minutes. He walked to them. “They supposed Him a ghost. For they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them. Be of good cheer. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Jesus talked with them. It’s been a long day. It’s been a long night. Hearts are weary. Bodies are exhausted. Souls languish in the boat. Jesus walks to them and then Jesus talks with them. He brings good news. For He is the good news made flesh. His Word lifts up their hearts. It is a merciful Word. It is an encouraging Word. It is a forgiving Word. It is a Word of Presence and a Word of Power. The Lord’s Word does what it says. The Lord’s Word creates what it calls for. The Lord’s presence works His wonders and His wonders are wrought in the midst of wind and waves.
He makes His way to the Boat that the boat may make its way to the other side. Without Jesus there is no way. With Jesus, He is the Way. He is the only way. And His Way is to be carried along by the Wood. The Wood on the Water bearing Jesus to the other side – to safe ground – to a promised Land – to paradise. There is no way to cross over unless you are carried by the Wood. There is no way to heaven, unless you cling to the cross of Christ by faith, receive His baptism in your baptism, hold His Word dear to your hearts.
The cross is your bridge. The Body of Jesus is your nourishment. The blood of Jesus is your drink. The passion is your hope. His Church is your ARK. Through the trials and tribulations of this world you are to realize the ineptitude of your strength and merits. You are not only sinner, but you are broken, corrupt, and depraved. You are not only sinned against but you are beaten down, tossed about, bearing a burden, tired, torn, worn, and weary. Doubts plague you. False doctrine misleads you. Sins hurt and harm you and your neighbor. The situation is grave and you can’t fix it. But there is hope. Jesus makes His way to you not to bring judgment and death, but forgiveness and life. He comes for you not against you. He speaks with you not at you. He offers Himself into death on your account that you not die eternally. He walks on the water that through Him you may trample the head of Leviathan, the Devil, the world and your own sinful nature.
How do I know this? I have His Word. I have His presence. The miracle of the loaves instructs me of His heart. The power of His Watery Word eases mine. Sins are washed away. Bruises are healed. Scrapes and scars are bound up with holy salve. He comes to save. He comes to heal. He comes to be for me what I could never be for myself, neither for my neighbor, nor even for Him. He is my perfect redeemer.
Thus, as you are sent out into the world, today and tomorrow, know this: It will be stormy. The devil and the world will rage against you. You won’t want to go. Yet, you will at His Word. In the midst of the storm it will be frightening. It will look like there is no way for you, no way at all. You will question your Savior’s wisdom. You will doubt your God’s Word. You will fight. You will get hurt. You will sin and you will fail. It will seem that there is no hope, no help, and no way across, no way through. Yet Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus comes to you with a forgiving word. His Word is your cheer. His Word is your strength and your hope in a hopeless world.
From this Word faith is born, faith is roused. Faith is firmed up and encouraged. God’s heart is revealed to be full of compassion and love for you and the world. The believing heart is quickened to courage. Weak knees are strengthened. Weary souls are comforted. Sin bows before the Word of the cross. Death is transgressed by the Lord of Life. The devil is trampled upon. The winds surrender. The Truth is proclaimed. The waves cease. The World is brought low, brought to the feet of Jesus. And the way across the sea is made sure and certain through the wood and the Word.
Beloved in the Lord, behold the Way of Jesus in the midst of the sea. He enters the boat. And all is well. All is calm and they are suddenly to the other side. What the strength of 12 men through many hours could not accomplish Jesus did in matter of minutes. What seems to us a long and difficult battle is so only because we are trusting ourselves. Look to Christ as He walks near. Behold your God and your deliverer. He draws near to speak and to save. As He did so long ago so also He does now. He comes to you on the waters of your baptism. He comes in the midst of stormy seas, where trials and tribulations plague the hearts of His beloved. Remember the miracle of the loaves! Remember the compassion of your Shepherd. Remember and take courage. Be of good cheer. Your Savior has not abandoned you. He has not forsaken you. So long as you are in the boat with His Word you are safe and your footing is sure. So long as you are in His Church listening to Jesus, feasting on miraculous bread and holy wine, receiving His forgiveness, you are safe and your footing is sure.
Surely, it’s been a long day. The night seems to last forever. But soon you too if you remain in faith shall be to the other side. Soon the blessed Ark shall rest on dry ground and enjoy the bounty of the Lord. See now, His bow resting in the sky. He has made us a promise. All is well in Christ and with Christ. And all shall be well, today, tomorrow and forever more. We have His Word on it. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI