Sermon — Rev Tony Sikora — Look You have No Arms!

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and 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 4th (Mark 4:35-41) chapter.

 

Beloved in the Lord,

Carnal Man walks by sight not by faith.  Walking by sight, the unbelieving heart focuses on appearances and impressions.  Appearances and Impressions may attract or distract, but they are inevitably shallow and hollow. They are on the surface and rarely lead one to delve the depths of reality.  It is for this reason carnal man, the unbelieving heart, is not attracted to Jesus.   Jesus is not attractive.  His way is uncomfortable, His path unseemly, His cross unwanted.  “As one from whom men hide their faces He was despised.  And we esteemed Him not” (Isaiah 53:3).

Yet Jesus invites us along to cross over to the other side.  He bids us journey with Him in His boat, with His disciples.  “Let us go over to the other side” He says.  And hearing His invitation many take Him at His word, while many more go along for the ride.  Carnal man is curious but suspicious.  The unbeliever lacks faith and therefore also trust.  He follows with his eyes and looks around to be sure it’s safe.  Getting into the boat his confidence is in the wood of the ark, the skill of the sailors, even the might of his own abilities.  He trusts in men all the while denying reality.

You see, the unbelieving heart that dwells only on the surface, casting its certainty upon what is seen, denies the truth of reality.  The storm approaches.  Winds and Waves batter the boat.  The water begins to fill in.  These are the trials and tribulations of a broken world battering its inhabitants.  It is a contrary world seeking to prevent any and all from reaching the other side.  It is a contrary spirit attempting to stop you from gaining the promised Land.  Devils, Demons, worldly cares, political distractions, community issues, bills, gas prices, health problems, rude people, crude people, downright mean people, sin, death, and tears all work against you.  The unbeliever doesn’t understand why.  The storm rages and the unbeliever still thinks he can beat it.  He can do it.  He can steer the boat. He can dump out the water. He can paddle or he can swim.  All the while Jesus sleeps in the stern of the boat.  He lets the winds and waves do their thing.  He sleeps because He waits.

What is He waiting for?  Why does He sleep?  If we follow our eyes instead God’s Word, then we too shall be like the unbelievers of this world.  We shall fear.  We shall doubt. We shall be unbelieving and have no faith.  Seeing is not believing.  The disciples see everything around them and they fear.  They doubt.  They do not believe.  They are living by sight and not by faith.  Living by sight moves them to pray the sinner’s prayer – “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?!”  Yes, beloved it is the sinner’s prayer because it is the prayer of unbelief.  The heart that doubts the heart of Jesus is an unbelieving heart.

The unbelieving heart cannot see rightly because such a person is trying to walk, trying to live by sight.  Living by sight, concentrating on surface things, denies the depth of reality.  The reality is that the boat is sinking, this world is going to hell, and you can’t swim and you can’t paddle, and you can’t save yourself.  The wind and the waves are all sent upon you, yes they are sent upon you, that you may learn to not trust what you see or what you feel, but only what you hear from the Word of God.  It is the Law of God (often through the wind and waves of the world we live in) which compels us to see rightly our mortal condition.  Like the black knight in Monty Python’s quest for the Holy Grail, we are constantly told to behold our injuries.  “Look you’ve got no arms!”  Yet, like the Black Knight, carnal man stubbornly objects – “tis a mere flesh wound” he says.  This results in a continuation of the storm, the filling up of the boat,  the lopping off and exhausting of our strength and leaving us but a stump of a man.  All the while Jesus sleeps in the stern of the boat, sleeping, waiting, longing  . . . not for sight, or strength, or merit, and most certainly not the “sinner’s prayer”, but longing. . . .  for faith.

You dear Christian are to behold Jesus in the stern of the boat and call upon Him in faith.  In the midst of every trial and tribulation, every sorrow felt and sin committed, the Psalmist directs you to this seemingly humble savior.  The Word says, “ I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.

4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. (Psa 121:1-4 ESV)  Jesus rests in the stern of the boat but He neither sleeps nor slumbers.  He keeps watch over you His dearly beloved.  He waits for faith that He may arise in your midst and speak His Word of power.  “Peace!  Be Still!”  For all things are subject to Jesus.  He is no mere man, but God in the flesh.  Through Him all things were made and without Him nothing was made that was made.  Though He is great and glorious, creator of all that was, is, and ever shall be He is not ashamed to be clothed with flesh and blood. He does not scorn the dirt of the earth, nor the uncleanness of men, women, or children.  He is holy, but His holiness will not abandon you.  He is righteous, but He comes for sinners.  He is love, and in His great love for you and me and all the world, He has drawn near to take upon Himself the sins of the world.

He cares beloved!  He cares for you and me and all.  God “desires all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  All means all.  Thus “all” includes you.  No one is left out, except those still trying to save the boat themselves.

To save all required all of His blood.  The wages of sin is death.  Carnal man is conceived and born in sin.   Sin the problem, the reason we have winds and waves and all that is contrary to the will of God and the destiny of the boat.  To save from sin requires blood.  For there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood.  Willing your salvation the Lord provides.  It’s not your blood He’s after.  He gives His own.  He ascends the cross. Suffers, dies, bleeds ‘til there is no more to bleed.  It is all His doing, wrought by the extension of His arms, the piercing of His hands and feet, the exhausting of every last ounce of His strength.  ‘Tis more than a mere flesh wound for Jesus!  In Jesus,  shoot from the stump of Jesse has sprouted on Calvary.  The price is paid.  The sins of the world are covered over.  The blood of Jesus has made atonement, propitiation, has become a blood covering for you and me and all the world.

Thus it is in view of His death and resurrection that our Lord stands in the boat and speaks peace and stillness on the waters.  He forgives sins.  He calms souls, and comforts hearts.  And then He calls once more for faith.

“Why is it you are still fearful?  How is it that you have no faith?”  Jesus chastens the disciples and therefore also each and every one of us who would walk the way of unbelievers.  You beloved, are not like the world.  You are not to live like carnal man.  You are and have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit in your baptism.  You are called to walk not by sight, but by faith.  Faith looks to Jesus even in the midst of every trial and temptation and turmoil.  Faith does not dare utter the “sinner’s prayer” – Faith looks to the cross.  There the Jesus proves His love.  Thus you, believing His promises, may cast all your cares upon Him, He cares for you, cares enough to suffer, die and rise again.  Look with faith beloved!  Look!  There is no reason to doubt, none whatsoever, unless of course you try to walk by sight and not by faith.  Therefore beloved, heed the savior’s admonition and pray instead the believer’s prayer, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

The wound is far greater than a ‘mere flesh wound.”  We are dead in our sins and trespasses and we are born again through Water and the Spirit.  That we may continue on our journey there is a Holy Grail for us to drink from.  “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion with the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16)  His cup is full of His blood.  His blood is for you, for your salvation.  Hidden under bread is His body.  Hidden under the wine is His blood.  It’s not attractive.  It’s nothing special according to what we see.  In fact, we only see bread and wine.  But we don’t walk by sight any longer.  We are called to walk by faith.  Faith hears the Words of Jesus.  Jesus says, “this is my body and this is my blood.”  He said it.  I believe it because He said it.  Lord help my unbelief.  His body and His blood promise to raise my lowly body.  By nature I am but a stump of a man.  But in Christ, with Christ Jesus in me and for me, I am a new creation.   “Anyone who is in Christ is a New Creation.  The Old is gone and the New is come.”

Beloved in the Lord, carnal, unbelieving man, walks by sight and attempts to live by sight.  Doing so, he dwells on the surface even as he sinks into the depths of sin.  The boat is being battered by every wind, every wave of this world.  The boat is filling with water and she is sinking.  The World is going to Hell.  There is good news, Jesus is in the boat.  The Christ has come and dwells among us.  If you would be saved and make it to the other side, then lend your ears to Jesus.  Listen to His Word.  Listen to His Works.  He is come to deliver you from the perils of your sins and this broken creation.  He is come to be your salvation.  Let these words, therefore, be on your lips, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”

 

 

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


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