August 10th — Proper 14
Sermon Text: Matthew 14:22-33
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. Matthew’s gospel account the 14th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A. He set them in the Boat and On the Water
Jesus is and will be King for us, but He will not be the kind of King we want Him to be nor is His kingdom the kind of kingdom we fashion in the imaginations of our hearts. Having received the bread and the fishes, having witnessed the multiplicity of a lad’s lunch, the crowds were ready to make Jesus King by force. With Jesus as their kind of king – bellies will be full, days will be tranquil, nights will be quiet, peoples will be calm, and all will be well as they lazily meander the path to hell. Jesus is and will be King for us, but He will not the kind of King we want Him to be neither will His Kingdom.
Thus Jesus will not be made king just yet. It’s not Palm Sunday. The Son of David is not on a donkey. The tree for His throne has yet to be felled. His hour is not yet come. To be the King we need, Jesus sends the disciples away in a boat on the sea. The crowds are dismissed (at least the few that didn’t abandon Him) and Jesus goes off to pray.
Now one might read this and wonder: “Why did Jesus do that? Why send the disciples ahead? Didn’t He know about the coming storm? Didn’t He know they would be in danger? Is that how a benevolent King and a loving God treats His friends? What kind of King is He anyway?
The answer is simple though not desirable. Jesus knew what He was doing. He knew what was coming. He always knows. He knows the limits of His disciples. He knows their strengths, their weaknesses, their thoughts even the very depths of their heart. To be their king, to be our king, the kind of King Jesus has come to be for us, He sends them into the storm. That’s right! Jesus put them into the boat and set them on their way knowing full well what was waiting for them. He did it on purpose!
B. Humanity’s inability to Cross the Sea
You see, following Jesus isn’t always easy. It’s never like what the crowds and multitudes want. Jesus isn’t that kind of king. That we may learn this He sends the disciples into the storm just as He often sends you and me and our loved ones.
You see, our natural bred theology always has things backwards. The crowds, multitudes, disciples and apostles were no different. No one really is different. We’re all theologically backwards. We want what the crowds and multitudes wanted: we want a bread king, someone who will provide for us and for our bellies so that way we don’t have to work or serve our neighbor and we can have all the luxuries of this life. That’s backwards. For the Lord has called us to work. He’s called us to our vocations, to our jobs and careers and stations in life that He may provide for us, and for all, through such things.
On the other side of things, we want to work out our salvation. We want to do what we cannot do – that is save ourselves. And we would rather Jesus let us do it. In fact too many Christians assume that this is what Jesus actually wants us to do. That’s backwards. That’s wrong.
And this is where our text comes in. You see, Jesus sends the disciples into the storm that they may learn the limitations of their strength and merits. For you see, no matter how skilled they are at sailing, no matter how much they paddle, or steer, or attempt to maneuver the boat to the other side, there is simply too much against them. The wind and the waves beat them, torture them, and torment them. And what is the result of all their efforts? They only go further and further into the storm and the night gets darker and darker. They cannot accomplish the task. Their works only make things worse. Fear seizes them.
In much the same way the Lord bids you out into the storms of this life where wind and waves crash against the boat, torture and torment those inside, causing souls to despair of their own strength and merits. False gods and backward theologies are stripped away. False hopes and deceitful philosophies are beaten down.
Thus for you it may be the loss of a job, it may be the death of a loved one, it may be the news from the doctor, or a run-in with a neighbor. It may be a sick child or an unexpected pregnancy. It may be wrestling “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” It may be a whole host of winds and waves, oppositions and persecutions, temptations and testings. Whatever the trial and tribulation that afflicts you or your loved ones, these things all serve a purpose, one which is meant to correct your false theology and to straighten out your faith. In other words these storms are good for you and they are good for your loved ones. They are meant to teach you what kind of king Jesus has come to be for you and what kind of Kingdom you are members of. Jesus is not so much concerned about you crossing some body of water. He’s concerned about you crossing eternity, entering the New Jerusalem, living forever and ever and ever in joy that you may be where He is and He may be with you. His concern is salvation, not lessons in sailing.
C. Immediately Jesus Spoke to them.
The disciples, no matter how hard they worked – though they worked all night long, could not reach the other side. Humanity and all its strengths and wisdom and glory and power and might and positive “I can do it” attitude simply cannot win the day. We’re not strong enough. As much as it hurts, storms like these make that pretty clear.
Realizing we’re not strong enough is terrifying. The disciples were getting scared, scared about today, scared about tomorrow, scared about eternity. Even when they saw Jesus, they failed to recognize Him in their midst. “It’s a ghost!” they shout. They supposed themselves doomed. Fear is the result of despair and despair the result of unbelief.
Jesus calls us to faith and courage in face of tormenting storms and tortuous afflictions. Notice that Jesus came to them walking on the water. He tramples underfoot the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. He is greater than the storm, even though the storm is allowed to continue.
Before there is calm on the waters Jesus seeks to calm men’s hearts. He does no tricks. He waves no arms. No miracles here, not yet anyway. He simply speaks. “Take courage. It is I. Do not fear.” That’s all He gives – because that’s all we need: His Word.
Where the Word of Jesus is there is the might and power of Jesus speaking to us and for us that we may be comforted in our affliction and assured of His grace and favor. Though the storm has come upon the disciples Jesus did not go out on the waters to go out against the disciples. He is not there to judge rather He goes out for them that He may be near them to speak to them, comfort them and take away their fear.
His words are tantamount to absolution. “Take courage” can be equated with “I forgive you.” They are connected to each other. The heart can be bold and brave before God and in the face of death only because of the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is the chief treasure in the Kingdom of God. This is the kind of King Jesus has come to be; one who forgives sins, resurrects the dead, promises eternal life to all who cling to Him by faith.
This kingdom has been purchased for you, not through your strength and merits but through the strength and merits of Jesus. He has borne the weight of the work, suffering in your place, bearing your burden, dying your death, climbing your cross. He shed His blood. He gave His life. He endured the Father’s wrath and anger for your sin and He was raised on the third day for your justification.
What you and I cannot work for ourselves, Jesus works for us. He straightens our theology as He carries us to its theological conclusion: We cannot safely get the boat to the other side. We, simply can’t do it. We can’t save ourselves. But Jesus is in our midst. He’s come to be near us. He’s come to have compassion on us; that is to suffer with us. He is as near as His Word. And His word to you is one of great cheer and courage. “I forgive you all your sins.” He is not against you in the storm but is for you while the storms is allowed to rage on.
B’. Walking on Water singing the Kyrie
Thus He not only sends you into the storms but He also calls you out on the waters. As He walks upon the waves, so also did Peter. Peter walked on the water with Him. He trampled underfoot that which tossed and turned the boat about. So long as he was fixed on Jesus he was afloat. But Peter, fallen in Adam, fallen like any one of us, took sight of the waves, cast his eyes from Jesus and began to go down. Peter didn’t start crying like a baby, “Woe is me!” Peter didn’t try to swim. Peter didn’t cry out, “Andrew, help me.” Andrew would’ve said, “I can’t help you. Call on Jesus”. Peter didn’t wish he’d never gotten in the boat. Peter didn’t even get angry at Jesus.
And, Peter didn’t panic. With his theology straightened out He called upon the Lord. “Lord have mercy.” He trusted the Lord’s heart. He knew his own failures but He trusted Jesus. He sang His kyrie and was rescued.
Such is the Christian life with our King. He bids us to walk on the waters of our baptism. So long as our eyes are fixed on Christ the author and perfector of our faith we are able to withstand the winds and the waves that torture and torment us. We are able to trample them underfoot. And when we fall, when we cast our eyes elsewhere, we need not try to swim or get ourselves back into the boat. We need not call on the saints to help us. We needn’t do more, give more, love more, or praise more. We need only sing the kyrie. “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” For all who call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved. Faith, unburdened with false gods and backwards theologies, neither despairs nor fears, but faith sings of and to its LORD. And the Lord of heaven and earth has promised to take us up and place us safely in the boat, the Ark of His Church, where all is well and all is safe – because Jesus is there.
A’. They Worshipped Him
Beloved in the Lord, Jesus sent the disciples into the storm that night that He may prove Himself a better and greater King than the one they wished for. Such is the purpose of the storms in our life and the life of our loved ones. Jesus is a better and greater King for us. He’s not the king our old Adam wants. But that’s a good thing. He’s the King we need, the kind of King who forgives and protects and strengthens and comforts and assures us of our place in His kingdom. NO matter how great the storm rages, no matter the circumstances of our suffering and affliction, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. NOTHING!
Thus when Jesus entered the boat, then the wind and the waves surrendered their fight. All was calm and they reached the other side. That’s the goal and purpose of suffering, to get us to the other side, to get us to the New Jerusalem.
So long as His Word rings in our ears and His cross is held before our eyes, Jesus brings us through it, whatever “it” may be. He brings us through the storm and into Holy Zion. That’s the kind of King He is for us and that’s the kind of Kingdom He’s fashioned for us through His death and resurrection.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!