7/26/2015 – Proper 12 — 9th Sunday after Pentecost
Sermon Text — Mark 6:45-56
Come back later for the audio of this sermon
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 sixth chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
A. The Terrifying Tempest
The Savior is always in control. When the multitudes press upon Him, when hemorrhaging women grasp the hem of his robe, when desperate fathers hear that their little girl has breathed her last, when the greatest of prophets lose their heads and when sheep without a shepherd gather in desolate places, Jesus is always in control. Today is no different. The feast has ended and the disciples are still, if not more than ever, in need of rest. Jesus knows this. And He knows what awaits them on the water. Yet into the boat He bids His 12, into the boat goes His Church. Where the 12 go we go. For are members of a holy, catholic, church, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus as the chief cornerstone. Where saints gather around Word and Sacrament there is Christ’s Church and there is the Ark of our Salvation. Into the boat we go that we may find rest.
But the 12 find anything but rest. Jesus knows this. He’s always in control, always watching, always praying, always loving His church. Another storm combats the boat. More wind and waves buffet their existence. A terrifying tempest tortures the 12. And all their might and all their strength and all their will is not enough to get to the other side. But Jesus is still in control. All the winds and all the waves beat upon the wood, thrash upon the oarsmen, toss them back and forth. But Jesus is still in control. The sky quickly is darkened with a darkness rent only by bolts of lightning. Thunder rolls heavy across the sea. It is as though Leviathan, himself, were about to overtake the little boat and drag them into the depths of death. But Jesus is still in control, still watching, still praying, still loving His 12, still loving His Church, His Christians.
B. Fearing what is Seen – Even Jesus
Looking around them, fixing their attention on what is seen: wind, waves, the might of the deep, tortuous labors, exhausted brothers, etc, fear seizes the 12. They are afraid of what everything they see is telling them. And when everything we see fills our hearts with dread death grips our heart.
As we Christians journey towards our eternal rest life is far from smooth and calm. Everything we see gives us reason to doubt and to fear. When we doubt and when we fear our hearts can be filled with dread and then the old evil foe giggles at our unfaithfulness. Our failure to remain steadfast brings great glee to our adversary. Fearing what we see, realizing that our control of things is not very controlling at all, we begin to torture ourselves with “what if . . .?”
“What if the boat tips over? What if the water gets over my head? What if the doctor’s news isn’t good? What if I lose my job? What if my marriage begins to fail? What if my son rejects the faith? What if my daughter comes home pregnant? What if she makes the wrong choice? What if mom can’t take care of herself any more? What if dad leaves us? What if this happens? Or what if that happens? What will happen to me? What will happen to my loves ones? What will happen when I can’t control everything? What if? What if? What if? What if I get sick? What if I die? Where will I go?
The storms of this life bring terror upon the hearts of men and women and even our children. Looking upon these we are often led to despair and we look for God’s help. “If only we could see Jesus, we say to ourselves. Then things would be better.” But even this is misguided reasoning. Seeing Jesus didn’t make things better for the disciples. Seeing Jesus won’t make things better for you. Seeing Jesus walking on water brought even greater terror the disciples. “It’s a ghost!” they cried. Seeing Jesus is not what we Christians need. We do not walk, nor sail, by sight. What we see makes us afraid. When we’re afraid of what we see then faith is easily shaken. It is weak. It is small. It is in danger of dying. What if that happens? What if you fall out of the boat? What if you fall away from the Church? Where will you go then? Where will you go when you die? Leviathan awaits those who fall.
C. The Comforting Christ – “Take Courage, I AM”
Seeing is not our salvation. Salvation comes from hearing. Jesus appeared to the 12 in the middle of the storm, while winds were howling and waves were raging, while the boat was being rocked by a cursed creation. All of a sudden, there He is – walking on the water – proving His dominion and power and glory over all things, the sight of which brought great fear and dread. But Jesus isn’t there to terrify the 12. He’s not there to bring down God’s judgment. He doesn’t appear to curse and rebuke and reject. No, beloved. Jesus is there because He’s always in control – even when we think we’re in control. He’s there not to frighten but to comfort. His appearance may startle but His Words give peace. Literally Jesus says to the 12, “Be courageous! I AM. Do not fear.”
These words of Jesus, not the sight of Jesus, comfort terrified hearts. These identify Jesus as the one in control of the situation, even in midst of such a terrible storm. Jesus is the great “I AM.” He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the burning Bush, the God who brought light out of darkness, the God who stills storms and commands wind and waves, whose glory fills heaven and earth, whose hands formed the dry land and whose voice shepherds the sheep. He is the great I AM, the God of creation, the God who became flesh, was born of a virgin mother, raised by an earthly father, baptized by God’s prophet, for whom the heavens were torn and the voice declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus is the great I AM as He’s healing lepers, feeding 5000, walking on water, and even as He’s dying on the cross! For what greater storm could afflict man than the death of the Son of God! What greater storm could frighten hearts than the righteous suffering for the unrighteous? Even there, even in the middle of God’s wrath for sins, even as the Sun surrendered its light, even as the sheep turned on their shepherd, even as thieves cursed Him, even as the demons giggled with glee, even as the serpent pierced his hands and feet, even as dear friends abandoned Him, even as Heaven turned its back and creation raged against the Son of God, even then, even there, Jesus was in control! Hell hath no fury that the Son of God cannot weather! Death has no dominion over the One who is in very essence, LIFE!. For though Jesus died for sins, yours, mine, and the whole world’s, He was still in control, still watching, still praying, still loving, you. As if He were saying to the whole world – “Take courage. I AM. Do not fear. Though you what you see may horrify you. Hear Me. I die for you. I suffer because I love you. I am taking your place that you may be where I am for eternity. My blood is to wash away all the sins you just can’t seem to scrub from the depths of your heart. My stripes are to heal wounds you just can’t seem to restore to health. My death is to be your life. My resurrection is your eternity. For what you see is not the end. On the third day I shall arise and my Easter shall make all things new. My Word and my promises are your absolution while storms rage and worlds war against you on account of me. Take Courage. I AM. Do not fear.”
B’. Believing what is Heard – Jesus’ Word
Beloved, we Christians have Christ’s Word and Promises much clearer and more glorious that the patriarchs of old or even the 12 in the boat. Thus Peter praises this good fortune of ours when he says (2 Peter1:19): “And we have the prophetic Word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” Grace and eternal life have been promised and offered to us in a much more glorious way than to them. For the Son has come, and all the promises have been fulfilled in Him. We hear Jesus, Himself; we have the sacraments and absolution; and, as Luther says, “day and night the Gospel proclaims to us: “You are holy. You are holy. Your sins have been forgiven you. You are blessed, etc.” These are meant to comfort us and give us courage in the face of this world’s storming events.
But what do we do? We still tremble, and we cling to our weakness throughout our life. We are tempted again and again to fix our hearts on what we see rather than what we hear from the lips of Jesus. Let us repent dear Christians and grasp the Savior’s words this morning. Let us surrender our “what ifs”, toss away our doubts and uncertainties – which only bring us fear and dread – and let us seize the Word of Christ! Indeed, beloved let us be courageous and faithfully seek after the Lord where His Words may be found, where the great I AM promises His presence. Let us remain in the boat! Let us remain steadfast! Let us remain faithful! Let us hold the Word! Let us feast on the Supper! Let us renew our strength as our Savior draws near to us.
A’. Peace and Calm in the Ark of our Salvation
Beloved in the Lord, the Savior is always in control, even when we can’t see Him, even when we can’t feel Him, even while we hurt and suffer and bear the afflictions of a broken and cursed creation. The disciples learned this on the open sea. We learn this as we live out our days confident of His presence and good heart toward us in His Word. Thus when Jesus stepped into the boat, all became calm. The rest which the 12 so desperately needed finally arrived. So it is with us in this boat called the Holy, catholic, church. Here we find rest because we find the Word of Christ. And Word comforts our souls, encourages our hearts, and heals our wounds. The Word gives us the great I AM. For Jesus is always in control, always watching, always praying, always loving His 12, His church, you.
God grant that each of us learn this great lesson this morning and so cling to Christ’s Word and remain in boat. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!