Take Courage. It is Jesus.
12th Sunday after Pentecost
Take Courage. It is Jesus.
Text: Matthew 14:22-33
It was a special day, about 15 months ago. We knew it was coming, but the kids didn’t. They had been asking and asking. Now was finally the time. We surprised them and went to Disney World. The looks on their faces were priceless. They were so excited and all day long they were acting like, well, like kids at Disney World.
They had been asking for more than a year. They would even find pennies on the ground and give them to us telling us to save up for Disney. Finally we went and it was a blast. By the time we went home though, they were passed out and asleep. Within a few days the Buzz Lightyear and Minnie talk had died down. Now, 15 months later, we hardly ever hear anything about it. It’s almost like it never happened.
How could that be? They had wanted to do this for the longest time. They finally got to see one of the coolest, most amazing things they could ever imagine. But now it’s like it never happened. They don’t thank us for taking them to Disney anymore (that stopped pretty much the next day). They don’t talk about Disney anymore. I know they were there. Did they forget it happened? How could that be?
Did you have any of those thoughts about the disciples today? Last week we heard about an incredible miracle. Jesus told the disciples to feed more than 5,000 people and they were stumped. But Jesus showed them his incredible power. With only five loaves of bread and two fish to start with, the disciples began passing out food to the crowd. Soon every last person, perhaps as many as 10,000, had eaten until completely full and satisfied. Then, they even collected more food, 12 basketfuls, than they began with!
The disciples had seen miracles before, but this one was a very personal one. They were the ones Jesus challenged to feed the crowd. They were the ones who passed out the food and they were the ones who collected the leftovers. If you were a disciple, wouldn’t this be something you remembered for a very long time? How could you forget the endless hours of passing out food or the satisfied looks on the faces in the crowd? How could you forget the feeling of awe and wonder that Jesus had done something otherwise unbelievable but you were part of it and a witness to it? You would think this would be something they would never forget.
Today we pick up right where we left off. It was evening time. The massive meal was over. We hear that Jesus sent his disciples on ahead of him as he dismissed the crowd. Then Jesus went up a mountainside alone. Remember, it was earlier that day that Jesus was told his relative and friend John the Baptist was killed. Finally Jesus had time to pray about it, and time to thank his Father for the feeding of the 5,000. Meanwhile the disciples had rowed about halfway across the Sea of Galilee—about 3 or 3.5 miles.
Here’s what happened next: “During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.”
We could guess that the disciples had probably not seen anything before like what they were seeing on that water. But then again, it still seems strange to assume first of all that it was a ghost. Didn’t they remember what they had just seen? Didn’t they remember that Jesus had sent them ahead, suggesting that he would catch up with them later? Were they really afraid of what they were seeing or were they actually afraid of the storm and the waves? Or maybe both?
Regardless, Jesus immediately calmed their fears: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Perhaps the words and the situation suddenly rang a bell. Earlier on they were in a boat in a big storm with Jesus. They were afraid they were going to sink and they cried out to Jesus. What did Jesus say? “Don’t be afraid.” Then he calmed the wind and waves.
“Take courage! It is I,” Jesus said. It was the Jesus who had calmed the last storm. It was the Jesus who had the power over water to change it into wine. It was the Jesus they had just seen feed more than 5,000 a few hours before this. There was no need to be afraid with Jesus there.
Peter was suddenly emboldened: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” It seems like a bold request, but that’s what God’s people do. They come to him with bold requests and confidence.
Jesus answers the bold request. “Come,” he said.” “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” What would you be thinking if you were Peter? “Wow! I can’t believe I’m doing this! I’m walking on water! This is awesome! Jesus, you are awesome! What a miracle!” Those moments must have felt like hours, as if time was frozen in a twilight zone of divine power . . .
Until Peter snapped back to reality—his human reality that is. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” What do you think was Peter’s thought process? “This is awesome! I’m walking one water! Wait a second. Weren’t we just in a storm? That wind is strong! Look at those waves! I shouldn’t be doing this. How am I doing this? This is impossible! Oh no, I’m going to drown! Wait, I am sinking! Help! Lord, save me!”
What happened? How could Peter do this? Didn’t he remember the first storm that Jesus had calmed? Didn’t he remember the feeding of the 5,000 just hours before this? Didn’t he remember the steps he had taken on top of the water just seconds before this? He was acting like this never happened. He was acting like Jesus wasn’t standing right in front of him (on top of the water, mind you). Did he forget? How could this be?
This famous story of Jesus walking on the water is a unique one. It’s one of those stories where we can’t possibly imagine it happening. Walking on water seems impossible. But on the other hand, we can completely relate.
We know exactly what happened to Peter and the disciples. We know precisely why they were crying out and screaming like little school girls and we know why Peter started to sink. They doubted.
Even though they had seen Jesus do the incredible many times in their live, they doubted he would do it again. They doubted he would protect. They doubted he would do what he promised. And when did doubt happen for Peter? As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus.
I would imagine you have a near endless list of times that Jesus has provided for you or blessed you in nearly miraculous ways. That time you didn’t know how you were going to make it to the next paycheck, but somehow you did. That time you weren’t sure things were going to be alright, but they were. That time you were in an accident, or in war in the military, or simply in a dangerous place and you didn’t think you would survive, but you did. And here you are today. You are living and breathing. Your needs are provided for. You are very blessed. Everything is just fine. “Thank you, Jesus!”
But then you get that phone call. Then your boss walks in and tells you they are letting you go. Then the doctor enters the room and delivers the bad news. Then the pressure and the bills and the anxiety and the worries start mounting. We know that Jesus has provided and protected in the past, but as these storms of life start raging, we make one huge mistake—we take our eyes off of Jesus. And we doubt. And we start to sink.
It is shameful to think how sinful we can be. Why would we ever doubt our God? Didn’t he create this world? Didn’t he perform countless miracles like leading the Israelites through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground? Didn’t Jesus show his power in countless miracles like the feeding of the 5,000 or walking on water? Didn’t Jesus show his power in defeating all our enemies and rising from the dead on Easter morning? Why would we ever doubt him?
But we do. We take our eyes off of Jesus. We doubt. We sink. And like a broken record Jesus says also to us, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
It is simply amazing that Jesus is so patient with us, and so loving as well. He didn’t walk off the water, fed up with Peter and the rest of the disciples. Graciously he pulled him up out of the water. They got into the boat. And in the gospel of John we hear one additional detail of power. When Jesus was in the boat, he made it go immediately to the shore. Even though he taught them a lesson hours before this with the 5,000, he patiently taught them of his power and love again on the water.
Again, it is a story that we can relate to so well. Over and over, and over and over, Jesus shows us patient love. We forget. We fear. We doubt. But over and over Jesus teaches us about his power and his love. He continues to provide for us. He continues to protect us. He continues to hear our prayers. He continues to work all things for our good.
“Now I’ll trust Jesus!” we say. “This time I won’t doubt!” we say. Don’t you think the disciples said that when they got to shore that night? “Duh! We should have known! How could we forget the last time he calmed the storm? How could we forget how he fed all those people? We won’t forget this time!”
But as we page forward in Scripture we see it again and again. We especially see it during Holy Week. We see the disciples running away for fear in the Garden of Gethsemane. We see Peter denying he even knew Jesus during his trial. We see them locked in a room and huddled in fear on Easter day. And we do the same. We lose focus. We fear. We doubt.
But this is why Jesus did these miracles. He keeps attention on himself. He gives previews of his power. It’s like one big, building set of cliffhangers until Jesus would perform his greatest miracle. He took every sin, every doubt, every fear, every failing and he nailed them to a cross with himself. He took on death and he conquered it. He squared off with Satan and he won. He rose to live and rule eternally as King of kings and Lord of lords.
This is the greatest of his miracles. It’s the miracle that brought us forgiveness and salvation. It’s the miracle that guarantees we will live with him in heaven where there will never be any fear because there will never be any danger or death there. Take courage in life because this is the Jesus who is our God and Savior.
Up Nort’ der in Minnesota there was a big snowstorm once (go figure). The roads were blocked so the only way for residents to get supplies from the local store was by crossing an icy lake.
One man desperately needed food and supplies for his family. But he was terrified of the lake. He knew it was early in winter and didn’t think the ice would support him. So he spread out on the ground to distribute his weight and started crawling slowly across the lake.
Meanwhile another man found that his family need supplies as well. He too was terrified. But he was slightly more bold. Instead of crawling, he was brave enough to walk on the ice. Slowly but surely he tiptoed across the ice, exercising caution with every step.
Eventually the two men were side by side on the lake. “You OK der hey?” “Ya der hey. You?” “Ya.” But their weird Minnesota talk was interrupted by an incredible roar. It got louder and louder. The ice started shaking. Suddenly, an entire fleet of snowmobiles appeared and zoomed right past them. The two Minnesotans looked at each other in disbelief and laughed.
The whole time they were completely safe! They found out later that the ice was more than five feet thick. It was plenty strong to hold them up, and even their whole city. The only problem was their own fear and doubt.
Wasn’t this the case with the disciples today? It’s not that Jesus had suddenly lost power to calm a storm or protect them. It’s not that Jesus had changed his mind and now wanted Peter to sink. The problem was that they doubted Jesus.
That’s always the case in our lives too. It’s not that God has ever left us. It’s not that God changes his mind and decides to work some things out for our bad instead of our good. It’s not that God ever sees sins that he won’t forgive. And it’s not that God ever says, “Maybe I won’t take you to heaven. We’ll see.” The problem is our own doubt and fear.
There’s no need to fear. Jesus fed the 5,000. He calmed a storm. He walked on water. He died and rose again. This incredible power belongs to our Savior alone who is with us, hears us, and loves us. In every day and in every doubt hear the words of Jesus standing on the water today: “Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Posted on September 1, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Courage, Doubt, Faith, Feeding of the 5000, Feeding of the Five Thousand, Jesus, Jesus Walks on Water, Matthew, Matthew 14, Peter, Sermons. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.