Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
August 10, 2008
Text: Matt. 14:22-33

Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is not just a mere man. He is God in human flesh. That is why Jesus, unlike any other human being, can walk on water. That is why Jesus, by the power of His Word, can command Peter to walk on water. That is why Jesus can still a horrific storm on the Sea of Galilee. Even the wind and the waves obey Him, for He is their Creator. And that is why Jesus does not reject the worship of the disciples in the boat as they declare, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33; ESV). The reason Jesus pushes the disciples to cross the sea before Him after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand we heard about last week, is twofold. First, Jesus wants some time alone to commune with His Father in prayer, and that is an important example for us, that we also should seek to commune with the Father in prayer each day, and also a reminder for us that Jesus is even now ever interceding before the Father on our behalf. And second, Jesus wants there to be no doubt in the minds and hearts of His disciples, and in our minds and hearts, that He is the eternal Son of God. It is this second point on which we meditate today. Jesus wants the apostles and us to know without a doubt that He is the eternal Son of God. He knows all along what He is about to do. He will walk to the disciples on the sea. He will walk on the stormy sea to His disciples in their wind-blown, wave-tossed boat. He will come to His disciples in the midst of their fear and their doubt. He will allay their fears and alleviate their doubt. He will save them. He will save Peter from sinking. He will save the disciples from the peril of the sea. And He will save all from the spiritual peril of unbelief. Jesus gives and strengthens faith in Him. He wants no doubt about His identity. Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

And this is important because if Jesus is the Son of God, He is able to do what He wills, and His will is to save you. His will is to save you from sin, death, hell and the devil, and all their servants that swirl around you like a stormy sea, threatening to swallow you up. His will is to save you, and the good news is that He has already done so by His innocent suffering and death on the cross, the full payment for all of your sins and the ransom price for your body and soul, and by His victorious resurrection wherein He has conquered death forever, for you and all people.

The lesson we learn from St. Matthew’s account of this miracle, is that the same Jesus who walked on water and bid Peter do the same, the same Jesus who saved Peter from sinking, the same Jesus who stilled the storm immediately upon entering the boat, that same Jesus saves you from sinking in the misery of your sin and death. That’s the point Jesus wants to make absolutely clear to His disciples and to us as He walks on the water. Jesus is the Son of God, the Lord of the sea and all of creation, come to redeem His creation. The same hand that reached out to grab Peter and save him from certain death is the hand that gave bread and wine, His true body and blood, in the upper room to the apostles, and even now to us. It is the same hand that was extended in love for all humanity and nailed to the cross to save us from our sins. Just as Jesus pulled Peter out of certain death in a watery grave, so Jesus pulls us out of certain eternal death, which is the wages of sin. He does this by means of Baptism, drowns us in the baptismal waters and pulls us out again for new life in Him. And in this way you are sealed for the Day of His coming again. The same hand that pulled Peter out of the stormy sea, the same hand that was nailed to the tree for your sins, will pull you out of the grave, in the resurrection of all flesh.[1]

That is why Peter calls out, “Lord, save me” (v. 30), when he begins to sink. This is the prayer of faith. Peter knows that only One can save him, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the very Son of God. It is true that Peter’s faith is weak. Jesus even says to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (v. 31). But it is not fair to say that Peter had no faith. In fact, Peter knew that if it was Jesus walking on the water, and not a ghost (of course there is no such thing as ghosts, but the disciples, like so many of their age, were very superstitious)… Peter knew that if it was Jesus walking on the water, Jesus could speak a word, and Peter, too, would be able to hop out of the boat and walk to Jesus as if he were on solid ground. That’s faith! And Peter did walk on water! In fact, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, there was no problem. But then Peter got distracted. The wind and the waves caught his attention. His fear got the best of him. He took his eyes off of Jesus. He forgot that it was only by Jesus’ Word that he could walk on water. And he began to sink. Down he went. He was about to be swallowed by the sea. Gasping, he cried to the only One who could help, “Lord, save me.” Again, that’s faith. It was a desperate cry to the Son of God. And “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt,” why did you get distracted, why did you take your eyes off of me? Then Jesus ushered Peter back to the boat. And immediately as Jesus and Peter climbed into the boat, the wind ceased. There was an immediate calm. Lesson learned. Peter and the other disciples did the only thing there was left to do. They fell down and worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God” (v. 33).

Jesus has not called you to walk on water. Maybe you’ve tried it in the swimming pool when you thought no one was looking. But I guarantee you sank like a rock. You see, the command to walk on water was only for Peter, not for you, not for me, not even for the other disciples in the boat. But Jesus does call you to walk as the baptized, as those He’s pulled out of the water, in a world full of sin and death. And this can be just as complicated as walking on a stormy sea. As you do, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). But remember also that as you walk in the midst of sin and death, you will often be “of little faith,” just like Peter was. As long as you are in the flesh, you will be distracted by sin and temptation and the cares of this world. And you will start to sink. You will start to sink into certain spiritual death. In those times, cry to the only One who can help. Cry to Jesus. Cry out with St. Peter, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus will. Jesus will save you. Because Jesus is ever faithful and patient with those of little faith. He is ever faithful to you. He is ever patient with you. This is not to say that you won’t suffer the consequences of sin as long as you are in this fallen world. You still have to bear the cross. You might still have to suffer with cancer or the loss of a loved one, with unemployment, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, with a broken marriage or a rebellious child. That stuff is not the sea Jesus pulls you out of. The sea Jesus pulls you out of is sin and death. Sin’s consequences in this life are the wind that distracts you from keeping your eyes on Him. But none of that stuff can ultimately hurt you. Because when Jesus pulls you out of death, you have the promise that in the end, He will make all that is wrong, right again. In the end, He will calm the storm. He can do it, because He is the Son of God.

And that is the point He is making to Peter, and to the other disciples, and to us, as He walks on the stormy waters of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is the Son of God. There is nothing left for those who have been rescued by Jesus from certain death, than to fall down and worship Him, and confess with the first disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God.” That is to say, there is nothing left to do but believe, and believing, confess (cf. Rom. 10:9-10) and rejoice. That is what we are doing here this morning. We don’t worship Jesus to gain His favor. We don’t worship Jesus to secure a spot for ourselves in heaven. We can’t pull ourselves out of the sea of sin and death. Jesus pulls us out. Jesus saves us. Jesus secures us a place in heaven. He does this without any merit or worthiness in us. He does it by His perfect life, by His sin-atoning death, by His victorious resurrection. He baptizes us into His death and resurrection. He pronounces us righteous with His own righteousness in His Holy Word. He gives us to eat and drink of His crucified and resurrected body and blood in the Holy Supper, thus strengthening us for our walk in this fallen world. He is always calling us to keep our eyes fixed on Him. For He is the Son of God. He is able to do what He wills. And He wills to save you, to save me, to bring us into fellowship with the Father by the power of the Spirit, to grant us eternal life. True Christian worship is simply to receive these gifts, this rescue, this new life, and receiving, confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and rejoice in this truth. The Church prays in her worship, “Lord, save me.” Christians pray in their daily lives in the midst of trial and temptation, “Lord, save me.” That is the prayer of faith. And the Son of God grasps the Church, grasps you, with His saving hand. He pulls you out of the water. He pulls you out of sin. He pulls you out of death. There is nothing left to do but confess: Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] See William Cwirla’s sermon on this text, http://blog.higherthings.org/wcwirla/The%20Sermonator/SeriesA/12pentecostA.html.

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