July 25th & 26th, 2009
By hearing the title of this message, and hearing the gospel reading, you can probably guess the gist of this sermon, you’ve heard it before. Storm comes, fear engulfs, Jesus arrives, fear subsides. Now since I can’t preach a two minute sermon, no matter what my family says, you’re going to get a bit more this evening/morning. It seems to me there are a couple of surprising things in our text that don’t fit with the typical outline for a sermon on Jesus walking on Water, but more on that in a moment. One is, what made them afraid, it wasn’t the storm. Secondly, Jesus surprisingly reveals himself to hard hearted Disciples.
Walking has been our theme this past four weeks. It’s an everyday kind of thing, and in our
first week we learned that contrary to what the world things, we walk best in
weakness, because Christ is our strength.
We then learned that we do not have to walk aimlessly, but we walk as
those who have already in our account a great inheritance. Then last week we heard that on this walk we
have nourishment, and in the account of the feeding of the 5,000 we heard that
this nourishment is in fact the active compassion of Christ. As he looks at his people as sheep without a
shepherd. Today, we encounter fear on
our walk, but not in the way we would expect.
The disciples go from one dramatic event to the next. They just left the feeding of the 5,000 and
they hardly have any time to catch their
breath. Jesus once again sent the disciples
away, as the people who had received the
blessings of the 5,000, wanted to make
him king by force. What could be better
than a bread king. Jesus’s kingdom is
not of this world so Jesus goes up to
pray by himself, and the disciples are faced with another crisis. This time it isn’t the lack of food, rather
it is a storm on the sea. However, they
don’t cry out for help, and they are not afraid………..yet. Jesus has away of helping his followers even
when they really don’t get what he is all about, and even when they are not
calling upon him. All it says in the
readings is that he saw that they were making torturous headway against the
sea. When does Jesus recognize our need
and come to her help? Even before we recognize our need for
him. Adam didn’t go looking for God in the
garden of Eden after he recognized his nakedness, but God searched for
him. Moses didn’t go searching for God
as he cared for his sheep, but there he saw the burning bush. Paul wasn’t searching for Jesus on the road
There is an old story that has often been re-told in especially the Eastern Orthodox part of the church. According to the tale, a devout abbot from a monastery decided to take a prolonged spiritual retreat in a small cabin located on a remote island in the middle of a large lake. He told his fellow monks that he wanted to spend his days in prayer so as to grow closer to God. For six months he remained on the island with no other person seeing him or hearing from him in all that time. But then one day, as two monks were standing near the shore soaking up some sunshine, they could see in the distance a figure moving toward them. It was the abbot, walking on water, and coming toward shore. After the abbot passed by the two monks and continued on to the monastery, one of the monks turned to the other and said, "All these months in prayer and the abbot is still as stingy as ever. After all, the ferry costs only 25 cents!" This was not casual hum drum visit by Jesus, and no , he is not stingy with his mercy here.
What does Jesus do, he walks out by them, sort of passes them by. Now, though we think they were scared before, here is the surprise. The presence of Jesus, the first born of all creation, the one who creates the far reaching galaxies, the one who can multiply food in ways not seen before. The one who can calm the sea with a voice. They weren’t used to seeing Jesus in this way, and so they were afraid. And you know, if we were in that boat at 4 in the morning, exhausted, and we see him coming like this we would be terrified. Faced with one whom we can’t control, brought one response. Terror and fear.
Yet, we cannot dwell on this because immediately Jesus says. “Take heart it is I, do not be afraid”. The presence of Jesus became a beautiful, faith inspiring, fear fleeing thing when he speaks his words of mercy. Take courage, be of good cheer. It is I. On the mount of Transfiguration, when the disciples are on their knees encountering the all powerful Jesus, he speaks and says “Get up, don’t be afraid. As Jesus sees a paralyzed man at the tomb, he says take heart your sins are forgiven. We all have plenty of reasons why Jesus Christ has every right not to be happy with us. Yet, before we can get out those words, he says take heart do not be afraid.
This becomes all the more clear when he says about the disciples “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened”. In other words, even after all these miracles, the feeding of the 5,000 they still at times acted like unbelievers, and they weren’t really sure who they were dealing with. Yet, Jesus still works with them. Jesus still works for them, and Jesus works in them.
To walk fearlessly means that as we live our daily lives, is to believe the truth that our Savior has a greater eye on us then we on him. This eye, ultimately is one of mercy, and not condemnation for repentant sinners. It means that our hardness of our heart, our slowness to recognize, our pretending that he doesn’t care, simply will not stop this cross defying love that not only calms the winds but also sends our sins away as far as the east is from the west. As Ephesians says “Now to him who is able to do farm more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in
the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.