The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

13th Sunday after Pentecost                                                                             August 13, 2017

 

Matthew 14:22‑33                    Don't Be Afraid!  It's Jesus You See!

 

Dear fellow redeemed:  You have to be either extremely bold or half-crazy.

*         Cliff diving is considered one of the most dangerous of extreme sports.

            Competitors plummet from heights of 60 to 85 feet.

            The world record consists of a dive falling 193 feet.

*         Try picturing this.  You're standing on this ledge.  What do you see?  

            Shallow water; a stick floating on the surface; a fish just below the surface? 

            You make contact with any one of these, and it may result in your immediate death.

*         Maybe you should look before you leap.

 

It's how we may view our current situation in life.  We'd be crazy not to be afraid. 

*         But what if in looking before us, it's Jesus you see?

            The disciple Peter, you'll recall, had a reputation for being quite bold.

         Often, he'd speak before thinking.  Sometimes he'd act before thinking.

          And so, it was on this day.

*          Then again, I don't imagine the rest of the disciples were thinking he was particularly bold. 

            He was out of his mind!

             "Are you nuts!  You can't swim with this monstrous storm brewing!  Christians don't float! 

            Get back on board before you make a fool of yourself and put the rest of us at risk!"

*         But Peter had no intension of looking before he leaped.

            Me afraid?  Why, it's Jesus I see!

            So, he "got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came to Jesus."  

*         Amazing! "What prevented him from sinking into the dark abyss?"

            A lot of people I suspect will say it was his bold faith. 

*         However, it wasn't long; it was moments, in fact, when Peter started sinking. 

            "He saw the wind, was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'"

*         Although, Peter may have started out quite bold, when he saw the wind and the waves he got scared.

            It was evident to him, he was going down!

 

And the faith of the rest of the disciples didn't prove to be anymore bold.

*         It was the 4th watch of the night when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the lake.

            Our text says "the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by waves, for the wind

            was against them."

*         To get an idea of the power of the storm, St. John informs us that the disciples had come only 3 or 4 miles. 

            Under normal circumstances, they would have traveled this distance after only an hour, but it had taken

            them 8 hours.

*         They should have reached their destination several hours before this point but they still had about two

            thirds of their journey ahead of them.

 

It might seem quite normal under the circumstances that the disciples would get exasperated and

even fearful for their lives.

*         Yet, if anyone had a reason for being bold, and not afraid it was Peter and the rest of the disciples.

            They had heard his teaching, for some time now.  They had just witnessed his feeding of the 5,000.

*         The evidence of Christ's mercy and providence was indisputable.

          So long as you can see Jesus, you have nothing to be afraid of. 

*          But then they saw him walking on the sea.  And Unfortunately, as would be the case with Peter,

            instead of trusting Jesus; that he'd soon catch up to them, they cried out in fear: "It's a ghost!"

*         Some have suggested that the disciples were convinced they had lost the battle with the storm. 

            Therefore, they identified this figure on the lake as the Angel of Death which was seen only by

            those who are about to be called from this life. 

*         To put it very simply, they could see the handwriting on the wall and they became afraid. 

            They were going down!  

 

Whatever our state in life, we may find the words that follow especially reassuring.

"Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid."

*          Regardless of what you think you see, when you see Jesus, you needn't be afraid.

            When you see his forgiveness in the message of the Gospel; when you see the water connected to

            his Word in Holy Baptism, when you see his body and blood in, with, and under the bread and

            wine in the Sacrament, it doesn't matter what else you see, you may take heart, for you see Jesus! 

*          But sometimes we are afraid. 

            We see something that's sure to alter our entire life.  We see our finances tightening, our family

            fighting, our health declining.  We see trials and crosses, confrontation and resentment, and we

            wonder how much longer we can keep our head above the water.

 

How much we have in common with Peter and the rest of the disciples!

*         One moment we're surfing on top of the world.  We've got faith and everything is going our way.

            And the next instant, we're the Titanic.  We're going down! . . .  

*         . . . Unless we have access to a greater power; one that enables us overcome our troubles.

            I'm speaking of the greatest power on earth: Christ's Word.

 

That being the case, we can be sure Jesus will do what's necessary to keep our faith attached to his Word. 

*          To learn how he does so, we return our reading.  

            Our text says that "Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side."

*          They were to go on before Christ, ahead of him.  This clearly implies that Jesus would follow. 

             "You needn't be afraid.  You'll see me on the other side!"

 

It was quite a promise; the same promise Jesus gives all believers. 

No matter where our life is about to take us, the Lord assures us he'll be joining us on the other side. 

We may see him in the Word.

*          As recorded by Isaiah: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you.  I have called you by name.

            You are mine . . . When you pass through the waters, I will be with you . . . For I am the Lord your God."

*          Truly, Jesus is the Son of God.  That means he'll be with us no matter what we go through.

            Be it money problems, health problems, family problems, or all of them at the same time; Jesus is

            present with us in his Word, and we're sure to see him on the other side.

*         We'll see an end to our struggles.  We have Jesus' Word on it.

 

Unfortunately, we don't always take Jesus at his Word.

Sometimes, like Peter, like the entire 12, we let life's troubles loosen our grip on Christ's Word. 

*         Remember Peter walking on the water? It wasn't Peter's faith that prevented him from sinking.

            It's was God's Word, the word of Jesus.  "Come" the Lord had said to Peter.

*         And Peter did come, right out on to the raging sea, until he let go of the Word.  Why did he sink? 

            It wasn't God's Word that suffered a set-back. It was Peter's faith; his hold on God's Word.

*          And so, the story goes with the twelve.

            They should have remembered Jesus' promise to join them on the other side.

*         But in the time of trouble, they let go of Christ's Word.   

            Rather than looking to the Word, they looked down.

 

Fortunately, Jesus is merciful, having no intension of turning around and walking in the other direction.

"Take heart; it is I.  Do not be afraid."  I'm no ghost.  I'm Jesus who comes with his Word.

*          Picture this!  One moment you perceive it's the angel of death. 

            "He comes by night, he comes by day, He takes his prey most surely."

*         And the next moment, there's no doubt who you see. 

            It's Jesus.  "And by his footsteps led, My path I safely tread" (LSB 716).

 

The same is true this day.  We needn't fear Jesus coming.  He comes with his Word! 

*         But if we're honest, this morning, we'll admit that we too can let go of Christ's Word. 

            We too allow our fears and anxieties to overcome us.

*          Certain questions have a way of preoccupying us, even controlling us.

1          How am I going to meet next month's payments? 

2          What's it going to take for me to find the right career change?

3         What can I do to get my family behaving more like a family? 

4          How can I convince my son or daughter to listen to my advice?

5         What's going to happen if the condition of my mother or father, my husband or wife, gets worse? 

6          What if my condition suddenly goes downhill?

*         We see the handwriting on the wall, and if our fears go unchecked, they begin choking our faith in Christ. 

            We may even sense we're actually drowning in our fears; that we're going down.  

 

Sometimes, sadly, it's a congregation who's tempted to let go of the Word.

*         The contributions and church attendance are declining.

            Efforts are made to reach out and increase the membership.

*         But nothing is working.  So, it's decided, "we must think like the world."

             "We've got to change the service, attract those who've never heard an organ or the pastor chanting.

*          In sort, they change their identity for fear of otherwise going under.

          Sometimes it's good, you'll agree, when we're too stubborn to change. 

*          But the refusal to change won't necessarily spare us from the temptation to let go of the Word.

          If change is thrust upon us, and we can't prepare for it, we may still be fearful for what's to come.

*          So far this year, we've had two Baptisms and 7 funerals.

            It's par for the course, as we see Triune God's numbers continue to decline.

            Maybe none of you have said it, but I know you're thinking it.  We're going down!

*         Really?  Here's what I know.  Regardless of who your next pastor is, assuming he's faithful to

            Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, (and I know he will be) you may recite with pleasure

            the words that are written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news."

*         To say it a little differently, "It's no ghost you see! It's not the handwriting on the wall. 

            It's Jesus who comes!" 

            And he comes as he always comes; through the preaching of the Gospel and the Sacraments!

 

 

Sometimes you find yourself overwhelmed by life's storms.

*         Although you wish you could get away from life's worries and simply walk away; walk on water so to speak,

            you see the water getting closer.

            And you may question whether the Word is enough.  Maybe it's time to let go; start swimming. 

*         If so, just remember Christ is not letting go of you.

          He's there every single time with his long reach.

*        As Jesus reached out Peter, he sure to catch you and me when we slip.

 

He catches us with his Word, allowing us to hear his voice once more.

             "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  

*         Jesus spoke these words to his disciples more than once.

            It was never to put them down, but always to help them realize their true condition.

*         See how helpless you are to stay afloat in your flood of troubles?

            See how impossible it is to escape the wages of sin in this life?

*         But at the very same instant that we're convinced we're sinking, he enables us to see him even in

            our doubt and fears.

*         "Do not be afraid" he says, "It is I."  It's Jesus you see!

1         "See my blood and what I've earned for you!"

2         "See my cross on which I've gained for you forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!"

3          "See how you can believe in me and receive this forgiveness and salvation!"

4          "See how I've secured your life as a child of God! 

            You don't have to be afraid! You're mine! And you belong to me this very day and for all eternity!

*         "See the power of my Word; that no one, no thing, not even life or death can separate us.

             "I give (you) eternal life . . . and no one will snatch (you) out of my hand."

 

Some advise you to look before you leap. 

Being bold is good, but you must know what you're getting into!

*         But here's another word of advice: "Don't look too long or you may be tempted to throw in the towel.

            There's an analogy I've used a couple times during Bible Class to illustrate this.

*         The life of a congregation is much like the life of any given sinner.

            Although you may enjoy your life, you can't expect to live forever.  

*         On the other hand, just because you're ailing, doesn't mean it's time to declare defeat.

            As a sinful human being, you may say it's our nature not to give in until the end.

*         If you have cancer, for instance, you may try radiation or chemo.

            It's not until you're in the final stages, that you finally yield to God's will.

          And so, it is as a Christian congregation.

*          What's more, we have something more than our will to live.

            We have the Word of our God and Savior.

*         And his Word is what sustains us in our faith, regardless of what we see in our life.

            So long as we see Jesus, that is, we needn't be afraid.                

*         We're not going down!  It's not time to concede, for we still have hold of Jesus' Word.  Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen.