SERMON: HE COMES TO RESCUE
SCRIPTURE: MATTHEW 14:22-33
Our Gospel today is a familiar one, one we have read many times during our lives. We may even recall hearing it as a small child. And the double amazement we felt, in learning not only that Jesus walked on the water, but that Peter walked on the water, too. Perhaps you thought about what that would be like, how cool, nifty, neat-o, swell, or whatever was the term in vogue at the time. Maybe you even tried to walk on water at the pool. Disappointed in your endeavor, you may have wondered why you failed.
So, what’s this miracle all about? Well, it’s about Jesus. After feeding the multitude of 5,000, Jesus herds His disciples into a boat and sends them across the Sea of Galilee. Then he dismisses the crowd of people, and again goes off to pray. When he is finished praying it is night time. He is on the mountain. The boat with disciples was in the middle of the sea. The wind was blowing and the waves were growing. Now Jesus walks on the water to go out to them.
Jesus comes to them. He did not leave them to fend for themselves in the water. He did not go around the sea, and wait for them on the other side. Waiting to see if they can and will make it across. No, Jesus goes to them, He comes to them.
Jesus comes to us, also. He comes to us in His word, when we hear it read in church, or when we read it at home. He comes to us in His word when we remember it in our hearts, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Or when we pray His word, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
He comes to us in baptism, bringing us into His kingdom, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. He comes to us in His own body and blood in His supper.
The first thing we learn from the account of this miracle is that Jesus comes to us. He is not a god far away. He does not demand that we somehow make our way to Him. He who came to us in Bethlehem, Emmanuel, God With Us, is still with us, and still comes to us daily, created people on earth that we are.
What happened next? The disciples saw Jesus a-walking on the water, but they did not know him. They were sure it was a ghost. And scared witless. So Jesus calls out to them, “Cheer up. It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” So Jesus comforts them. How does Jesus comfort them? He comforts them with His promise “It’s me.” And because it is Him, He reassures them that they need not be afraid.
Jesus comforts us, too. He tells us, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” And “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We know Him, Jesus, to be Redeemer and Lord. And because He is our Redeemer and Lord, we can cheer up, and have no fear. Notice what did not happen, what Jesus did not say. He did not say, “Cheer up, because it’s all going to be smooth sailing.” He did not say your “troubles will melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops.” What did He say? “It’s me.”
It’s the kind of greeting you say to someone you know and love, and who knows and loves you. It’s a reassurance that it is He, Jesus, Lord of Land and Sea, and that He has come to us, and is with us. And because He is with us, we need not fear, no matter what is happening to us or all around us.
Jesus comes to us, and He comforts us. He also catches us, that is He rescues us. Now Jesus had just said to the disciples, “It’s me.” What does Peter do? He says, if it’s you Lord, command me to walk to you on the water. Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter walks on the water to Jesus. The wind keeps blowing, the waves keep growing. Peter sees the turmoil around him and is frightened. He sinks and cries out, Lord, save me. Jesus stretched out his arm, grabs Peter, and saves him.
Jesus rescued Peter. Stretching out His arm, He rescued Him. Jesus did not say, Just keep going, Peter, or yell, Swim, Peter, swim! He did not say, you are the one who decided to get out of the boat. You are the one who is frightened. You got yourself in, now get yourself out.
But isn’t that what Jesus meant, that it’s all Peter’s fault for sinking because he didn’t have enough faith? Aren’t we supposed to have more faith, so that we can walk on water, too, like Peter?
No. Let’s look that what Jesus said. “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt Me.?” Now, when Peter saw the waves, the text does not say that he doubted, it says that he was frightened. And Jesus did not say, “Why were you frightened?” No, the doubt is more subtle, and deeper. Remember what Peter said back to Jesus when He said, “It’s Me!” Peter said, “If you are the Lord.” He was not convinced. He did not believe that it was Jesus. Instead of trusting Jesus’ word, he doubted. It was not Jesus idea for Peter to get out of the boat and walk on water, it was Peter’s. So Jesus asks, “why did you doubt?” For had Peter believed Jesus’ word, Peter would have been safe in the boat.
Well, if Peter needed to stay in the boat, why did Jesus say, “Come.” First, of course, the text does not answer all the whys. But we can see the text as a whole, and from what Jesus was doing, coming to the disciples, that Jesus said to Peter, “Come,” because Jesus was meeting Peter where Peter was in his faith. That is, if this is the only way, Peter, that you will believe Me, then do it. I want you to believe Me.
And eventually Peter did believe. When he was sinking, when his own sin and foolishness was closing in on him, he cried, “LORD, save me.”
Jesus came, and He rescued. He rescues you and He rescues me. He saves us not only from this world and from the power of the devil. He saves us from our own sin. Not just the sin we inherited from our parents, from Adam. Not just the sin that assails us in this world, but from our own sin. The sin we commit: sin which gets us into trouble; sin that puts us in peril; Sin that would costs us our lives, our eternal lives, but for the rescue of Jesus. So He rescued us. He stretched out His arms on the cross, and rescued us.
So Jesus comes to us, Jesus comforts us, and Jesus catches and rescues us. Jesus is more than a lighthouse. A lighthouse, while it is useful and good, cannot come to you. It cannot rescue you. When the Titanic was sinking, the people did not need a lighthouse, so they could row their own way to the other shore. No, they need a rescuer. One who would come to them, comfort them, and catch them up out of the circling waters.
Our Redeemer and Rescuer, Jesus, is with us. He has promised to be with us. He wants us to believe Him. He does not tell us the how, the why, and the when. But He tells us the Who. In words of the One Who knows us, loves us, and is with us. “It is I. It’s Me.” Thus,
Lord, when the tempest rages, I need not fear,
For You the Rock of Ages, are always near.
Close by Your side abiding, I fear no foe.
For when Your hand is guiding In peace I go.*
This message from Pastor David Roth is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project