Based on Biblical Text Matthew 14:27
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid’
During my devotion time, I took another look at the story of the storm tossed the boat in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 14:22-33). This often told story, of course, is about Jesus, on a stormy night, walking on the water toward the boat carrying the fearful disciples. The story’s main character is Jesus, and the sub-plot introduces us to Peter challenging Jesus climbing down out of the boat and trying to walk on water.
I find comfort in this story as I picture, in my mind, Jesus coming at a point when lives were in danger. As He had and has so many times, when the storms in life rage, Jesus shows up to provide the help that only He can. This time, in the midst of the angry storm, while the sea was being tossed about by the wind and the waves were strong, Jesus came toward the helpless vessel walking on the water.
I’ve heard many an interpretation that questioned the fact that the disciples didn’t seem to recognize Jesus. However, I envision Jesus approaching, stepping over the waves, walking toward the boat as the angry wind whipped up the sea mist. On a dark evening, that had to be a scary sight. I don’t find it difficult to understand that the disciples were afraid or that the usually familiar face of Jesus appeared distorted. They were afraid for their lives; after all, at the moment they were without their Lord and Savior. Life without Jesus, even for a moment, leaves one helpless. I don’t find it difficult to understand how they would not recognize Jesus or cry out in fear, “It is a ghost!”
Then, in the midst of the storm, when things are at their worst, when things are especially troublesome, Jesus calls out “Do not be afraid.” Jesus also admonishes, “Take heart,” (“take courage.”) It is Jesus’ prayer that all who are His disciples would find courage and not be anxious in the face of difficulty. Jesus wants us to “remember the last time He held our hand.” It is His promise to us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us.
The story takes on another interesting twist as Peter wants to try his hand at walking on water also. Peter gets down out of the boat into the raging water. However, along the way to Jesus Peter gets scared and starts to sink. It is then that Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!”
Of course, it is amusing to think that Jesus could have said to Peter, “Now what do you want me to do?” Jesus could have allowed Peter to drown. That is not what Jesus would do but I think it is sometimes how the “world” responds to our cries for help. Jesus, God’s only begotten Son, chooses to save us, even though we got ourselves into the messes we find ourselves in. And, of course, Jesus chose to save Peter and get him back into the boat. Peter is once again safe and sound.
When Jesus rescued Peter from the waves, He said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” I thought immediately of those who exegete this text to support the notion that these words of Jesus and this story about Peter is saying to us, “When troubles come, when the storms in your life are tossing you to and fro, when you start to sink beneath the waves, you are sinking because you don’t have enough faith.”
That interpretation leads us to believe that when trouble comes, when the winds and the sea are contrary, it’s your fault. You are to blame. It’s your fault not because you didn’t have enough sense not to jump out of a boat, but because you were out of the boat, and you didn’t have enough faith. In other words, when you find yourself in difficulty, your lack of faith is to blame. This, of course, would lead one to believe that when I fell and broke my leg, it showed lack of faith. If somebody you loved died much too young, somehow, you or the loved one was lacking faith in Jesus.
Ludicrous is the word that comes immediately to mind. There are some things, like our finances or our lifestyle, that we can work on. However, I find it very disconcerting when one is led to believe that the death of a dear loved one is somehow their fault. How much more is a serious, unexplained illness compounded by the thought that it is somehow our fault? I find it distasteful that anyone of “spiritual” authority would use the “sacred desk” as a forum to add more weight to an already heavy situation preying on one’s human nature to feel guilty implying that if only we just had a little more faith.
There are undoubtedly many things that we do that show how foolish we can be. One can argue that Peter was foolish to get out of the perfectly good boat. However, I am more inclined to believe that even the best disciples can, from time to time, make what appears to be such silly and sometimes dangerous decisions.
What I find most interesting is that Jesus doesn’t chastise Peter for climbing down out of the boat. Rather, Jesus admonishes Peter for growing anxious. Jesus was speaking specifically about Peter being anxious about things he cannot even control. Once Peter’s mind shifts from what he is able to do in Jesus to what he believes he is not able to do on his own his mind takes him out of this miraculous moment and Peter begins to sink. The moment Peter’s mind shifts to thinking of his own limitations he becomes afraid. In his state of fear Peter is missing out on the miraculous power of Jesus. But, by the grace of God Peter will always remember those few wonderful moments when he actually walked on water with Jesus. Peter will remember the last time Jesus held his hand.
In the midst of his fear Peter called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” and immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Jesus very calmly responds, “Come.”
Jesus asks, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus is asking, why is your faith mixed with anxiety. Why are you anxious? Don’t you remember the last time I held your hand? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
As we approach the Sabbath
Sunday, July 21, 2013, is the Ninth Sunday After Pentecost.
Join our Worship Experience at 8:00 am and 11:00 am.
Church School begins at 9:45 am.
Scripture Lesson for this Sunday
There is a Word from the Lord!
Sermon Text Psalm 100
Sermon Title Make a Joyful Noise!
The 11:00 am Sermon will be delivered by the Rev. Dr. Juernarrl Keith.