TEXT:  MATTHEW 14:22-33
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

Dear sons and daughters of our Lord Jesus Christ at Luther Memorial Chapel, Jesus walking on water is an elemental miracle. Three of the four elements of ancient philosophy are present in this narrative: earth, air, and water. The disciples got into the boat, pushed off from the land, and immediately encountered the torment of the waves and the ferocious, hostile wind. But Jesus is in control of the elements! He defies gravity, He defies natural laws, He defies the disciples’ expectations when He walks out on the water of the Sea of Galilee. And yet He will do so much more.

TEXT: MATTHEW 14:22-33
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid."

Dear sons and daughters of our Lord Jesus Christ at Luther Memorial Chapel, Jesus walking on water is an elemental miracle. Three of the four elements of ancient philosophy are present in this narrative: earth, air, and water. The disciples got into the boat, pushed off from the land, and immediately encountered the torment of the waves and the ferocious, hostile wind. But Jesus is in control of the elements! He defies gravity, He defies natural laws, He defies the disciples’ expectations when He walks out on the water of the Sea of Galilee. And yet He will do so much more.

Sometimes the weather is nice. The breeze cools our faces during the summer. Showers of rain feed the earth and make the plants green. Warm sunlight comforts us. But sometimes the weather is not on our side. There are times when the waves and tsunamis rise up, ending thousands of lives in Japan. Winds and hurricanes ravage homes and kill yet more people, and tornadoes rip apart southwestern Missouri. Even the earth gives way, like it did in Haiti, destroying hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. Where is God in all this destruction?

Job asked God the same question in the Old Testament reading. God responded out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth...who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb…and prescribed limits for it…and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no father, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? …Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? …Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.”

God responded with questions that left Job in repentant silence. Jesus’ rebuke to Peter does the same thing: “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why did you doubt that God is in control of the universe? Why did you doubt that Jesus is not only ordering all things for your good, but that He is right next to you, offering His grace every moment? The word for “doubt” here can mean “double standing” – vacillating and wavering between two things. Peter goes from doubting one moment (Mt. 14:31), to his great confession – “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (16:16), only to reject Jesus three times during His trial (26:74), to finally believing and trusting in his Lord and Savior (28:17).

You and I doubt and vacillate and waver just like Peter. When the storms of life overtake us, we doubt. When we see our planet ravaged by wind, water, fire and earthquake, we sometimes question God. When our bodies are tormented by disease, pain, loneliness, depression, and fear, we often falter and sink into despair. Some torments are closer and more personal than the weather. Our own sin is deep inside of us, causing us to question whether Jesus is still there for us.

These temptations from the world and from inside of us often lead us to tempt God with our doubts. When Peter said, “If it is you, Lord,” he almost sounded like Satan tempting Jesus: “If you are the Son of God,” make these stones into bread. “If you are the Son of God,” throw yourself down from the temple. Prove it to me. Show me the evidence. Explain to me the mysteries of the universe. Tell me how a loving God can allow people to die. But when we question God, He questions us right back: Who are you? Where were you when I created the earth, the water, and the air? You tell me. And since you cannot, repent of your doubting and believe. Our response should be like Job’s. We put our hand over our mouths. We repent in dust and ashes. We stop talking, and we sit down.

But Jesus walks. Jesus walks on the water. He does not only defy gravity and act beyond the laws of nature. He defies sin and doubt and fear. He defies tsunamis and hurricanes and tornadoes and floods and earthquakes. He defies the Devil. And He takes hold of our hand with His gracious invitation: “Come.” He calms our hearts when He says: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Take heart. I AM. The great I AM is here. The I AM who appeared to Moses in the fiery bush is here to save you. The God of the universe, the one who made the earth and water and wind, He cares for you and He takes your hand.

God’s “way was through the sea” and His “path through the great waters” when He “led [His] people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron” during the Exodus (Ps. 77:19-20). In the same way, Jesus brought His disciples out of the storm, and He also delivers you from the storms of this life. Moses went up on the holy mountain to receive God’s Law, but the prophet greater than Moses is now here (Dt. 18:18, Jn. 6:14), and He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray for us. The same God who fed manna to His people in the parched land of the Sinai wilderness is here now in the flesh in Jesus Christ, who fed loaves and fish to over 5,000 people, and who still provides all we need today.

Jesus graciously invites each of us with the same word that He invited Peter: “Come.” “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…that your soul may live.” (Is. 55) When we question God, Jesus is the answer. “In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.” (Ps. 95) More than that, He sees your doubts and wavering. He knows your anxiety and grief and pain. He took your sins upon Himself and destroyed death by dying on the cross for you.

Jesus’ invitation still stands: “Come.” Peter asked Jesus: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” This is a beautiful illustration of how God gives faith. If we try to come to Him, we realize that we are sinful, the world is evil, and the Devil is close by. We are unable to come to God. But the Good News is that Jesus Christ walks to us on the water. Jesus comes to us with the water that is poured on our foreheads and combined with His holy Words for the forgiveness of all our sins and the salvation of our souls. Jesus baptizes us in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the God who “trampled the waves of the sea” (Jb. 9:8) and controls all creation, and yet comes personally to us to save us from our sins.

The disciples in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God!” What an amazing confession! The soldier at the foot of the cross spoke the same words after Jesus gave His life for the life of the world: “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:54) Just as the wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus when He was a tiny baby (Mt. 2:11), so the disciples bowed down and worshiped Jesus as the Son of God in the boat. Likewise, the faithful women took hold of Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him after He died and rose from the dead three days later (Mt. 28:9).

We, too, having been buried with Christ through Baptism into His death (Rm. 6:4), have now been resurrected into newness of life by the glorious promises of Jesus through water and the Word. The Lord of all Creation re-creates us by this water, and so we gather to sing His praises and receive His gifts here at Church. We sing and read and hear Christ’s promises again each Sunday: “Take heart.” I will create in you a clean heart by the forgiveness of your sins. “It is I.” “I AM.” I am the God of your forefathers, of the Israelites, of the disciples and saints who have gone before you, and I am your God, and I will save you. “Do not be afraid.” “In this world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33) “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling…” because “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Therefore, take heart and rest in God’s promises, which He gives us in His Son, Jesus Christ. Hold firm to the confession of Jesus as the Son of God, who saves us from our sins. Pray to
God that He remove all doubt and fear from our hearts, using the simple cry of Peter as he floundered in the water: “Lord, save me!” “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” (I Pt. 5:7)

And the Lord, who began a good work in us, shall bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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