Text: Mark 6:45-56; Genesis 9:8-17; Ephesians 3:14-21
Preached by: Vicar Christopher Amen
They saw what their wicked hearts imagined and deceived them to fear, an apparition, a phantom of the night coming to steal their lives.
What they thought they saw and feared would have been something like that out of Harry Potter. Their eyes blinded by the fog of their sinful hearts could not clearly see that this was no mythical figure, but it was Jesus. In terror they cried out. After all, men can’t walk on water. Then Jesus spoke,
Dear saints at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The disciples had just witnessed Jesus feeding 5000 men plus women and children from only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and even had baskets of leftovers. They have been following Jesus hearing Him speak and seeing these miracles, and yet they did not understand and their hearts were hardened.
The disciples were certainly in amazement after witnessing these things, but they still did not understand. Contrary to the popular saying, seeing is not believing. Even before the special effects of movies and television people still had a hard time believing everything they saw. And after such a feeding of so many from so little, the disciples still did not believe what they were seeing.
When they saw the Creator of the universe walking on the sea in near darkness, perhaps dimly lit by light from the moon, they did not recognize Him. Aside from not understanding the bread of life that Jesus gives, their sinful hearts feared what they thought to be a ghost. The Holy Ghost is not what they thought they saw. They saw what their wicked hearts imagined and deceived them to fear, an apparition, a phantom of the night coming to steal their lives.
What they thought they saw and feared would have been something like that out of Harry Potter. Their eyes blinded by the fog of their sinful hearts could not clearly see that this was no mythical figure, but it was Jesus. In terror they cried out. After all, men can’t walk on water. Then Jesus spoke, “Take heart, I AM. Do not be afraid.” And when Jesus said, “I AM,” the form of Jesus changed in their mind’s eye and their fear was removed.
It is easy for us to sit here and laugh at the disciples, thinking “you fools, Jesus is the bread of life that’s why He was able to feed so many with so little. He’s the Lord of Creation, if he wants to walk on water he can.”
Over the years, skeptics of various sorts have tried to provide explanation for Jesus walking on water. In the eighteenth century the Rationalists claimed that Jesus really was doing nothing miraculous but that the disciples just didn’t understand what was really happening. They reasoned that Jesus was simply walking on stones near the shore, sticking up near the surface of the water, so while it looked like he was walking on water, he really wasn’t. Skeptics of the nineteenth century and continuing on still today say that this event just never happened. They claim that this is rather a myth, originated by the pious imaginations of the early church to illustrate the special status of Jesus.
Our hearts are just as foolish and just as hardened by sin as the disciples. In a world of sin and deception, you’ll be tempted to believe that Jesus is less than He is. After so much time at the Savior’s feet, the disciples in the boat still saw Him as a ghost in the storm, unable to help. Wrong ideas abound about Jesus today. Some thinking that He’s only a man now long-dead, who gave some good sayings and provided a good example. And other claim that He’s just a figment of imagination that people have invented in their minds and never really existed. There may be times when you wonder if He’s real at all.
And there are times when you may want Jesus to be the bread king, as He was seen when feeding the 5000. Where you may think, “now this is a Savior, one who provides everything that we want, makes us successful, and keeps me happy and carefree.” This is what our Old Adam thinks, expecting life as a child of God to be easier and on the flip side, when things don’t go how we expect we may become fearful and may even doubt God’s presence.
Dear Christians, “Do not be afraid.” When Jesus says, “I AM,” he is not merely saying, “it’s just me, don’t worry.” He is Yahweh, I AM, who promised Noah that the waters of the flood would never again destroy all flesh from the earth. He is God who made His covenant between Himself and His people. Jesus is saying, “take heart, I AM, the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Do not be afraid.”
Christ was present with His disciples because He was here to remove all fear and guilt. His feeding of the 5000, His walking on water, was but a mere foreshadow of His Divine might. This is the Lord of all creation after all! He is the Word made flesh. The Creator who dwells within His creation.
He set aside His Heavenly throne to become man, to dwell with His people. Not merely be an example for others or to teach some honorable teachings, but to die for you. This is something skeptics and human hearts cannot understand, that the Lord of Creation would set aside His Divine glory and be subject to a mockery of a trial; that God, who has power of life and death, would come to die a most humiliating death, the death of a villain, death on a cross.
He does so because of you. You are weary and burdened daily by sin, you who face death, “do not be afraid.” The fulfillment of the covenant with Noah, is here present to give you His gifts of forgiveness and life. Just as Christ came to the disciples, removed their fear, and stopped the wind, so also He comes to you in the midst of your daily storms in this sin fallen world. Jesus climbs into the boat with you.
Christ comes to you today, not as a ghost, not in a mystical way, but in bodily form. He comes to you and makes you well by the means He has chosen. Not just by touching the fringe of His garment, but by bringing you into the nave of His boat, the Church, and pouring the waters of Baptism over you, that Christ may dwell within your hearts and that with all the saints you may know Him who suffered and died for you. Him who gives you His very body and His very blood to make you well. Take heart, it is He, the great I AM.
Now to him who is able to do far 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.