The Fourth Sunday after Easter May 2, 2010
1 Peter 2:4-10
388, 383, 189, 207
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
In the name of the risen Lord, our peace in every trouble, dear fellow Christians:
“The Perfect Storm” is one of the most exciting and intense movies I have ever watched. It tells the true story of a small fishing boat caught in the middle of a ferocious ocean storm, one of the worst ever documented. The wind howled relentlessly whipping the waves into walls of water 100 feet high. Despite all the efforts of the experienced crew, the boat was destroyed and sank. One of the most haunting scenes comes at the end of the film. The camera focuses on one lone survivor bobbing in the water, and then pans out in a wide angle to show that he is surrounded by nothing but angry waves for miles in every direction. The message is clear. There is no hope. It is just a matter of time before he slips beneath the waves and drowns.
The disciples of Jesus could have identified with that movie. They were caught in their own version of a perfect storm on the night before the Lord’s crucifixion. Everything they had assumed and counted on seemed to be coming apart. What Jesus was telling them pounded them like waves slamming against the side of a boat. One of them would betray Him. Peter would deny Him. Jesus would leave them. The winds of worry churned up waves of anxiety in their hearts.
When you look at your own life, do you see nothing but blue skies and sunshine? Or are there clouds building on the horizon? Are you being battered by a storm right now? Do you know of someone who is struggling to stay afloat? The waves can strike us from all sides. There is the daily stress of meeting all our ordinary obligations. We know that unexpected troubles can be expected. Temptations from Satan and the influence of the world can pound against our faith, and leave us confused and on edge. All this can come together into a perfect storm which feeds on itself and won’t even let you sleep.
So what can you do when the boat sinks and all you see are massive waves? Jesus told the disciples: “Don’t worry. Calm down.” He knows all about storms. He knew what His followers were facing. He also knew what He would do about it so He encouraged them: “Trust in Me.”
Whether it is being adrift on the ocean, lost in the freeway maze of Chicago, or being a toddler separated from Mom in the mall, it’s frightening to not know the way home. The disciples thought they had it all figured out. Jesus would one day be crowned king, rule in Jerusalem, and they would reap the benefits. But now all those assumptions had been blown away. That is when Jesus told them to trust Him to get them home. “In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you…I will come again and receive you to Myself.” [vv.2ff]
Do you know which way you are going? We have plans for today. We schedule the week ahead. We map out career paths and a course for retirement. But there are all kinds of storms which can blow us off course. Jesus tells us too: “Calm down. Trust Me.” It is especially important for our eternal future. It is one thing to plan for the near term here on earth, but then what? Virtually everyone wants to believe that there is a better place to come. Even those who ordinarily have no time for spiritual matters will express that hope when faced with death.
But how does one get there? There is a philosophy called “monism” which says that all things ultimately flow together into one. All roads lead to the same destination. All spiritual belief systems bring a person to eternal happiness. Many people take comfort in that, but it’s a hollow hope. It’s as foolish as suggesting to someone lost at sea to just start swimming in any direction. Just do your best, follow your heart, be spiritual, and you will make it home. How reassuring is that? What basis is there for that kind of wishful thinking?
Rather, Jesus says, “Trust Me. I am the Way.” He doesn’t say, “I teach you the way,” or “I’ll show you the way.” It is, “I am the Way!” We need Him because there is a huge void between us and God. He is holy and we are sinners through and through. That’s a problem. Our conscience warns us of it when we feel guilty for something we do or say, or when we decide not to do something we know we should do. God’s law churns up a storm of guilt, resentment, and fear within us. We can try to tell ourselves it is not a big deal. We can find others who look much worse than we do. But deep down we know that we are in trouble with God. Whether we have a police record ten pages long, or do not even have an overdue library book, we are all condemned before God by nature. There is nothing worse!
But Jesus is the Way. He is the bridge across the void. He fills in the gap caused by our lack of holiness with His perfect life. We don’t have to keep trying to pass the test. Jesus aced it for us. We don’t have to fear God’s punishment for Jesus suffered it in our place. His going to the cross prepared the way home for us. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all ” (1 Timothy 2:5f).
When plans fall apart, when you are troubled by guilt and there seems no way out, calm down and trust in Jesus. He is the Way. Trust Him to get you safely home, where there will be no more storms. “Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17 NIV).
But are you sure? There are so many religions, and the followers of each one believe they are right. Besides that, haven’t you been mistaken about things before? Haven’t people and convictions you depended on let you down? That is why it is popular to say that there is no absolute truth, that everything depends on the individual and the circumstances. There isn’t a great deal of comfort in that is there?
In the middle of a storm you want something that is real and solid to hold onto, something as real as the storm itself. The disciples needed that too. They were floundering not knowing what to grab hold of. Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” (cf. v.5) Philip wanted something visible to reassure him: “Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” (cf. v.8)
Jesus told them, “Calm down. I am the Truth of God. If you have seen and known Me, you have seen and known the Father.” The point Jesus was making is that we don’t have to worry whether trust in Him is the right way to God or not because He and God the Father are of the same essence. They are different persons of the Godhead, but together with the Spirit they are the one true God. Jesus “is the image of the invisible God…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (Colossians 1:15ff NIV).
In Jesus we see God. In His healing of lepers, we see the power of God. In His casting out demons and raising the dead, we see God’s authority. In Jesus’ telling the paralyzed man, “Cheer up, your sins are forgiven,” (cf. Matthew 9:2) we hear the Gospel message from God Himself. John writes: “We have seen His glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth…no one has ever seen God, but the only begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side has made him known” (John 1:14, 18 NIV).
When the wind and waves of doubt start churning in your mind and heart, calm down and trust Jesus as the Truth of God. There is nothing more solid than His Word. We heard about the Bereans earlier in the lesson from Acts. When they wanted to be sure that what they were hearing from Paul and Silas was the truth, what did they do? They searched the Scriptures.
We do the same. Our services here are very predictable. They all center on the Word of Christ, not on eye-popping video displays, entertaining bands, or seminars on how to improve everything from your diet to finances. Jesus is the Word of truth. That is why we have our children memorize dozens of Bible passages. We want that truth to be such a part of them that it will be there for every storm of life. Whether we are eight or eighty, we want to keep hearing the Word. It is our life preserver when we are threatened by the waves of Satan’s lies. When the storms strike, calm down and trust Jesus, the Truth of God.
In some ways the greatest storm we will ever face is death. But there is another one closely related to it and that is the fear that this life will be wasted, that we will come to the end of it and realize too late that we squandered the years we had. Midlife crises can sometimes be traced to those thoughts. To the disciples the value of their lives up to this point was in question. They had left everything to follow Jesus and now He was going to leave them.
“Calm down,” Jesus told them, “I am the Life.” By His suffering and death He would give them life to the full. They would enjoy forgiveness and peace with God, and have Heaven to anticipate. Their lives on earth would be filled with meaning, for the Lord would send them out to preach the news of salvation. Paul would later write: “I no longer live, Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
In addition, Jesus made a startling promise: “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” [v.12] Jesus’ work was done in the shadow of the cross and was confined to Israel. By the time of His ascension, only a few openly confessed Him as Lord. In the light of the resurrection the disciples by the power of the Spirit would do greater things. They would fan out and preach the good news to Gentiles as well as Jews. The Spirit would draw thousands into Christ’s kingdom.
When the storm clouds have you wondering and looking for real meaning in life, trust in Jesus. He is life to the full. In baptism we have been buried with Him and raised to new spiritual life as children of the heavenly Father. Through the Word the Lord gives us the Holy Spirit to go out and serve as His witnesses to the people in our lives. A life spent doing that is never wasted!
The storms will come. The wind and waves in your heart and life may increase until it seems as though they will surely crush you beneath them. But don’t worry. There is a perfect Savior for the perfect storm. Calm down and trust Jesus. He is still the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Christ, the way that leads unfailing
To the Father’s home on high,
Christ, the truth that frees the captive,
Christ, the life that cannot die.
Mediator to the Father,
Sacrifice and great High Priest;
Lead us to Your heav’nly mansions,
There to share Your wedding feast.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.