7th Sunday after Epiphany February 19, 2017
1 Corinthians 3:10-11,16-23
24, 428, 784 (TLH alt. 433), 54
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Have you ever played the game of Fall Back? If you have never played it or seen it played, you probably know what I’m talking about anyway. It goes by different names, but the way children generally play is by having one person stand with another standing behind them at a slight distance. The player in front must “fall back” into the arms of the one behind without moving their feet or hands to break the fall. It’s a game of trust. The player falling must trust the player behind to catch him. Often, the “falling” player will instinctively try to catch his fall even with the partner right there. Why is that? Because, you see, it can be hard to trust others.
In this world, after all, what or whom can we trust? We trust that products we buy will do what they advertise—and they can fail us. We trust people to do what they say they will do, or at least do what we think they will do, and they can fail us too. Sometimes it seems like the only thing you can count on is that you can’t count on anything!
Trust is important in relationships, but we know all too well that none of us are ever entirely trustworthy. Even when we try to be, we can come up short. Sin leaves it’s ugly stain both on our lives and on the lives around us.
However, Jesus is different. As we see Jesus revealed through the words of the gospel writers; as we learn how He interacted with others, how He cared for others, and how He used His power to help others, we see plenty of evidence that our Lord is completely trustworthy. He is revealed to us as the One in whom we can place our complete confidence. He always catches us, no matter how many times we fall.
One of the things we learn from our Scripture lesson today is that we have a trustworthy Savior who goes out to meet His people when they are in trouble.
Jesus has just finishing up the famous “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” which took place after a long day of preaching and teaching. Twelve baskets of leftover food are picked up after the meal and everyone is tired. While Jesus goes off by Himself to pray, His disciples get into a boat and head out across the Sea of Galilee to the other side (not a great distance).
As often happens on the Sea of Galilee, a dangerous storm developed and the disciples found themselves out in the middle of the lake being tossed by the wind and waves. Even for these experienced fishermen who had handled a boat many times before, it was difficult to manage in this storm.
Then, all of the sudden—there was Jesus—walking out to them on the lake. We notice that the disciples had not called out to Him. They had not looked to Him for help. In fact, it seems as though just the opposite was the case—it had not occurred to them that He could help them or that He could be trusted to help them if He could. When He appeared on the water, they thought they were seeing a ghost!
Although the faith of the men on the boat was weak; although they did not think first of Jesus, He thought of them. He took the initiative and went out to help them. Jesus was so trustworthy that He was willing to leave His quiet time on the mountainside and come to the disciples’ aid in the middle of the storm.
We are just like the disciples out on the boat. We see the storm clouds and the high waves roll in over our lives, but when Jesus appears we are almost surprised to see Him. We don’t always look to Him or expect His help the way we could—and should.
Still, we have the same trustworthy Savior as the men did who were rowing across the lake that night. Jesus can be trusted to take the initiative and come out to us just like He always has. He has come out to us in His word to comfort and support us. He came out to us at the cross, when He gave up His life to give us escape from the punishment we deserved for our sins. He comes out to us through our fellow Christians who give us counsel and support. Let’s not be startled when the Lord comes to help us, but rather take heart when we hear His words, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.
Peter’s trust in Jesus was strengthened by the Lord’s word that he should come to Him out on the water. Peter would never imagine that he could do such a thing under his own power, but when Christ said, “Come,” he knew that was an invitation that could be counted on. Peter also learned a few moments later that Jesus could be trusted not only to go out to help His people, but also to reach down and rescue them from danger and disaster.
Not surprisingly, Peter’s confidence in Jesus’ word did not last too long. As soon as he saw the fierce wind kicking up the water all around him, he forgot that it was the Lord who had told him he could come out onto the water to meet Him. Suddenly, the troubles that surrounded him began to distract him as he thought, “No, I can’t do this!” His actions really said, “No, I can’t do this—even though God said I could!”;
We say that Peter’s loss of confidence was not surprising, because it is just what we do too when God has given us a word of promise, invitation, or direction. We might start off thinking, “Yes, Lord, Your way is right! When you tell me to trust you and to come out to you even though the way is rough, I will do it!” And then, just as soon as we begin to walk on the water, we are scared by the waves and forget how trustworthy our Savior really is.
Think about how the Bible urges us to trust that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and that [nothing] will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8). We hear this word and we go forth into life encouraged and emboldened. Then the storms kick up, and we can begin to lose our confidence in the clear promises thinking, “Well, maybe God isn’t really working for my good in all things.” “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” Jesus says, and we reach out for Him. But then we get scared or doubtful and we begin to sink like Peter did.
Our trust may waver, but Jesus is always there. Immediately, He reached out His hand and saved His disciple. Immediately, He saves us from our lack of trust in Him. Our doubt and lack of confidence in Christ’s word is worthy of death—a crime clearly against the first commandment and its directive that we should trust in God above all things. But the Lord reaches out His hand and grabs hold of us and says, “My child, you are forgiven. I will take you with me.” Jesus suffered and died to cover all our weaknesses of faith. Peter’s sin—and ours—is laid on Him, who sacrificed Himself for us and for our guilt. He saves us from the sins which would sink us.
It is often said of us un-trustworthy humans, that those who have power and authority will eventually abuse it. Time and time again it has been repeated in history that trusted leaders have used evil and corruption to try to give themselves an even greater advantage over others. In Jesus, however, we find a trustworthy Savior, who even though He has all power in heaven and on earth, He uses it for our good—and we can always trust Him to do so.
After He had reached out His hand and caught Peter, the Lord climbed into the boat with him. No sooner had this happened than the wind died down.
The disciples knew right away that this was no coincidence. A raging storm on the Sea of Galilee does not just “die down” all of a sudden. They recognized this as the work of God and they were immediately prompted to worship Jesus, saying to Him: Truly, you are the Son of God.
Truly, He is the Son of God—with all the power and authority that comes with it—and He uses His divine power to do things that are in our best interests and in the best interests of all His believers. Here, He chose to calm the wind and the waves. Other times He used His power to heal those who were sick or paralyzed. Once, He turned water into wine. Several times He raised someone from the dead.
Each time He used His power for the good of others. Not just for their physical good, but especially for their spiritual good. Notice that when the disciples saw how the storm ceased, they did not say, “Look at how everything got so calm!” They said, “You are the Son of God.” Jesus had displayed His power, but He did so to show them that He was the Son of God—and so had power to do more for them than just quiet the waters. They could trust Him even to give them eternal life! He was trustworthy Savior who would work His might for their benefit.
It can be hard to trust people, but there is one Man we can always trust—the Lord Jesus. Remember how He has shown us that in this lesson of the walking on the water. He can be trusted to come to us in our need. He can be trusted to reach out His hand to save us. And He can be trusted to use His power for our good. A trustworthy Savior indeed! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, 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.