Focus: In Christ we have courage to walk with faith.
Function: That the hearers may take courage in Christ as they walk through the struggles of life.
Form: Story Framed
Grace Mercy and peace be yours from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is Matthew 14, the miracle of Jesus and Peter walking on water.
Dear Christian Friends,
Can you picture the setting? Can you see the events which are portrayed in this text? Do you see the faith of the disciples, as they learn who Jesus is? Listen to this story as I see it happening. Watch for the faith of Peter; is it similar to your faith?
It had been quite the day for Jesus and his disciples. Jesus had been in front of the crowds for hours just teaching and preaching. He was teaching in parables, all different kinds in order that the people may believe and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But some of the energy, the peppiness, the excitement of Jesus and the disciples was lost that day. You see, they had just heard about the beheading of John the Baptist. The man who had proclaimed in the wilderness “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” The same John who had baptized Jesus. After hearing about John, Jesus climbed into a boat to withdraw to a solitary place by himself. But the people didn’t want to be alone, they followed him.
When Jesus had arrived at the other side, there was already a large crowd anxiously waiting for him. I can see Jesus, drained, tired, and worn-out, taking a deep breath, stepping out of his boat, and having compassion on his people. Even though he was tired, Jesus continued to walk among the people as he healed their sick
But it was starting to get late. And the drained, tired, worn-out disciples came to Jesus, asking that the people would be sent away; for they were in a remote place with very little food. But remember Jesus, he had compassion on his people. Jesus asked for the food that was there, five loaves of bread and two small fish, to be brought to him. Jesus took the break and small fish, and looking to heaven Jesus gave thanks, broke the loaves of bread, and fed 5,000 people.
But don’t look too long, scene quickly changes. Jesus takes the disciples, makes them climb into a boat, and sends them to the other side. He then turns, dismisses the crowd, and goes up a mountainside to be by himself and pray. The disciples on the other hand, are not in a peaceful environment. No, they are in the middle of the lake, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm. Waves are crashing overboard, the wind is rocking and turning the boat, and the drained, tired, worn-out disciples are doing everything possible to cling to life; when suddenly a figure appears walking on the water.
You can imagine the shock and fear of the disciples when they see what appears to be a ghost. Jesus hears their cry, and says “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” The disciples want to believe, but their cautious. Sheepishly Peter asks to walk to Jesus, “Lord if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus lovingly answers “Come.”
Peter takes his first step of faith, as he lifts his foot up over the side of the boat, and it rests on the surface of the water. Peter walks in faith towards Jesus. But when the waves crash, the winds blow, drained, tired, worn-out Peter is filled with fear, and as he looks down losing sight of Christ, he begins to sink. He cries out to the Lord, “Lord, save me!” and immediately Jesus reaches out his hand to catch him. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” stings the ears of Peter as they walk hand-in-hand back to the boat. When they climbed in, the wind and waves ceased. The Lord was worshiped that night in the boat. “Truly you are the Son of God,” was proclaimed by the disciples. It had been quiet the day for Jesus and his disciples.
Have you ever felt drained, tired, and worn-out, just like Jesus and the disciples in this story? Have you been like Peter, who steps boldly out of the boat, and walks in faith towards Jesus, but when things seem to come crashing down around you, such as the death of a loved one, dwindling health, the lose of your independence, you lose sight of Christ? Your faith remains strong, but doubt seems to be stronger still.
Throughout the Biblical story we see people walking in faith, but also doubting along the way. We see Moses, standing at the burning bush when God is calling him to lead his people out of slavery, doubtful that he has the skills to lead Israel. There is Moses and the Israelites walking in faith in the desert of repentance for 40 years. Yet the Israelites often doubted the providential hand of God, hoping to die rather than trust in God’s plan. Moses also doubts the word of God when he struck the rock for water, rather then speaking to it. For this sin Moses did not enter the Promised Land. Do you remember Zechariah? Who was told by the angel Gabriel, that in his wife’s old age she would conceive a son. Zechariah doubted the words of Gabriel, and because of his doubt he wasn’t able to speak until the baby was born. There is also Thomas. Doubting Thomas; who as a disciple did not believe that Christ rose from the grave, and doubted until he was able to put his hand in the scars of Christ.
It is in our drained, tired, and worn-out sinful condition that doubt is able to creep into our faithful lives. But it is in this condition that we see our need for a Savior. When our energy is too drained to help us crawl out of bed; or our mind is too tired to recall all the fun memories with family and friends. It is when our joints are too worn-out to function properly, that we ask our dear Lord to help us. “Lord, save me.” In this moment of despair, when the waves are crashing around us, and the wind blowing against us, we are rescued by our Lord’s saving hand, stretched out for us there on the cross. It is on the cross that we see Christ our Savior, and it is on the cross that we keep our eyes fixed. When we see our world through the work of the cross, we are empowered to walk by faith.
Christ kept his eyes on the cross. When Jesus felt drained, tired, and worn-out, he went by himself to pray; to spend time with God, to become refreshed and energized to continue his work. We too become refreshed and energized when we focus on the cross. It was at the cross where Christ gave us his Body and Blood, in order that we may eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. It is at the Lord’s Supper where our faith takes hold of Christ’s promise of salvation. No longer does doubt overpower our faith.
When you feel drained, tired, and worn-out, by life’s struggles, life’s challenges, confidently walk in faith, with your “eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” For when we focus on Jesus, he says “Take Courage! It is I.” Walk faithfully through the power I have given you through my death and resurrection.
May the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting. Amen