Sermon for Pentecost 11 – 8.13.23

+10th Sunday after Pentecost – August 13th, 2023 +

Series A: Job 38:4-18; Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33

Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church

Milton, WA

 

“From Drowning to Rescue”

 

Grace, Mercy, and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

One of the things that good stories have in common is movement. Not just from beginning to end, but from a conflict to a resolution, a problem to a solution, from disaster to rescue. The recent Super Mario movie comes to mind. The movie begins with Bowser breathing fire and disaster on the entire video game universe; it ends with Mario defeating bowser and saving the mushroom kingdom.

 

The same is true even in true stories like we find in Matthew 14 this morning. There’s movement in Matthew’s account of Jesus talking on water. It moves from chaos (storm, wind, waves, darkness), to calm. It moves from confusion and fear to a faithful confession: “Truly you are the Son of God!” It moves from separation – Jesus is away from his disciples on the hillside; they’re in the boat struggling – to nearness; Jesus comes to them in the storm. It moves from doubt/despair to worship and trust in Jesus. There’s also the same movement we find throughout Scripture…from drowning to rescue, death to life…all by the gracious hands of Jesus the Savior.

 

With that pattern in mind, let’s hear Matthew’s account again. Matthew’s account begins with separation. The disciples are in a boat, on the sea, in the dark, struggling against the wind and the waves – meanwhile, Jesus, who sent them off in the boat, is on the hillside praying.

 

And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus 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. 

 

Matthew tells us the disciples’ response. They are troubled. They shout a kind of anti-confession, “It’s a ghost.” And they cry out in fear.

 

Chaos. Confusion. Fear. That’s where we find the disciples when Jesus shows up walking on the water. Jesus wastes no time.  Immediately, Matthew says, Jesus speaks in order to move his disciples and all who hear, from trouble to consolation; from a false confession to a true one – which comes finally at the end of the account; and from fear to a deeper faith in him.

 

immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

 

Jesus’ words match the disciples’ responses perfectly. They were troubled. Jesus replies, Take heart/be of courage. They cry out “it’s a ghost” – Jesus replies with the divine name. I AM. The I AM of the burning bush is now I AM in human flesh walking on the water. The disciples cry out in fear, and Jesus answers, “Do not be afraid.”

 

The movement here is clear and comforting. The one who controls the wind and waves, who masters the sea in their presence, is also their Master. Jesus brings his disciples and all of us who hear his word, into a deeper knowledge of him as Savior. They have no need, just as we have no need to be afraid. Jesus’ word and presence is enough. The story could end there, only it doesn’t.

Peter speaks up, “ “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 

Matthew has moved this story again. From the chaos, confusion, and fear, now there is doubt, despair, and from Peter’s perspective, death by drowning. The problem for Peter is that he took his eyes and ears off of Jesus. The same is true for us, the more we take our eyes and ears off of Jesus crucified and risen, off of his saving word and promise, the more that doubt, despair, and fear of death overwhelm us as they did Peter.

 

We single out Thomas as doubting Thomas, but what about Peter here. He doubts not once, but twice. First when our Lord identified himself to his disciples, Peter replies, “Lord, if it is you.” And then again when Peter got out of the boat and walked on water he saw the wind and waves and cried out in fear, “Lord, save me.” The first time he doubted whether it was really Jesus or not, and the second time he doubted whether Jesus was able to do what he said he would do.

 

Our doubts – and let’s be honest, we all have them – may look or sound different from Peter’s. But really, they are the same. At the root of our doubt is that we do not trust that Jesus is who he says he is, and that we do not trust that Jesus will do what he says. We wonder, if Jesus is powerful over the sea, will he save us when we call upon him? What if we fail to believe, or struggle to believe our Lord’s promises? What if I am a little-faith like Peter? What if my doubts and worries and cares seem bigger than that mustard seed. Will the Lord save me, or let me sink and give me what I deserve?

 

Matthew’s account of Jesus in the storm answers all those questions. Jesus can save. Jesus will save all who have even only a little faith in him – even if we, at times, doubt.

 

Remember, the movement of this whole narrative. From chaos to calm; from confusion and fear to confession and faith; from separation to nearness; from doubt and drowning to reassurance and rescue.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

Yes, there is a gentle rebuke…”O little faith one,” Jesus literally says. But Jesus does not despise a little faith. He does not snuff out a smoldering wick , or crush a bruised reed, or leave soaking wet Peter, or you or me, to drown in our doubt and death. Jesus does not abandon you. He does not let you go. He does not move away from, but towards. Jesus draws near.

 

Immediately. Not after a while. Not when Peter learned his lesson. Not when Peter perfectly understood. Not when Peter did anything. While Peter is splashing and sputtering and drowning, Jesus immediately reaches out his hand and grabs Peter, and puts him back in the boat. Then the wind stopped. The waves calmed. And the disciples worshiped. Confessed. Truly you are the Son of God! That he is.

 

The Son of God who comes to us in our doubt, despair, and death. Jesus does the same for you too. Jesus reaches out his hand, the same hand he grabbed Peter with out of the drink, is the hand he reached out with on the cross as he suffered and bled and died for all our sins, for all our times of doubt, for all our lack of trust. All of that is in the hands of Jesus crucified for you.

 

And then from the cross, our Lord still reaches out, through your Baptism, where he saves you by drowning your sin, washing you with new life by water and the Spirit; where he moves you from the chaos of sin to the peace of sins forgiven, from drowning in doubt and despair to rescue in his arms of mercy; from death to life in Him.

 

Take heart; do not be afraid. For Like Peter, you are forever, and always, held in the gracious hands of Jesus, I AM, your redeemer, rescuer, and savior.

 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

Contact

Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977