Summary: The message of Jesus' salvation and care for us in the midst of our storms is always relevant and new. Every day, new storms threaten to overtake us, if it weren't for the might of Jesus and His careful watch over us.
Today’s Gospel is very familiar to us all. We all love to hear of Jesus walking on the water, and Peter’s feeble attempt to walk to Jesus, from which Jesus saved him. And if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking that you know exactly what today’s sermon will be about, because every time this Gospel comes up we hear another sermon that Jesus Saves Us From Our Storms. Well, guess what? Today’s sermon title is “Another Jesus Saves Us from Our Storms Sermon.” And I prayed and prayed, and God said to me, “Why not?”
We still find ourselves in the midst of many storms. And Jesus still saves us from them. “Ancient words ever true, changing me and changing you…” Jesus hasn’t gotten out of the salvation business, and we still desperately need His touch in our lives.
If you recall, all the way back at the beginning of the year, we talked about two main themes from the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew that weave throughout it. Do you remember? I’ll give you a hint, they were related to our Lord’s name. Jesus and Immanuel.
Immanuel. “‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us’” (Mt. 1:23). Immanuel means God with us, and throughout the Gospel, we again and again see Jesus being with people, not shutting them out when they seem too bad or too dirty or too sinful. Jesus is God with us throughout every moment, every trial and struggle.
Jesus. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21). The name Jesus means God saves. We’ve seen the billboards saying, “Jesus saves”—at least I did when I was younger. Abp. Sheen said in response to them, “Yes, indeed He does. But from what, and for what?” Throughout the Gospel, we must understand that the purpose of Jesus’ Incarnation was not to create a new social organization called the Church, but to save men and women and children from their sins.
So we come to today’s Gospel lesson and we see Jesus true to His name. Our Lord was with His disciples, even when they couldn’t see Him, and He came to save them. These two truths—that Jesus is God with us, and He saves us—are the ABCs of the Good News. The “Gospel in a nutshell” covers it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16). Whatever else we chose to learn and know about our Lord, we all begin our life in Him because He saves us. Salvation through Jesus is the foundation of life. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, because He alone can save us from our storms.
Jesus saves us out of situations that are too hard for us to take. The Gospel begins with Jesus forcing the disciples to leave Him. Jesus had just fed 5,000 men, all said, well over 20,000 people, and the disciples were part of the miracle. The people wanted to make Jesus king by force (Jn. 6:15), and the disciples were most likely caught up in the fervor. Why not make Jesus king? When Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say” (Mt. 27:11). But Jesus’ kingdom “is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36), and the sons of Adam could not make Jesus a king. Abp. Fulton Sheen wrote, “No unclean hands would put a crown on His head—except a crown of thorns” (LC, 136). So, instead of allowing the disciples’ weakness to harm them, Jesus sent them to the other side of the lake.
Sometimes our salvation is to be sent into another difficult situation: out of the frying pan and into the fire. Jesus sent the disciples across the lake knowing that a storm was brewing. Why would God let that happen? Back with the crowds, the peril was too perilous, but was a squall any safer? But the disciples were fishermen and, despite the difficulty, they knew how to handle the boat in a storm. And even if they didn’t, if they died in obedience of the Lord of all, isn’t that a good way to go?
But we all get frustrated when it seems that God answers one prayer, only to allow another problem just as bad or worse to take it’s place. I don’t like when I ask God for relief from work, and I get just the forced rest I need by having my retina detach. But I was overworking myself and not taking time to stop and simply be. And then I prayed for God to heal me and give me strength for work, and I go back and immediately feel overwhelmed by it again. These are my struggles; you have your own. We all struggle. Sometimes we have periods of relief and rest, when we can offer encouragement and consolation to our brethren; and other times we are the ones needing to be encouraged and consoled. This sharing of our lives makes life within the Body of Christ amazing and fruitful. And it allows us to endure the times of trial.