Summary: Jesus and Peter walk on the water and show us how our fears are overcome by God's grace.
"Lord, Save Me" Matthew 14.22-33
Brian Simo is a race car driver, and most of you have probably never heard of him. However there is one thing about him with which you are probably familiar. In 1985 he created the “No Fear” clothing line and found an idea that appealed to many Americans. We have a lot of respect for bravery and for those who are willing to take challenging risks. But when does “No Fear” really mean “Darn Fool”? Last week a woman fell to her death on a very steep day hike at Yosemite National Park. The hike does not require any special expertise, but it is challenging, and it should never be attempted if there is any chance of rain. The granite dome becomes very slick and dangerous in rainy weather. Still many hikers attempt the climb ill-prepared, over confident of their skills and of the weather conditions.
Today’s Gospel lesson teaches us that “No Fear” is not just a decal or a T-shirt. It is not just a spirited hope of getting lucky. It is not at all about taking foolish risks. The real “No Fear” lifestyle is found in those, who like the Apostle Peter would say to Jesus, “Lord, Save me!”
We start by noticing Jesus’ focus on prayer. He wanted to be by Himself to pray. Jesus prayed often and for significant lengths of time. Why did Jesus pray? Jesus prayed because although He is completely and fully the Son of God, He is also completely and fully a human being. This is the mystery of the Two Natures in Christ. Jesus’ prayer life is one of the ways He faithfully obeyed God’s Law for us. His prayer life is not just an example for us to follow, it is the edge of an axe that splits the chains of the Law that condemn us because of our failure to keep it.
We also notice that Jesus sends His disciples on in the boat knowing that they would run into trouble. Trouble is everywhere in this world. God knows that, and His promises to us are not that we will be exempt from trouble but that we will survive it and thrive in spite of it. Some of you remember Pastor Sam Boda. Pastor Boda had small banana grove in his backyard. Bananas will grow in our hot and humid summers. But the season isn’t long enough for them to produce fruit. Some people tried to overcome this by starting their banana trees in a green house earlier in the spring. But, according to Pastor Boda, banana leaves, in particular, have to be exposed to the wind as they are growing. If they grow in a quiet greenhouse, and are then put outside, those big beautiful leaves will be shredded by the first summer windstorm. So too, we are exposed to troubles of all kinds as Christians just like anyone else. But God uses those troubles mixed with faith to strengthen us. Job said, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.” (ESV Job 23.10). (See additional passages at the end of the sermon.)
A Fantastic Miracle
Now Jesus comes out to the disciples walking on the water. This is a fantastic sight. Matthew actually uses the word phantasma, which is often translated “ghost.” Peter, the leader of the twelve, rises to the rescue. Is this an ancient form of “No Fear”? Peter faces two challenges. The first is to determine whether this is Jesus or a ghost. “If it is You... command me to come...” Peter is commanded, and incredibly he also steps out onto the water. But the ordeal is not over yet. Peter comes close to Jesus, but even at this safe place is frightened by the strong wind, begins to doubt and to sink. It is then that Peter leaves behind the “No Fear” attitude and simply cries out to Jesus, “Lord, Save me.” “Immediately” Jesus reaches out to grab hold of his arm and saves him.
Truly the Son of God
Jesus then urges the disciples not to be afraid but instead to have faith. They respond by worshiping Him as the Son of God. Now this last part is most important. Matthew chapters 11 to 16 form a unit in which Jesus repeated demonstrates that He is the Son of God. Notice that I said Jesus “demonstrates.” Doubters and skeptics love to point out that Jesus Himself rarely “said” He was the Son of God. But this is complete foolishness and self-inflicted ignorance. Jesus showed Himself to be the Son of God by walking on the water and stilling the storm. Who defies the Laws of Nature unless He is the Lord of Nature? Jesus also accepts the worship of the disciples.