“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 9, 2020

“Lord, Save Me!” (Matthew 14:22-33)

Who is this Jesus fellow? That is the central question in all four of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Who is this Jesus? As we read the gospels, we are discovering the same thing the disciples were learning: that there is something very special about this man named Jesus. And so it is, again today, in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. The disciples are learning more about Jesus, and so are we. And knowing who Jesus is, knowing who he is for us–not only that he is God’s Son, with all divine power and authority, but also that he uses his authority to save us–knowing Jesus in this way, so that you will trust in him for your salvation, this is the most important thing in the whole world that you need to know.

We pick it up today in Matthew 14 right where we left off last week. Jesus has just done the feeding of the five thousand, not far from the Sea of Galilee. It’s been a long day, exhausting, and now Jesus wants some alone time, when he can pray in private. So he sends the disciples on ahead in the boat, while he stays behind. He’ll catch up with them later. And boy, howdy, will he!

So the disciples are in the boat, crossing the Sea of Galilee. Notice, I said the “Sea” of Galilee, and that’s how we often refer to it, but really it’s just a medium-sized lake. This would not have been a long trip, to go from one place on the lake to another. I’ve been on a boat there and done that, and it’s not a long trip. In fair weather, that is, when the water is calm.

But the sea was angry that day, my friends. That night, I mean. A storm had brewed up, the waves were beating the boat, and the wind was against them. For the Sea of Galilee to turn turbulent all of a sudden is especially possible because of its location. Sixty miles to the north, you have Mount Hermon, over 9,000 feet high. Maybe ninety miles to the south, you’ve got the Dead Sea, over 1,000 feet below sea level. So this whole stretch down the Jordan Rift Valley can be like a long wind tunnel, and storms can whip up quickly. Lake Galilee can suddenly become a stormy sea.

Now keep in mind, a number of the boys in this boat were professional fisherman, and they knew this lake better than anyone. So for them to be stuck out there, battling the wind and the waves and making no progress, you know it’s got to be bad. It’s now the middle of the night, and still they aren’t getting anywhere.

But then, from out of nowhere, what do they see? It’s Jesus, walking toward them! Walking on the sea! How can that be? They’re terrified! They think it’s a ghost. A person can’t walk on the sea. Or can he? This one can. Their master, Jesus, is walking toward them, on the sea!

You know, we often refer to this event as “Jesus walking on the water.” But the text actually says he was “walking on the sea.” And that carries some added weight, biblically speaking. For in the Bible, the “sea” generally carries the idea of a place of danger, a place of chaos, where man is literally out of his element. But here comes Jesus, striding on the sea, like it’s no big deal.

This tells us something about Jesus. It tells us that Jesus is the Lord of the sea. He has mastery over it. Think of what we heard today in the Book of Job, where the Lord God says to Job, “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?” Meaning, “You, man, you cannot do such a thing, but I can. I am God. I created the sea and set limits for it and have authority over it.” And now here comes Jesus, walking on the sea. Like a boss! Like he’s taking a stroll in the park. Conclusion? This man Jesus has divine power and authority! Even authority over a stormy sea.

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid,” Jesus reassures his disciples. Whether they were more afraid of the wind and the waves or afraid of seeing a ghost in the middle of the night–whatever their fears, Jesus wants them to stop fearing and to take courage. Why? Because, as he tells them, “It is I.”

It is the presence of Jesus, with us, that will calm our fears. “It is I.” The Greek words there are “Ego eimi,” “I am.” We’re reminded of the Old Testament name of God, “I AM.” For indeed, Jesus is “God with us,” “Immanuel.” He promises his church, even now, “For lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus is here with us, dear friends, even on the stormy sea of our life.

What are you afraid of? Advancing age? Health worries? Mounting financial debt? Ae you worried that your mortgage will go “underwater,” as they say? These are the winds and the waves that can make us feel like we’re stuck and making no progress. We’re exhausted. We feel like everything is against us. But here comes Jesus, striding out confidently to where we are, and reassuring us: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Well, so Peter sees this, and, impetuous as he was, he’s ready to join Jesus for a walk on the water: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus allows this; he says, “Come.” And at first, things are going well. Peter is able to take some steps and come toward Jesus. But then, what happens? He gets his eyes off Jesus and starts looking at the wind. Well, of course, you can’t see the wind, but you can see what the wind is doing. And it’s whipping up the waves pretty bad. He’s afraid. He’s beginning to sink!

Peter here reminds me of a passage from the Epistle of James. There it says, “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person . . . is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” That’s Peter here, isn’t it? Doubting Peter. Double-minded Peter. He sees Jesus–that’s good–but now he is more focused on his negative circumstances, the stormy sea. And so he is double-minded. He’s unstable. He’s afraid. He begins to sink.

Do we ever become double-minded, like Doubting Peter? Oh, I think we do. We take our eyes off Jesus, who invites us to come to him, who promises to sustain us–we take our eyes off Jesus and look more at our worries and our fears. Can you identify? I can.

So what to do when we find ourselves overwhelmed with fear and sinking down? Do what Peter did in his desperation. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” That’s a good prayer in all situations: “Lord, save me!” For you and I need his saving power every hour. Whether we’re sinking under the waves, or when our life is calm and we’re making good progress–in any and every situation, we still need our Lord Jesus Christ to save us.

“Lord, save me!” Peter cries. And he’s talking to the right fellow, because Jesus is Lord, and he does save. That’s who he is. That’s what he does. Even his name, “Jesus,” tells us that. The name Jesus is the same as Joshua, “Yehoshua” in the Hebrew. And “Yehoshua” literally means “The Lord saves.” So Jesus’ name is also his job description, for he came into our world precisely in order to save us.

And not just from a desperate situation like sinking under the waves. But to save us from something even more desperate–to save us from our sins. Remember what the angel told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” From their sins! That is what we most desperately need saving from! Our sins! Our sins would truly sink us, sink us eternally! Death and damnation would be the result. But our Lord Jesus Christ came down from heaven for us men and for our salvation. He, God’s only Son, lowered himself and walked all the way to the cross in order to do the saving job. It took the death of God’s own Son to pay for all the sins of the whole world, your sins included. Now you are forgiven. Now you are right with God. Because of Christ. Now you are saved, and you will be saved and safe forever. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Brothers and sisters, fellow baptized, you have already been drowned under the water; you have been buried with Christ in the waters of Holy Baptism. And Christ, by his resurrection, has come and taken you by the hand and pulled you up from death to life. Now you live in Christ and with Christ, and you will share in his resurrection and eternal life. Now you are safe in the boat, safe in Christ’s church, where he is present with us. The wind of fear has ceased. The waves of doubt have subsided. Jesus is with us, and we will reach our destination safe on the other shore. And so now we worship our Lord and say with the disciples, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

Published in: on August 8, 2020 at 2:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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