Sermon: “Jesus Saves”
LSB Series A; Proper 14
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost; August 9, 2020
Gospel Reading: Matthew 14:22-33
Let us pray. Divine Savior, when the storms of life threaten to shipwreck our faith, assure us of Your loving presence and protecting care. Amen.
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Have you ever faced a time in your life of uncertainty where fear and doubt settled in?
The disciples in our text for today sure did. Jesus had just told them to get into a boat and go on ahead of Him while He dismissed the crowd of five thousand that He had just fed with five loaves of bread and two fish, leaving twelve baskets full of leftovers. So, off they went, while Jesus went up on a mountain to pray. And while they were about three to four miles from shore, somewhere between three and six in the morning, they were getting beaten by the waves, and the wind was against them.
Now this is not what filled the disciples with fear and doubt. They would have been accustomed to such conditions on the sea. They knew that the Sea of Galilee was a low-lying sea positioned in a valley, and it was known for having both sudden, and violent storms.
What’s more, they had been on a boat on this sea before. Remember that time when the storm came up and Jesus was sleeping on the pillow. Then He got up and rebuked the wind and the waves with a simple, “Peace! Be still!” And everything was calm.
Well, this time, Jesus wasn’t with them, and everything was not calm. It wasn’t calm on the water, nor did they feel calm themselves. As the water was churning to and fro, so were their stomachs. For there before them, off in the distance was what they thought was a ghost.
Just imagine their fear and trepidation. Think of them wiping their eyes from the water splashing them, trying to get a better glimpse. Then, in the midst of the storm, they heard: “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
It is a common line in Scripture. Again and again, we hear, don’t fear, Jesus is here. And yet, just like the disciples, we get scared.
Why is that? Why were the disciples afraid? Why is it that we so easily get filled with fear? Why do we fret over the cares and concerns of this world so easily? Why do we turn on the news and so easily forget God’s love for us and His promises?
I don’t know about you, but reading the news these days is quite disheartening. It breaks my heart to hear about people dying from a virus, and it also breaks my heart to see all the restrictions put in place that have people in care facilities cut off from their families. It breaks my heart to hear about the racial divide in our country, and it also breaks my heart to see protests turning violent and people getting away with crimes and defiance of the authorities that we have entrusted to protect us.
And I don’t know about you, but when there are so many heart-breaking realities all around us, it can be easy to get down. It can be easy to become afraid.
Young children experience fear quite often, especially when there is a storm at night. Now I have to be careful here, because my wife will tell you that it has been rare that I ever get out of bed when my kids cry out. I am often sound asleep. But, in those rare instances, especially when the boys were young, I would get up and I would cradle them in my arms or lean over into my bed and I would sing to them. And this is what I would sing:
“O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, Consider all the works Thy hand hath made, I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed; Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”
There on that Sea of Galilee was the great and almighty God, the Savior of the world, and He was walking to them on the water. And if ever there was a doubt in their mind about who it was, Jesus ended it with the words, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” “It is I” “Ego eimi!”
These were the words God had spoken to Moses from the burning bush to identify Himself as God. These were the words that Jesus spoke to the disciples to identify Himself as God walking upon those water’s waves. And at that very moment, there was no need to fear, because Jesus was here.
In God-given faith, Peter tested these waters and called out to Jesus to command him to come walk upon the water. And walk on it he did. Imagine what those first few steps must have been like. For that matter, imagine what the first step must have been like. And then he got to walking, walking on the water. That is, until he took his eyes off of Jesus, and the text says that he was afraid. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and he was filled with fear, and he began to sink like a lead weight.
That is, until he called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.” It is that cry of “Hosanna”. “Save now!” And that’s what Jesus did. He reached down and grabbed ahold of His disciple and brought him into the boat. And as soon as He did, Jesus said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
See here in this text that Jesus is the Savior. Again and again, He saves. He saved His disciples from the temptation to pride and popularity when He sent them to row across the sea instead of being hailed as celebrities by the crowds fed with the bread and fish. He saved them from the wind and waves that were tossing their boat to and fro by making the wind cease. He saved Peter by reaching down and grabbing ahold of his arm and hauling him into the boat to safety. But His being their Savior went beyond all of that, for them and for us.
He saved us all by doing the unthinkable. He dove into this world of doubts and fears head on and laid down His life for us. He allowed Himself to be drowned in the depths of the suffocating reality of a crucifixion, and there He took upon Himself all of our sins of doubts and fears, all of the times that we took our eyes off of Him, all of that arrogant pride where we have thought we could save ourselves, and He finished it off once and for all so that we would not die eternally. After all, we wouldn’t need a Savior if we could save ourselves. And we can’t. So He took our sin and death and swallowed it all up in victory.
And where is this victory granted to you? In your baptism. There your old sinful self was drowned. Sin, death, and the devil were done for. There He reached down, just like He did with Peter, and He raised you back to life. He gave you a new life. In fact Peter would later write in the first Epistle that bears his name, “Baptism now saves you.”
Recently a ten year old boy was in the hospital with injuries to his head and chest after a shark grabbed him from a boat and attacked him off the coast of Tasmania, Australia. The boy’s father jumped into the water, and the shark swam away so that the child only suffered lacerations across his body. He is now in stable condition.
His father jumped into the water to save him. That son, just like us, was helpless. He needed someone who loved him and had the power to save him.
Jesus has the power, and He has saved you because he loves you. In your baptism, He has saved you from drowning in the depths of your sin. And though your faith is often weak as you are tossed to and fro by the winds and waves of this world, He never stops coming to you so that you might fix your eyes upon Him as the founder and perfecter of your faith and boldly confess with those disciples, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
This is your confession as a baptized child of God whenever doubts or fears fill your heart and mind. Do not fear, Jesus is here…and He will never forsake you. He will keep coming to you…in His Word…in His Sacrament…here in His house…at His table…this is where He is FOR YOU. For Jesus is your Savior. In His name. Amen.
In the midst of all the doubts, fears, and uncertainties of life in this world, it would be great to repeat this prayer from our baptismal service. Let us pray. “Almighty and eternal God, we pray that You would behold us according to Your boundless mercy and bless us with true faith by the Holy Spirit, that through this saving flood all sin in us which has been inherited from Adam and we ourselves have committed since, would be drowned and die. Grant that we be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, we would be declared worthy of eternal life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.