Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (Series A)icon-download-pdf-wp

August 10th, 2014

Gospel: Matthew 14:22-33
Epistle: Romans 10:5-17
Lesson: Job 38:4-18
Psalm: Psalm 18:1-9 (10-16)

CLB Commentary – Rev. Ken Narvesen

About the feeding of the 5000, which immediately preceded the events of our text, John Fahling wrote, “The effect of this miracle upon the minds of those present was overwhelming. Surely here was a Messiah after their own heart! They began to whisper to one another that this must undoubtedly be ‘that Prophet that should come into the world’ and ‘the beginning of that reign of earthly abundance which in their carnal desires and in a false interpretation of Messianic promises they thought the prophets had foretold’. So great was their enthusiasm that they proposed among themselves to take Him by force, if necessary, and make Him a king. What a king who could effect cures, supply food, and provide prosperity for all! Thus the effect of the miracle just performed was to confirm them in their false Messianic hopes. Here was the time for instant action. Jesus Himself was not deceived by the brief blaze of a falsely founded popularity. He was aware of the danger of mob passion and instantly made His decision. First of all, and for their own good, the disciples, who were only too prone to share the popular conception, had to be removed. He ordered them, well-nigh compelled them, to go down to the beach and sail in the direction of Capernaum (John) or the western Bethsaida (Mark).”

Here we are taught the reason behind the spirit of urgency in v. 23 and can understand a bit of why Jesus directed the disciples so quickly away from the scene of the feeding miracle. And as he does so, we understand now that he was setting the stage for yet another miracle. This one would not be for the masses but for the disciples. They had messianic hopes, but those hopes, like those of the crowds were too earthly. Jesus was about to rip those hopes away from the mundane and show them the wonder of who he is a bit more clearly.

This was a vital lesson and so it was a crucial moment in their training. Jesus highlights the significance of what he was about to teach them by separating himself from them and going off to the hilltop to pray while he sends them across the lake. It would be a lesson about who he really is as Messiah. It would also be a lesson about who they are, and how Jesus always comes to us in our helplessness.

Jesus knew the storm was about to come; he knew the fear that would grip them. But he also knew that this storm and it’s resultant fear would be nothing compared to storms that were about to come upon them as they followed him to the cross.

We learn something here about the nature of faith in Jesus. Some people foolishly imagine that if you are walking by faith everything will go wonderfully smoothly for you; life will be a bed of roses, as the saying goes. Just find God’s will and all my troubles will disappear, they think. Nonsense. The four fishermen disciples probably would not have taken the trip had Jesus not ordered it. There was urgency in his voice…the crowd had been fed…and immediately he tells them, “Get in the boat…get out of here…NOW!” Their experience probably told them, “Don’t do it. You’re asking for trouble if you go out there now the way this wind is blowing.” But Jesus had said go, so they went. That is living by faith. Doing the will of Jesus led them directly into the storm. They were by themselves with no Jesus in sight. Their progress was slow against the headwind. The waves had been pounding the little boat all night and dawn was approaching. Instead of taking away problems, faith often leads us directly into them. Why would God lead us this way? How can he love me if he puts me through all this? Faith sometimes seems difficult to us. But what we need to learn is that faith is not difficult. It’s worse than that; it is impossible, just like walking on water. But on the other hand it is supremely easy; it is a gift there for us to receive. Where Jesus walks, we can walk by faith in Him.

So here the disciples are, in the middle of a fierce storm that Jesus had directed them into. They were terrified. Then Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. Nothing stands in the way of His coming to them and meeting their needs. Not even the water and waves can keep Jesus from coming to His disciples. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus – neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor wind, nor waves, nor anything in all creation. You have heard the Bible verse, maybe even memorized it. Here is empirical evidence that it is true. There is no barrier that will keep Jesus from us. We can know that it is not just physical barriers like wind and waves that prove unable to separate us from Jesus. Not even our sin and His holiness need separate us anymore because of the cross. He breaks through, taking on Himself our sin, putting on us His holiness. He will stop at nothing to be with us.

Jesus comes to His disciples in their frightening situation. The disciples didn’t even have time to think about coming to Him. Look closely at what happened that night. Feel the helplessness the disciples felt in that boat. Sense with them that there was nothing they could do. Know what it is to be completely at the end of your resources.

We see in this story a good picture of what we confess to be true about our relationship with God. We confess that we are poor helpless sinners. We admit that the good we want to do we don’t do, while the evil we don’t want to do we find ourselves doing. We admit this humbling reality, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called, enlightened, gathered, and sanctified me.” As we see the disciples floundering helplessly in the waves, we realize how good it is that this is indeed the way it is. We need to see Jesus as the one who comes to us in the storm. We too are surrounded by waves – the chaos of our lives, the churning waters of our unbelief, the wind of all that can go wrong in life. We were separated from God by a chasm of sin that is far more treacherous and violent than the waves of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus comes to us. Walking into the storm of life in this sinful world… Dying on the cross… Reaching out to us…Saving us. That is the only way we have hope. Imagine what it would have been like for the disciples if they had heard a voice boom down from heaven, “You can be saved from this storm, all you have to do is go to Jesus on the other shore.” Go to Jesus? How? I am helpless in this storm; there is nothing I can do to get out of this mess. No, Jesus comes to them, and Jesus comes to us in our awful predicaments too. He comes to His disciples in the fourth watch of the night, when everything looks so scary. Life often feels like the fourth watch of the night, deep darkness just before the dawn. The storm rages. Our lives are threatened. We are tired and afraid. Yet morning is near. “I come to rescue you,” Jesus promises His battered and buffeted church. No matter how threatening things may look, I come to you, walking on the waves that terrify you.

Yes, in sending his disciples out into the brewing storm, he teaches them and us that he is not just a messiah who can give us bread and make life easy. He is a Messiah who may indeed lead us into the storm, but who also comes to us in the storms of life.

And the greatest of those storms was just ahead for Jesus and his followers, the cross itself. Sin and death and Satan would rage, but the resurrection calms that storm too. Who is this? Even the wind and the waves…and death itself obey him.

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost
Ninth Sunday After Pentecost