Help when your’re sinking
August 13, 2017
25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
We’ve grown up with this text. From my earliest Sunday school days, I Remember hearing this account…. and many of you do too. If you looked at the bulletin cover, you knew what the Gospel lesson for today was going to be. You knew also that the fellow in the water was Peter, and the guy above him was Jesus. In fact, we all know this text so well, that we could readily explain it to someone if called to do so. There’s a number of lessons we get from this.
For example, one obvious lesson from this story is Jesus’ authority over nature; the way he so easily did the impossible by walking on water; the way the wind ceased the minute he got into the boat, Only the God who is above and beyond nature, and is free to suspend it’s inherent laws. This late night water walking moment of Jesus shows Jesus to be both creator and Lord. The disciples themselves came to that conclusion when he got into the boat. Together, they said “truly, you are the Son of God.” Jesus is greater than wind and wave; greater than any threat or problem you might have. He’s the real deal. \
Another lesson we have heard from this text is an excursus on the nature of Faith. Peter expresses faith when says to Jesus, “Lord if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water and I will” Jesus tells him to come, Peter obeys, and gets out of the boat and actually starts walking on water, for a moment. Jesus doesn’t typically command us to walk on water, I believe this was a special lesson for Peter… providing powerful visuals for future Christians. But he does command us to defy sin, death and the devil, he does command us to not be afraid. And with his command to believe he enables us to believe Millions and millions of people have passed from life to life because Jesus commands it. And on the last day, he will command our lifeless bodies to stand and breath and see and feel. IF Jesus who is Lord of all, says it we can believe it.
But Peter standing in the midst of the waves, felt the wind blasting him and in that moment he did not believe. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank like a stone. Jesus replied “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt.” He lost his focus. Faith must be focused… focused on Jesus and nothing else. For only Jesus has been given authority over the things that threaten us. Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the object of our faith. That’s another worthy lesson we have, in the past, garnered from this text. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus… keep believing in Jesus.
So there are three different points that can be made concerning this text and all of them are related: 1. Jesus is Lord of all, therefore 2. If he commands it, you can do it, and 3. Therefore you must keep your eyes on him and only him. These are all true.
I’ve known it since I was little, from my earliest memories I have known that I should focus on Jesus and only Jesus. I know what I should do, I simply don’t always do it. I get distracted, disheartened, worried at the way the world is going, angry at the lack of justice and truth, overwhelmed by all the political, social, economic changes, overwhelmed by the ridiculous evil that I see in every direction, concerned over medical stuff, concern for the future, and so on and so on.
Can you hear the television announcer giving the summary of the story: “Peter had chance to express his faith in a bold new way, but peter got distracted and he sank, don’t be like Peter.” That’s the take away that is often given for this text. But the truth is, I AM like Peter, and if this is my take-away I am crushed by it. Because I will be Peter again and again, because I am not perfect. I can’t help but notice how fearful and tenuous life on earth is. And as much as I know that God is greater than all of it, I still am sometimes taken aback it all, I still sometimes falter in faith and look away at the big looming waves that would have me. I’m just like Peter, multiple times over.
But look at what Jesus does a It’s right there, verse 21. Its says “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and saved him.” Saved him. That’s what saviors do. They save. And I’m pleased to say that I am Peter in part of the story too… snatched from the briny depths by the Savior that will not let anyone or anything take me out of his hand. Many times I’ve been yanked out of waves of despair, anguish, or sadness which would have otherwise consumed me, but each time he has pulled me out and put me back in the boat where I belong.
We like to imagine, I think, that faith is a power we generate inside of us, an individualistic sort of endeavor, the lonesome valley that each person must walk by himself on his own strength and wit. But just the opposite is true: faith is the admission that you need something other than yourself to make it; faith is the admission you cannot do it; cannot save yourself. Faith is the admission that you need the Savior whom God has provided.
And the savior whom God provided is Jesus. How do we know? The world offers so many saviors. But Jesus is the stand alone. To the world that that is drowning in the briny depths of human sinfulness, the religions of the world basically say the same thing “sink or swim… folks Sink or swim.” “Do these things, follow these rituals, complete these tasks, avoid these and you will save yourself.” Their sermons turn out to be pep rallys…. trying to rouse your winning spirit… you can do it! You can do it! You can save yourself all by yourself. That’s Satan who try to convince us that we don’t need a Savior.
Jesus different. He is different in that HE did the things that were required for our salvation. He atoned for our sins, he overcame death, he defeated the wiles of the devil. He saves us not by merely describing the path that we must take and the rules we must follow. He saved us by becoming one of us, by keeping the rules we have not kept, by living the perfect life that we have not lived, and ultimately dying the death we could not die…Risen now, so that we too shall rise. Jesus is the right hand of God, reached into the world, to save you and me. You have felt his grip, haven’t you, you’ve felt the pull. That’s why you’re here, in this ship of faith, with these disciples. God has reached in and saved you by his Son.
At present Jesus has dedicated himself to helping more and more people to call on his name and be saved. He has given us his Holy Spirit, he has given us the written word, He has given us churches and pastors and missionaries and each other so that more and more might hear and understand that Jesus did what saviors are supposed to do… to Save. So for accuracy’s sake, and to the spiritual joy of us all, the television announcer instead says: “Peter was sinking, Peter called on the name of the Lord and was saved. You are like Peter” AMEN