10 Sunday after Pentecost | Jesus Walks on the Water (Matthew 14:22-32)
At the beginning of this morning’s Gospel text, everyone is still together.
Jesus, the disciples, and those 5,000 + with full bellies and 12 baskets of leftovers.
Everyone would like very much to keep it that way – to stay right there –
Right there with Jesus.
Right there where Jesus is feeding;
Right there where Jesus teaching.
And yet, Jesus thinks it best that they not stay right there. Instead,
“He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went upon the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.”
In just a few hours, everything has changed.
The 5000 + have gone home alone;
The disciples have headed out on the water alone;
And Jesus is on the mountain…alone.
It is a pattern that might look familiar.
It happens every single week right here.
We are gathered here where Jesus is teaching;
We are gathered here where Jesus is feeding,
And in some ways, we’re like those disciples, and those 5,000.
We would like to stay as well.
Here in this safe, good place.
Right here where Jesus is teaching and feeding and blessing.
I know sometimes you’re anxious to get going, especially when you’re young.
And that makes some sense: there’s a lot to do.
Homework and practice,
Laundry and yardwork,
Rehearsals and meetings.
And those are all good things.
Those things are the work you’ve been given you to do in the world and in your home,
And it is Jesus Himself who bids you go and do them with His blessing at the end of Service very week.
And so you do.
Off you go – all of you – every week:
Mothers and fathers, Brothers and sisters
Students and workers, young and old, big and little,
Disciples of every shape and size, off you go.
Far from land, far from Sunday morning,
Far from this place where Jesus teaches and feeds, and brings peace personally.
Off you go – alone in the boat with the wind against you.
Alone in a world that is set against you –
Off you go: Working hard, rowing hard, and pushing back the wind,
Just trying to make it to the other side where Jesus said He’d meet you.
But He will not wait that long.
“And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.”
If the disciples were sure of anything,
They were sure that three or four miles of water was more than enough to separate them from Jesus.
They were sure, above all else, that Jesus wasn’t really there.
An optical illusion at best, or a ghost at worst –
Whatever they’re seeing, it can’t be good news, and so they are terrified.
Jesus could have done a lot of things at that moment.
He could have spoken a word and hushed the wind in an instant, as He’d done before.
He could have told the waves to cease, and they would have ceased.
But He didn’t.
The wind continued to blow, and the waves continued to roll.
Jesus did not speak to them, but to His disciples:
“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Then the story could have been over.
If the disciples had been as obedient as the weather was the last time they were in a storm,
Then they would have taken heart;
Then their fears would have ceased;
And they could have just been with Jesus again as they were hours before.
But they didn’t.
Peter says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”
It was as if Peter said to Jesus,
“Let me come to You. Let me come out on the water and show You my obedience and my faith.”
“Very well,” says Jesus. “Come.”
The result is a baptism of sorts.
Peter’s zeal and devotion, his faith and his trust, do put him into the water.
He’s even fully immersed – that should make some of our Baptist friends happy.
Except that this baptism, this immersion in the water, this demonstration of his faith and his trust,
Will earn him a one-way trip to the bottom of the sea.
It is, in fact, a baptism into death, but only into death.
But what in the world could this have to do with all of you?
I sincerely doubt that any of you would double dog dare Jesus to get you to walk on water.
I doubt that any of you would expect anything other than to sink.
But it wasn’t a sense of daring that made Peter think this could be a good idea.
It was the idea that his faith and his obedience would be enough to get him across the water.
You face a similar temptation.
Jesus has put you in the boat, in the holy ark of the Christian Church.
Jesus has given you a destination, and work to do along the way.
And knowing how much the world is set against you, He comes to you through all of it.
Jesus did not ask you to try to impress Him with self-appointed crosses, burdens, and tests.
He did not ask you to try to close the distance between Him and you on your own.
Jesus walked three or four miles on the water, but Peter thought he had to finish the job.
Though Jesus has done everything for by His death on the cross,
There still remains the temptation to finish a job that has already been finished.
Ultimately, though, God shows us how helpless we are.
Jesus lets Peter see the wind and the waves.
Jesus even lets Peter begin to sink.
But He will not let Peter drown.
It is by grace alone that Jesus lays hold of a man drowning in a sea of his best efforts, and raises him up. Peter did not grab Jesus, but Jesus grabbed him – in the water, and raised him up.
In the font, you were baptized into Jesus death,
but also into His own resurrection.
In the water your sin, your death, your self-faith, were drowned
And by grace, in the water, Jesus has grabbed hold of you, and raised you up.
In Baptism you have been joined by Jesus to Jesus.
That’s why you’re here again.
Here where Jesus is teaching.
Here where Jesus is feeding.
Here where Jesus is blessing.
And here where Jesus is sending you out again…but not alone.
Verse 32. Jesus is with you in the boat.
Jesus is with you in your every day, not just this day.
And He will get bring you to the shore.