"He Reached Out His Hand"

10 August 2014

Matthew 14:22-33

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

East Rochester & West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Churches

 

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

 

 

 

Prayer.

 

Did Jesus know where the stones were?

Did Peter get lucky;

Stepping on a few stones by chance,

But inevitably missing a step and start to sink?

Sounds like an old Rabbi, Priest, and Minister joke.

When I used to lead junior high fishing camp,

I would often be teased by campers

To get out of the boat, walk to shore, and return with something cold to drink.

 


 

Walking on water?

Sorry, folks. I missed that class in seminary.

 

Did Jesus know the weather forecast?

He sent the disciples out on a boat for a simple night crossing of the Galilee.

“Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning;

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight,” my mother always used to say.

I’m thinking the disciples willingly got into the boat that evening

Because the lake was calm

And there was a glorious sunset.

It seams that while Jesus was great at weather control,

On this day, his weather forecasting was … below average.

As a pastor who always gets blamed for poor weather

And praised for good weather

“because I have a link to the man upstairs” wink, wink, nod, nod

I feel like I’ve been vindicated and somewhat relieved of my duty

To forecast the weather for your future special event.

 


 

Sorry folks, I missed this class in seminary, too.

 

While I may have missed those classes on walking on water and weather forecasting,

I have experienced numerous occasions

Where the presence and power of God has

Worked miracles in and through my obedient hands.

 


 

When I last traveled to Galilee,

While on a boat floating in the middle of the lake

In a stiff wind, choppy surf, and overcast sky

I read this passage from Matthew for our group devotions.

I cried out “Be still!” exactly as I imagined

Jesus would have commanded when he stepped into the boat.

God as my witness,

Together with about 40 pilgrims in my group,

The wind stopped, the lake smoothed, and sunshine peeked through the clouds.

Now that, my friends, is the power and presence of God.

 

Fundamentally, our Gospel for this morning

Is about how the presence and power of God is able to save

 


 

One person

And a whole community

From death

Into life … eternal.

 

Allow me, for a moment, to notice some of the gems in our scripture.

 

First, about the presence of God:

This is the first time the disciples are sent forth without Jesus.

Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us”

Yet, at the same time,

 

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat

And go on ahead to the other side

While he dismissed the crowds and he retreats

Up the mountain to pray.

Nice vantage point, don’t you think?

Apparently, Jesus sends his disciples out

But watches them closely.

They are not allowed to get so far away

That he can’t immediately intervene, if necessary.

That is a nice metaphor for us today:

We never get too far away from Jesus

That he can’t immediately intervene in our lives, if necessary.

 

Our Gospel for this morning

Is about how the presence and power of God is able to save

One person

And a whole community

From death

Into life.

 

Secondly, it is hard to experience our Gospel for this morning

Without noticing all

 


 

The intentional symbolism in the text.

Think of the mountain, where Jesus retreats to pray.

It should remind us today, just as it reminded early church fathers,

Of Mt. Sinai, Moses, and the Ten Commandments,

Mt. Tabor, teaching the crowds,

The mountain of Transfiguration, where Jesus is transformed and God speaks

The Mt. of Olives, where Jesus prays to and with the Father.

One communes with God on a mountain.

Think of the Boat;

It was an early church symbol for the church;

The gathering place and dwelling of the community of faith.

The Boat was necessary for survival,

The fragile difference between life and death

Is the communion we share with each other and with our God.

Think of the Sea, the chaos, created by God,

Yet, held in check by God.

Consider the Storm

As a symbol of the suffering the church faces:

Martyrdom, persecution, division, and tension.

These symbols also serve as wonderful metaphors for us today:

Though the storms of life are raging all about

This is God’s plan,

These are God’s terms.

God is still in control.

The power of God is greater than the power of chaos and suffering.

Let there be no doubt,

No misunderstanding:

 


 

The power of God saves the church;

Every one of us gathered in the boat.

No one is lost.

No one is left behind.

 

Our Gospel for this morning

Is about how the presence and power of God is able to save

One person

And a whole community

From death

Into life.

 

Thirdly, Peter, as always, is a gem in our Gospel this morning.

Peter makes three mistakes

We would be wise to learn from.

 


 

First mistake: Peter wants proof and temps Jesus to prove his identity.

Jesus assured him, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

But Peter answers, “Lord, IF it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

What part of “Thou shall not tempt the Lord your God” did Peter not understand?

Note to self: don’t tempt God or place conditions upon God’s response.

 


 

Second mistake: Peter leaves the boat.

As soon as he steps out

He sees he is in over his head;

And though told by a confident but relenting Jesus to, “Go ahead,”

He noticed the chaos, the strong winds,

He becomes frightened,

And he begins to sink.

Note to self: don’t leave the boat, the church,

To strike out on our own personal quest to find Jesus.

Jesus comes to the church, so stick tight, and stay together.

 


 

Third mistake: Peter becomes frightened and takes his eyes off of Jesus.

He sees he is sinking

And he panics.

As soon as Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus

He becomes a part of the chaos.

He loses faith and he doubts.

Note to self: keep your eyes upon Jesus.

As soon as we lose that personal, intimate eye-contact with Jesus

We become the problem,

We become the chaos that is

Washington,

Gaza,

Ukraine,

Sierra Leone,

Despair,

And death.

 

Our Gospel for this morning

Is about how the presence and power of God is able to save

One person

And a whole community

From death

Into life.

 


 

Finally, let us learn from how Jesus responds.

 


 

First, Jesus responds with assurance:

“Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

The I makes me think of the “I Am” on Sinai,

The self-identification of an omnipotent God.

Confidence comes from divine assurance.

God is with us.

God wins for us.

 


 

Secondly, Jesus responds by reaching out his hand:

He “caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith why did you doubt?’”

Jesus catches us even when we doubt.

We are saved in spite of the fact that sometimes

Our doubt has grown to the size of a mountain and

Our faith has shrunk to the size of a mustard seed.

Jesus takes our hand

And saves us.

Period.

 


 

Finally, Jesus and Peter get into the boat, and the wind ceased.

Jesus finally commands the wind and it obeys.

At the end of the day,

God wins.

Yes, this should provide for us a sense that we will come into God’s kingdom;

Where calm has replaced chaos,

Where all are safely home,

Where God is eternally with us.

 

Fundamentally, our Gospel for this morning

Is about the presence and power of God

Who is able to save

One person

And a whole community

From death

Into life … eternal.

 


Will you allow Jesus to save you?

 

Amen.