Posted on Wed, Aug 13, 2014
August 10, 2014
Matthew 14:22-33 – “Do It Anyways”
Jesus Walks on the Water
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 towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, 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 towards 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 worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
The world is, and always has been, a violent place with moments of compassion and mercy. It is in this same backdrop of violence and compassion that today’s text comes to us. Early in chapter 14 of the Gospel of St. Matthew, there is the cold story about King Herod’s banquet, in which the king out of fear of loosing face or even his grip on power and possibly to even spite John the Baptizer, King Herod kills the prophet John. That is why Jesus is far from Jerusalem, and choosing to go to the other side via boat, that we find Jesus sending his disciples off at night in a boat. The atmosphere at King Herod’s banquet must have been very strange, fearful and heavy. Following this story is another story about a banquet, a banquet born of compassion, gratitude and plenty. On a hillside, with very little in the way of resources, 5000 men and all their families and children are fed with abundance, physically and spiritually. The atmosphere at this banquet would have been joyful, raucous, and wonderful. We can only imagine, but I have a feeling after the crowd was fed, there was a festival like atmosphere filled with the sounds of dancing and songs praising God for God’s goodness and faithfulness.
Things are always different in the presence of Jesus.
When Herod had heard about Jesus, he feared Jesus was the ghost of John the Baptist. And after the great feeding, we can only wonder what the disciples also thought of their teacher who can take a few loves of bread and fish and feed a throng of people.
Even today, we wonder, who is this Jesus that we read about and try to believe each day in all circumstances? We want to believe. We say we believe… But who is this Jesus of the Gospel and what is Jesus trying to teach us by feeding a throng of people, and in today’s text walking on the water?
Of all the people in both of these stories, who do you believe are the most surprised, perplexed and filled with questions about the real identity of Jesus? It wasn’t the throng of people who were fed, they were only concerned about food and they were already filled, literally. It was the disciples. They knew the inside scoop that 1. Herod thought Jesus was the ghost of John 2. There was essentially no food for 5000 people until Jesus ORDERED them to use what they had, some bread and fish, to feed the throng, AND THEY DID. 3. It is physically impossible for humans to walk on water… yet Peter did, for a short while, with some supernatural help.
The next question, what is the purpose for Matthew to write this Gospel for a young Christian church living in a time where there is nothing but persecution against the young church, Plus there was incredible social pressure for the church to disband and for the young believers to return to their former faith traditions?
The young church is like the boat in the story; the text says that the boat was “battered” by the waves on the sea. The Greek word for “battered,” is basanizomenon, meaning literally, “to be tortured.” The winds were against them and they were being thrown about like the young church in Matthew’s day. At the height of the storm, and the depths of darkness during the fourth watch of the night, JESUS COMES TO HIS DISCIPLES, treading on the waves. The sight of Jesus WALKING ON THE SEA fills the disciples with terror, and in fear and littleness of faith, they SCREAM, “It is a ghost!” I really wonder if Jesus came on the scene today, and preached the same way he did in the scriptures how long it would be before he would be crucified…
Immediately Jesus reassures them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid!” In these specific words, Jesus identifies himself for who he really is! Jesus’ words are the awesome formula for self-revelation, literally “I AM.” Jesus presents himself to the disciples as the solid and saving presence of the eternal God!
Now, things get interesting; Peter believes that in the presence of Jesus he himself can tread on any storm under foot and asks to be summoned out onto the waves! So, Jesus says, “Come.” And Peter, in perfect obedience, in the middle of the storm that still surrounds them, begins to walk across the face of the waters towards Jesus. COMMANDED BY JESUS, THE DISCIPLE DARES ANYTHING!
When Peter is distracted from Jesus, who is standing right before his face, because of the storm he becomes afraid, and Peter begins to sink… like any broken, fearful, doubtful, human would. But at least Peter knows who Jesus is, and has seen what Jesus can do, so he correctly calls out, “LORD SAVE ME!”
Our church is a “confessing” church. We acknowledge that we worship the Living God, and we are redeemed and empowered only through the Good News of Jesus and the Power of the Holy Spirit. This means that we are a different kind of people living in this violent world. We are a people who confess our faith. We are called to love and forgive, but that is sometimes really hard. Like Peter, we become distracted and are forced to call out Jesus like Peter as he sunk into the waves. That is why St. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing… why? Because we know what Jesus can do, and we need that power and peace of God to shape how we think, act, see the world and hear the cries of our neighbors. Before you listen to someone, pray. If someone is quiet, pray before you speak. Before you answer the phone, pray. Before that meeting, pray. Before getting out of bed, pray. These “micro-prayers” said all through the day, can change us and shape our hearts and minds truly into a people of faith, with a new song, a new message, a new hope to make known to a hurting world.
One of my ‘students’ in my Bible class gave us a poem in order to help us better understand how he lives according to his faith. I want to share it with you. It is the “Paradoxical Commandments,” that make the Christian standout, and hope made known.
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001
We love anyways, not because we are trying to earn good marks before God, but because each time we love when there is difficulty, then our faith becomes real, tangible and we can begin to feel the freedom and joy of walking in faith, in the light of Christ. They are an exercise in faith.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes* with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God,* who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit* intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.*
28 We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.* 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.* 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Je
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