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LSB Proper 14A Sermon – Matthew 14:22-33

August 13, 2014

August 10, 2014 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] 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.”

You heard description of the LORD in today’s Scripture readings. The LORD speaks about Himself, making known His majesty and glory, His sovereignty and supremacy. In the words spoken to Job, the LORD says these things about Himself: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? … Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep?”

The LORD asks Job to evaluate himself. Job had not done any of the activities that the LORD mentioned. But each one of them identifies an action that the LORD had performed. From this, the truth about the LORD is seen. The LORD has laid the foundation of the earth. The LORD put limits on the seas. The LORD has been in the depths of the oceans. If you read further in the Book of Job, even more activities that the LORD has done are identified.

And what is learned by this? The identity of the LORD as almighty, all-powerful, all-creating is received by those who hear these words. There is none like Him. That establishes the correct standing that the LORD has compared to you and the rest of creation. He is the Creator; you are the creatures. He is the Maker; you are what He has made. He is the Sovereign; you are under His reign. 

But simply learning the true identity of the LORD and your inferior position to Him does not bring great comfort or joy. In fact, it should bring great fear and terror. The LORD’s words to Job are not to build him up, but to tear him down. Job has any thoughts of self-grandeur removed. The LORD’s questions not only identify His own ability, but they also ask Job: “What do you have to brag about?” Compared to the LORD, Job is nothing. The same is true for you. As the LORD would view you from His majestic throne of heaven, you and all humanity would look about the same as ants on the ground. 

That insignificance in light of the LORD’s identity should cut you down. Not only is your inferiority is shown, but something else is being done. The truth about the LORD’s identity plays into the matter of how you should evaluate your own self in light of the order and commands that He instituted. And that tears down even further. For this same LORD who has established the creation is the One who has spelled out what is righteous and what is not. But this is not a classroom rule made by a push-over teacher. It is not a village ordinance where someone like Barney Fife is the only lawman around to enforce it. No, this is a Law that is established by a ruler greater than any emperor of history, with the ability to enforce it that would make even the greatest military superpower jealous. 

When that is learned, then the true reality of your sin, of your violation of the LORD’s Law, is known. That is why simply learning the true identity of the LORD and your inferior position to Him does not give great comfort or joy. No, there rightfully is fear and terror. If this LORD drew near to you, there should be the same reaction as the disciples in the boat: terrified, crying out in fear.

And the truth is this: the LORD has drawn near to you. But there is something unexpected about that appearance. The LORD’s appearance was not to tear down, but to build up. In the Person of Jesus, this has taken place. Remember back to Christmas time, when you heard the Prophet Isaiah speak about the Promised Messiah. He was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us”. And in the account of Jesus’ birth in Matthew’s gospel, that identity about Jesus was confirmed. He is the Incarnate LORD who has come to His creation. He is “God with us”

This is a great mystery, how God assumed humanity and dwelt with His inferior creatures. Not only is it a great mystery how it happened, it is also a great wonder that this was done not for the punishment of the creatures who rebelled against Him, but for their deliverance. Not only is Jesus “God with us”, He is “God for us”.

This identity of Jesus was revealed in the event that happened on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in their boat is not just a miraculous event that shows how powerful He is as the Incarnate LORD. It also shows what He is present in the world to do. The disciples are frightened when seeing the figure striding across the waves toward them: “And in the fourth watch of the night [Jesus] 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.” But what does Jesus say to them? “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus’ presence in the middle of the Sea of Galilee was not to bring harm to His disciples, it was to bring deliverance.

This purpose is seen in what happens in the middle of that lake: “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 and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” By His statement to Peter, Jesus elevated His disciple. Peter could do something that was not in his own natural ability. But when Peter moved away from Jesus’ word, then he was put back into peril: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

Peter actually calls out to Jesus for help. He cries out to the One who had made the world, including putting limits on the seas. But why can he do so? Why can he turn to Jesus for help? Because Jesus is not there to bring fear and terror. Yes, this Jesus is still supreme and sovereign. Yes, this Jesus is still all-powerful and almighty. But it is His will to exercise this identity and ability to deliver and redeem. That is what Jesus has been revealing to by His work done in His disciples’ midst, confirming the words that had been spoken by the LORD earlier: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Yes, the LORD has cut down Peter and all humanity. That is true. But it is not to leave mankind there. It is to take you away from any thoughts of superiority and supremacy so that you are driven to see Him as the source of your help. A great truth is learned about yourself: “I am not in charge. I am vulnerable. I have a problem that I cannot remedy. I am dependent.” A great truth is also learned about the LORD: “He is in charge. He is all-powerful.” But only that, it goest further: “He can remedy my problem. He cares for me as I depend on Him.”

Jesus comes to you in the midst of your peril. He brings you the deliverance that you need. When Peter cried out to Jesus, the action He performed revealed that great truth about Himself: “Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” This is what Jesus wants all His people to know and believe. He is there to help and aid. He is there to speak His word and create faith and trust in Him. He is there to lead you to the security of body and soul that He provides through His death and resurrection for you.

The great act that Jesus performs is to die and rise from death for you. This is what atones for all the times that you broke His Law. This is what takes you from being under the threat of punishment by the all-powerful LORD and brings you into His favor. That great act is performed by the Incarnate LORD. This is the reason why Paul wrote those words that you heard today: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” So now you call on His name to be saved. 

There is no reason to boast in yourself. That is misguided. That is what the LORD’s questions to Job are meant to cut down. But there is great reason to boast in the LORD who is your ally and your deliverer. Fright and terror are replaced by comfort and confidence. You don’t go running away from the LORD, you go running to Him. You now call on His name.

The psalm that you prayed this morning shows what this looks like. Focus your hearts and minds on some of the verses: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold…. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears…. He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.”

Those verses shown you what calling on the LORD does. You can call on Him because He is your rock and fortress and deliverer. His death and resurrection have shown that to be true. Because you have been baptized into His death and resurrection, just like little Bristol was this morning, you are His people. You belong to Him. You have the promise of His aid and help. The sin that you have committed has been drowned. You are safe and secure in the ark of the Church. 

This is what the LORD has done for you. Jesus has pulled you out of the waters and placed you at His side. The One who has made all of the creation uses His power and ability to work for your benefit. Calling on His name, you are saved and delivered: sins forgiven, life restored, the gates of Paradise opened for you. And so this same Jesus says: “This is how I use my power. My supremacy is nothing to fear; it is what you can hope in. Take heart; do not be afraid. Do not be of little faith and doubt. Instead, know that I truly am the LORD, the Son of God, and believing in Me you will be saved.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


From → Sunday Sermon

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