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LSB Proper 12B Sermon – Mark 6:45-56

August 31, 2015

July 28, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“[Jesus] saw that [the disciples] were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.”

This morning you prayed along with the Psalmist: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever. . . . To Him who alone does great wonders, for His steadfast love endures forever. . . . To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The LORD’s actions receive thanksgiving. But it’s not just praise and amazement at the wondrous, powerful acts that the LORD performed. No, the Psalmist includes the phrase after each statement of praise: “His steadfast love endures forever.” The powerful acts that the LORD performs demonstrate His steadfast love for His creation, especially for His people.

The greatest demonstration of the LORD’s steadfast love is the deliverance that He brings for His people. In the Old Testament Reading, you heard about the everlasting covenant that the LORD makes with Noah and his descendants. Noah and his wife and Noah’s sons and their wives were all spared from the Great Deluge. The LORD delivers them through the waters. He instructed Noah to build the ark, using Noah to preserve “the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth.” He watched over the rudderless ship, never forgetting that her occupants were on the water at the mercy of the waves. But the LORD’s people would not perish from the face of the earth, as He preserved them in the ark. Through Noah’s descendants, the world would be repopulated. More importantly, through Noah’s line, the Redeemer of the world would arise, just as the LORD had promised in His steadfast love.

That promised Redeemer is seen in the Gospels, just as He was seen in the Gospel Reading for today. The LORD-in-the-flesh Jesus teaches the crowds, feeds the crowds, and sends the crowds on their way. He shows His compassion and mercy—His steadfast love—to them, not turning the crowds away, as you heard last Sunday when Jesus saw them “as sheep without a shepherd”. Their plight is answered by the LORD’s actions. This is what happened whenever people encountered Jesus and asked for His aid. The scene depicted at the end of the today’s Gospel Reading was not unique to that time, but occurred often to Jesus: “Wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”

But what about those Twelve who had been traveling with Jesus? During the past several Sundays, you have heard the Gospel Writer speak about them. They were sent by Jesus to proclaim repentance of sins, which they did. They were instructed by Jesus to travel across the Sea of Galilee, which they did. They were commanded by Jesus to feed the crowd, which they did. They were told by Jesus to gather up the leftover food, which they did. And they were directed by Jesus to get back in the boat and sail to Bethsaida, which they did. In all these acts, the Twelve are seen as the LORD’s faithful and obedient people. But even more so, they are recipients of His steadfast love.

As you heard Mark’s account of the disciples’ boat trip, it can initially appear that they were abandoned by Jesus: “He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray.” But their sailing in the boat without Jesus doesn’t go well: “They were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.” Even though they were following Jesus’ command, their efforts had not brought success. An entire night goes by, and the Twelve had not made it across the lake. They were at the mercy of the winds and waves. Hours of struggling, and still Jesus is nowhere to be seen.

But Jesus does not abandon them. He sees their plight. And just as befits His ability and character, Jesus answers it: “He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night, He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. . . .” Jesus’ steadfast love for the Twelve drives Him to go to them in the middle of the lake. He will do the supernatural and miraculous, striding across the waves to get to the disciples’ boat, to aid His people. He will not let them perish; He will not abandon them to their fear and despair. Even in the midst of the disciples’ fright, Jesus says to them: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus gets into the boat with them, to bring their travails to an end.

In a similar way, Jesus provides aid to you. Some of that aid was given even before your existence. The LORD’s deliverance of Noah and his family actually benefits you. You live because the LORD allowed Noah and his sons to live. You live because of the LORD’s covenant promise: “The waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Jesus’ walking on water also benefits you. You have life because the LORD did not allow the Twelve to drown in the Sea of Galilee, but brought them to the other side. Because from their mouths, as they preached about Jesus’ words and works, eternal life comes to your souls.

But not all of Jesus’ actions for your benefit are in the past. He acts for your salvation here and now. It can be said that Jesus gets into the boat with you. It began before your birth, as the LORD took on human nature to live as a fellow man. That’s “the breadth and length and height and depth” of Jesus’ love, as the Apostle Paul wrote—the Son of God comes where humanity is suffering and where their struggles could never bring success. Where the waves of sin, death, Satan, fallen human nature are present, working against all human welfare, Jesus steps in to bring them to an end.

That is what Jesus does in your lives today, even if it’s not always evident. Your lives are no different than the sailing voyage of the Twelve. You know the LORD’s will. You know what He has commanded you to do. You know that you are one of His people, so you want to fulfill His desire for you. You know that an eternal covenant has been made with you, that the waters of Holy Baptism brought you life and made you an member of the LORD’s kingdom. You get into the boat—the ark of the Church as the baptismal prayer calls it—and begin the journey that the LORD has set out for you.

On that journey, it seems as if everything works against you. You begin your journey of new life, but your own flesh and blood work against you, wanting to go other ways. You point the boat in the proper direction and start rowing, but obedience to the LORD’s will brings difficulties and troubles from others. You travel with other disciples of Jesus, but quarrels break out in the boat. You live day-to-day as disciples, but disease and illness harass you. The goal and hope of everlasting life in the new heaven and earth seem farther away than the first day you were called to faith in Jesus. During your lives as Jesus’ disciples right now, it can seem like you are at the mercy of sin, death, and Satan.

But you are not abandoned. Jesus comes to you when you hear about Him in the preaching of His Gospel, as His words and works are remembered. In the midst of the waves that rock the boat of His Church, Jesus is present to show His steadfast love. He comes to help you and all His disciples who cannot reach the goal and hope of everlasting life by their own efforts. Even when the waves of sin, death, and Satan’s temptations crash over His disciples, Jesus is there to remove the fear and dread. Immediately He speaks, saying: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Jesus doesn’t just tell you to not to fear; He acts to fulfill that command. He says to all who are in the boat of the Church: “I have endured and overcome these things which afflict you. I have forgiven you of all your faults. I have established the end of your journey, and you will reach it, just as I have willed it. I am here in the boat with you, and I will never abandon you. I am the God of gods, the Lord of lords, who alone does great wonders for His people. My love for you endures forever.” To make that clear and memorable for you, Jesus displays the signs of His eternal covenant that He made with you: “Here is the water which washed away your sins. Here is My hand which touches you and makes you well from your sinfulness. Here is the bread and wine which carry My forgiveness, life, and salvation to you. Your eyes may not see, but I am present with you in these things. You have nothing to fear.”

So Jesus comes to you supernaturally and miraculously in His words and signs. He will not let you perish. He will not abandon you to fear and despair. He will not let the waves of this life keep the boat of His Church from reaching the other shore. The LORD’s will for His people will be accomplished. You have already heard what this will is and how it has been partially accomplished. And you were reminded about His ability: “He who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” You have heard about His character: “His steadfast love endures forever.” You have heard His call: “Take heart; do not be afraid.” So we have prayed today: “Almighty and most merciful God, the protector of all who trust in You, strengthen our faith and give us courage to believe that in Your love You will rescue us from all adversities.” You can be faithful and courageous, because the Lord Jesus has climbed into the boat with you, walking on the baptismal waters, placing His name on you, and promising you the blessed end of everlasting life.

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

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