8 Pentecost 2011
Over to the Other Side
Matthew 14: 22-33
Pastor Chris Enstad
Brothers and sisters, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
The story of Jesus and Peter walking on water has been told over and over again. Most often it is told as a morality tale is it not?
So, if you have faith, just get out of the boat and then keep your eyes on Jesus and he will take care of everything, just like with Peter.
And we are then given stories about people of great faith who accomplished something bigger than themselves and wouldn’t it be great if we could all do that as well?
But you know me by now and I’m not going to let these familiar stories get past us without taking a closer look at just what was going on.
Because Jesus came to the disciples walking on water, by then they had been up most of the night fighting a storm and then thought they saw a ghost, literally in the Greek the word is phantasm, and they were afraid. But Jesus said, Take Heart, it is I, do not be afraid.
And Peter, before getting out of the boat which is lifted up as how faithful he was, actually challenged Jesus. Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.
And Jesus did. “Come,” he said.
And Peter got out of the boat and began walking towards Jesus, but soon he saw the wind and he became afraid and he began to sink and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus immediately reached out to him and grabbed his hand saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And then they got in the boat and the wind ceased and the disciples worshipped him saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
It is an inherent weakness in our makeup as human beings that we, more often than not, stumble into the mistaken belief that we can save ourselves. Peter’s act, then, is truly given a high regard, look, just get yourself out of the boat and using the power of your own will you can keep your eyes on Christ and you will be saved!
But when we hear the text read aloud as though we haven’t heard it before or we forget all of the things other people tell us that the story is about we see that in reality relying on our own efforts doesn’t lead us to victory or salvation, no, when we rely on our own efforts we quickly succumb to the winds of life, we find ourselves in fear, we find ourselves over our heads.
Who of us has not found ourselves in that position, out of options, nowhere to turn, backed into a corner. It is in those times that we finally confess the reality of our situation. We, finally, yell out, “Lord, save me!”
And then what is left for us to do but to turn, then, and worship Jesus, the Son of God.
That is, interestingly, the only time in the Gospel of Matthew that the disciples call Jesus the Son of God.
Jesus truly is the Lord of all creation. His walking on the water shows the disciples and us that he is the master of what God has created. Indeed when the disciples cry out in fear at what they fear is a phantasm, a ghost, Jesus answers then not, “It is I” as our Bible translates it. No, the Greek reads “ego aimi” I AM. These are the same words God used to identify himself in the Old Testament. Take heart, Jesus says, I AM, do not be afraid.
Matthew is then elevating Jesus higher and higher is he not? Last week we saw, in the miracle of the feeding of the 10,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish that Jesus was more than another Moses, Moses who prayed to God for his people in the wilderness and was given food for one day, while Jesus prayed and received food for 10,000 with 12 baskets left over to boot!
And this miracle of walking on the water coming immediately after the feeding of the crowds when Jesus identifies himself as, “I AM” and the disciples then confirming that by worshipping him and calling him the Son of God.
But the hinge, the crux, the reason for this story appearing in this Gospel lies not in Peter getting out of the boat, or in Christ getting into the boat, although these are very important in and of themselves, but, for me, the heart of this story lies in the very beginning. Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side.
Whenever Jesus and the disciples moved to the other side it means that they are moving from their people to the Gentiles. They are moving from the people they know and to the unclean, the unlawful, the unsaved.
That, my friends, is our true calling today, I have pointed out how much I love the old church design that makes our sanctuary look like an upside down boat. For we truly are in a boat and Jesus is here with us. Yes, it may get tossed and turned from time to time, and the winds of life may threaten to overwhelm it, but it is here, in this boat that we are reminded that Jesus is Lord over all creation. He is in the boat, we should be here too, but that boat is not made to stand still or to stay only in safe harbors of our own choosing, we, too are being sent to the other side. We, too, are being sent to bring the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the least, the lost, the lowly. We, too, are being called to go ahead of Christ to those we might consider unclean or who do not necessarily hang out with the best crowds or who have not made the best life choices.
Brothers and sisters, let us take this great ship, this church called Elim, out into the sea and over to the other side.
Thanks be to God.