Sermon, Sunday August 13, 2017. Pentecost 10A, St Petri
1 Kings 19:9-18 The Lord appears to Elijah, Psalm 85:8-13, Romans 10:5-15 The word of the Lord is near you
Matthew 14:22-33 Jesus walks on the water22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’29 ‘Come,’ he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/20170813_message64.mp3
I can’t figure out whether Peter is to be held up as a role model of faith because his actions were so right and good, or dismissed because he got it so wrong. What do you think?
Some say Peter has overstepped the mark here. He has gone it alone, chased something he himself wanted and left his crew to the wind and waves. This is not what a captain or any crew member should do. He has put himself before others in the pursuit of something for himself. His place should have been to stay in the boat, ride out this horrible head-wind with his crew.
Jesus can walk on water because he is Jesus. Peter is not Jesus. Peter got ahead of himself.
On the other hand, this could be the way we are being called to live as followers of Jesus.
Many would say that Matthew tells the story to show us that we need to get out of the boat and go toward Jesus, even in the wind and waves. At all cost we need to take his invitation to come out of the boat, leaving safety and all attachments behind to seek his presence and power.
So, what do you think? Is Peter a model of how we need to live by faith or a model of what NOT to be?
I notice four things in this account.
Peter asks Jesus before heading out.
Jesus does actually say to Peter, “Come”.
Jesus names himself “I AM” and calls for even more faith from Peter and the others and us!
And quite uniquely, this is the first time in Matthew’s telling that the Twelve bend their knees to Jesus. They prostrate themselves before him right there in the boat. They “worship” him.
Now a lot has happened up to this point. Last week, we were with a tired and grieving Jesus. He had just lost his cousin and mentor, John the Baptist, who has been murdered by the toxic Herod family.
But he just had to keep on giving out among a huge crowd of people. He did, and “all were satisfied” at the food he gave for 10,000+ people.
Jesus still needs to find space, so he makes this happen.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd…
There is no mucking around here. Jesus is the captain and commander! He ‘made” them get into that boat and head off, despite the weather forecast. Like football fans last weekend looking at the weather apps on their phones as they rugged up and headed down to Adelaide Oval. This journey is a must. We are going to sit in the cold and rain no matter what!
Jesus does finally get that longed for space to pray to his heavenly Father, pour out his anger and sadness.
By pre-dawn hours, Jesus obviously is OK to get back to his close friends. He does this in an unconventional way; well unconventional for you and I anyway! He heads into the head wins and walks over that sea.
The boat is a fair way off shore. These twelve blokes have been battling this head-wind all night. They’re probably exhausted as the pre-dawn light arrives. But there he is. Or there something is! In the wind and churning water causing all that exhaustion, fear and superstition, they spot this figure in the darkness.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
English is not always helpful when translating ancient Greek. What Jesus actually says is this: “Take Courage. “I AM”. Don’t be afraid”.
“I Am”. Matthew’s readers and those twelve guys in the rocking boat would instantly draw back at that name. “I AM”. “Yahweh”. “THE LORD”. The God of Moses on the mountain and the parting of the sea in Egypt. The glory cloud in the Tabernacle in the desert, God. The temple of Solomon, God. As he once sad to Joshua,
‘Be strong and courageous now. I AM who I AM is here. Put fear away’, Jesus says.
28 ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
“Lord, IF it is you?” Not much faith yet. Sounds like Satan. “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread” (Matthew 4:3, 6); like the mockers at the foot of the cross, “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross” (Matthew 27:40); like the High Priest, “If you are the Messiah, then say it now at your trial!” (Matthew 26:63). Is Peter challenging Jesus to do something specky in order to verify his identity. Sounds like it.
“Come”, Jesus says.
One word. One call. Simple and clear. “Come to me”.
I am struck by the fact that Peter might doubt but still asks and then follows. He actually climbs down out of the boat while it is rocking around and takes that huge step of faith on the basis of that one word from Jesus, ”Come”. He did ask. He was invited. He followed.
What happens? Peter walks a couple of steps and comes towards Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
“He saw the wind”. In the battle against the winds and waves he lost the single voice, “Come”, and could only see the wind assailing him.
Oh, I know what that is like! I suspect you do too.
But he has the sense, faith and instinct to put out the SOS call when he realises that he is not “I AM”. He is not God. He might know that he is not God but he knows who to call to when he is failing. “Lord, save me”.
I know what that is like too.
Instantly, “immediately”, without hesitation the Saviour saves. The hand is there and the follower is safe, even while the wind and water still attack.
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
And then that troubling word. “Such little faith, you have!” Why do you doubt me?
Sounds like Peter has been called but couldn’t carry it and has missed out on something really good. If only he had trusted Jesus and kept his ear on the voice rather than his eyes on the wind, more could have been his?
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
THE key thing in this whole account happens. A soaking wet Peter, in a boat now still and quiet without howling wind, with eleven other scared men and the man who looked like a ghost, for the first time in Matthew’s telling, bend their knee to this man “I AM”. They prostrate their bodies and souls; their very selves to him right there and then.
It seems like all natural forces are drawing a deep breath to let this monumental moment happen. Jesus the Messiah of God, God himself with us is finally acknowledged rightly in the heart of sinners who are still with him, whether they got out of the boat or not.
So, what of Peter and what of us?
There are also times to do a Peter. Sometimes Jesus calls us to more than we can be or know. That can be in the boat or stepping away to follow him. Sometimes it is OK to go it alone for a while and follow that voice and ignore the wind. Sometimes it is OK to stay in the boat and work with the others to battle the head-winds to faith – fear, pride, self -serving passions, trying to earn your place in the boat…..
How do you know when to stay with your crew, serve them love them, protect them or to jump ship and try something out of the boat following Jesus voice?
Well it all comes back to the voice, either way. “Come”.
What if you miss the voice and fail to follow? He is still in the boat with the eleven other besides Peter. Jesus did not have to walk over that water to them but he did. Whether or not Peter did what he did or not, Jesus still ends up with them in the boat. It is where we belong most of the time. It is OK to be together and safe in the boat with Jesus.
What if you follow his lead somewhere but you begin to sink. Well, he is there too. The hand grabs you immediately and hauls you back into life and community and safety in the boat.
So either way we are his and he is ours: and he will be get to us and we will bow to his grace for us.
In the end the best thing is to bend our knee to Jesus, the great ‘I Am’, who is God with us and for us in or out of the boat.
‘Come,’ he says.
Read the text slowly and deliberately taking note of the word “Immediately and Jesus’ words and actions…
What do you make of Peter? Is he a model of how we are to trust Jesus or does he make a mistake here, as some suggest? Share why you believe this?
I suggested that even if Peter is making a mistake, Jesus is still there ready to save him. How have you experienced Jesus’ saving you in your Christian journey? Share about a time when you were sinking like Peter and found immediate help from the Lord.
In what ways are you also like the other eleven disciples in the boat? Do you think they were being wise or missing out on what real faith looks like?
I suggested that we Christians can sometimes find ourselves in deep water feeling alone even as we hear the call of Jesus to “Come”, but also can share the hard work of sailing into the headwind together with Jesus in our boat. How does this view strike you?
What ‘headwinds’ are you sailing into at the moment?
What headwinds is the Christian church heading into these days?
What is Jesus saying about how we are to respond in these headwinds in this word from him?
We sung the hymn, “Be stil my soul”. Reflect on these words as you ponder Jesus being worshipped in the boat by a soggy Peter, a man they first thought was a ghost and a quiet, calm dawn…
Be Still, My Soul By: Catharina von Schlegel
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on your side; Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; Leave to your God to order and provide; In every change he faithful will remain. Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly Friend Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul; your God will undertake To guide the future as he has the past. Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake; All now mysterious shall be bright at last. Be still, my soul; the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.
Be still, my soul; though dearest friends depart And all is darkened in the vale of tears; Then you will better know his love, his heart, Who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears. Be still, my soul; your Jesus can repay From his own fullness all he takes away.
Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on When we shall be forever with the Lord, When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored. Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past, All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.