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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 13, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for the tenth Sunday After Pentecost, Matthew 14:22-33. There we read these words:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he 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 immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." And 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. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 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."

We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen

People change. That’s why the disciples find themselves hustled into the boat and sent across the sea. We heard the miracle last week, where Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus women and children!) with five loaves and two fish. The people had spent the day hearing Jesus teach and witnessing His miracles—a thankful crowd. After the meal, however, they changed: instead of rejoicing in who Jesus was, they wanted to make Him their king on the spot, so that He would always be there to give them bread and they’d never have to work again. Just like that, they went from thankful to self-serving.

So Jesus hustled the disciples on the boat and sent them away. Meanwhile, He went off on His own to pray. He hadn’t changed. He was still the obedient Son of God.

The disciples changed. It’s an understatement to say that it was one of those bad commutes. It’s normally a three-hour trip across the sea by boat, but the disciples sail for eight hours, and they’ve only made it to the middle. The wind was contrary, foiling their plan, and the waves were tossing them around.

Bothersome? Sure. A cause for some anxiety? Maybe. But many of the disciples were seasoned fishermen, and there’s no mention that they were afraid of this weather. They were afraid of something else, though: during the fourth watch, long into the night, Jesus came walking toward them on the water. Waves and wind they can handle, but this was a supernatural sight.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

"It’s a ghost!" they shouted, and they cried out in fear. After all, men couldn’t walk on water; therefore, the Jesus they saw coming toward them couldn’t be a man. The disciples had changed from faithful followers to ‘fraid of ghosts, from obedience to fear. Rather than rejoice that Jesus is coming, they’d rather He go away.

But the Lord hadn’t changed. He wasn’t a ghost, but the faithful Savior, so He spoke a marvelous truth to them. He said, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." At least, that’s what our translation says, but it could be better. In the original Greek, Jesus declared, "Be of good cheer! I am; do not be afraid."

Not "It is I," but "I am." The disciples had changed in eight hours. Jesus hadn’t changed from eternity, nor would He, ever. He was the Son of God, fully divine. He was Yahweh, the great I AM, the Creator of this sea and wind. No need for the disciples to be afraid.

Even though they’d gone from obedience to fear, Jesus didn’t leave them floundering. He came to them, because He had come to deliver them from their fears.

It should come as no surprise that Peter then changed. Peter heard Jesus’ words and believed; indeed, he took courage. He said to Jesus, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Jesus responded, "Come."

So Peter began to walk on the water toward Jesus, and make no mistake about it: Peter walked by faith not by sight. The laws of physics said he should be sinking, and the surrounding waves looked like they would sweep him away. But Peter walked on water, by the grace and power of God.

But you know what. It’s hard to walk by faith, and Peter started wising up to the world around him. Sure, Jesus was still there. But the wind was getting boisterous, the sea was perhaps a little wilder, and who in their right mind thinks that you can just go ahead and step out of a boat and go for a stroll on the surface of the water anyway?

Again, Peter changed. Rather than keep his eyes on the Lord who made the sea, he placed more trust in the law of physics that say he ought to sink like a stone. The law always accuses, and he started to sink. Now, there’s no question that Peter had a serious case of doubt: Jesus would say so in a minute.

However, don’t miss what happened next. Even though he doubted and started to sink, Peter—by God’s grace— called out, "Lord, save me!" And even though Peter’s faith had faltered, the Lord remained the same.

He was still God-made-man, come to save; and He reached out His hand and caught Peter, and saved him. The two returned to the boat, where the rest make the good confession: "Truly You are the Son of God."

Changed again. "Be of good cheer, it is I!" "Take courage, I AM." The backdrop may change, but Jesus is always Jesus.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

When He fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, He was the Son of God who came to save. In the middle of the stormy night when all else was dark and foreboding, He was still the Son of God who came to save. When He hung on the cross, dying for the sins of the world, He was and is most certainly the Son of God who came to save. Take courage. He is I AM. Do not be afraid.

Jesus is the still the Same today. And that is important. Because you change. I’m not picking on any of you personally. If you’re made of flesh and blood, it’s true. Consistency and faithfulness are not the strong suits of sinful man, especially when it comes to the things of God.

Like Peter, you walk by faith, not by sight, and the temptations are many. As long as your Old Adam is around, you’ll change, expecting that your being God’s child should make your life easier; or you’ll be the flip side of the coin, worrying because of life’s difficulties and wondering why this should happen to you.

Thanks be to God that Jesus doesn’t change. While He does not promise to give you what you want, He promises to give what you need—most of all forgiveness for such sins as these. That is, after all, why the Son of God went to the cross and died for you.

In a world of sin and deception, you’ll be tempted to believe that Jesus is less than He is. After so much time at the Savior’s feet, the disciples in the boat still saw Him as a ghost in the storm, unable to help.

There will be times when you wonder if He’s real at all. Once again, give thanks: though you might change and waver, Christ Jesus does not. He who truly went to the cross for you delights to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith.

No doubt, the storms of life will seem bigger than your Savior. Even as you walk by faith, you’ll look at situations around you and grow afraid, convinced that you, too, are about to sink.

But once again, while you change and falter, the Lord Jesus does not. As He spoke to His disciples, He declares to you, "Be of good cheer. I AM. Do not be afraid."

And as surely as He reached out to Peter and pulled him from the waves, He reaches to you today. He says, "Take and eat, this is My body…take and drink, this is My blood…for the forgiveness of sins." And because He does not change, the promise is sure.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose


Christ Is Risen
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