Sermon – Matthew 8.23-27 (Epiphany 4 – 2019)
Lord God, heavenly Father, in Your divine wisdom and fatherly goodness You cause Your children to bear the cross, and send many afflictions upon us to subdue our sinful flesh, and to enliven our hearts to faith, hope, and unceasing prayer: We beseech You to have mercy upon us, and graciously deliver us out of our trials and afflictions, so that we may perceive Your grace and fatherly help, and with all the saints forever praise and worship You; through Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace form God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep.
25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Fear, Give Way to Christ!
Dear fellow redeemed,
“Why are you fearful?” Jesus asked. Well, from our fallen human viewpoint, it was pretty obvious. The picture is painted pretty simply for us. A great storm was stirred. Waves overcame the boat. It seemed as though death was imminent. And Jesus, their teacher, was sleeping, seeming to care little about their situation, or perhaps not even being aware of it.
From all appearances, from what their eyes could see, and the tumult of the waves upon their bodies, that was it.
But Jesus’ question wasn’t a question that came from curiosity. The question was one of rebuke. “Why are you fearful? You shouldn’t be. Where is your faith? Do you not know who I am, what I am able to do, and what my will is toward you?”
Does this mean that the disciples should have been completely stoic, unmoved by the threat of the waves? Does it mean that they should have not flinched by whatever came and not bothered Jesus about the trouble they were in?
Does it mean that we too ought to be unmoved by the troubles in life, and that we shouldn’t bother Jesus with our troubles, as though that is a lack of faith? No that is not what it means. For one, fear is not the same as distress. We do face difficult things in this world. We do live in a world surrounded by our enemies, the devil, the world and our sinful flesh. Death is also a horrible enemy that disturbs us. We become troubled and distressed for good reason. There are things in life that can just knock us off our feet. Jesus Himself was troubled by the difficulties He faced. He wept at the death of Lazarus. And when approaching the intense suffering and the death He was about to endure, Matthew says He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed, saying to His disciples, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.”
And so we are troubled by difficulties as the disciples became distressed in the boat, but even in the midst of distress, we need not fear. And the right response is to go to God for help, for He has commanded us to pray to Him, and to cast our anxieties upon Him. Prayer proceeds from faith and is an act of worship toward God.
We see some good examples of this in the Psalms, including those written by David, who, himself, faced difficult times in his life, such as fleeing from murderous Saul, being displaced by his own son, Absalom, and dealing with the guilt of his sin with Bathsheba.
In Psalm 10 for example, the psalmist speaks of the distress that he is suffering. He asks, “Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do you hide in times of trouble” He states that it seems like God is uninterested in helping. All the while, the wicked are creating much evil with slander, greed, and murder. But yet, he has faith. He cries out to God, “Arise, O LORD! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble.” He is waiting for the help of the Lord. But he is not without faith, for he confesses “Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, ‘You will not require an account.” But you have seen, for you observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand…. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”
Now the disciples went to Jesus, not only with distress, but they were filled with fear and doubt. But Jesus rebukes them. Why should they have no fear? Why should we have no fear?
Jesus shows us. He speaks a word and the wind and the waves stop! The disciples ask a good question: “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary. He created the sky, the atmosphere, dividing the water below from the water above on the second day of creation, and He separated the waters and put boundaries to them making land. And so He with infinite power to create the wind and the waves, also has the power to make them still.
But what is remarkable is that He does it with His human voice, making His words with His human lungs, His human vocal chords, His human tongue, and His human lips!
And it is this wonder of the incarnation again, God became flesh. And He became flesh for those disciples in the boat with Him. He became flesh for you!
He became flesh to save you from all your enemies, to deliver you from your griefs and sorrows, to give you eternal life. And to this end, God suffers, God is crucified, God dies, and God rises again so that you may have forgiveness for your fears and doubts and all yours sins, and so that you may have eternal salvation!
So why should we fear? Why should we doubt?! Hasn’t He finished His work and now ascended into heaven? Aren’t His promises of deliverance true? Are we not baptized into the name of the Triune God, and so we are His! And so, though we are distressed by the difficulties of life, we may run to Christ in prayer with full confidence that He hears us and cares for us! We need not fear nor doubt!
What can the world do to us? Christ has overcome the world. At His return every knee shall bow, whether it is in reverent faith, or in dread of His justice. And so we need not fear the world’s hostility to our faith and our confession of Christ. Even if the world seeks to take our life for the sake of Christ, Christ already has our life in His safe-keeping.
The devil, too, is defeated! His accusations against us all are empty threats, for Christ, by His sacrifice, has forgiven our sins. Whatever evil the devil tries to bring upon us, God guards and keeps us, and turns the devil’s evil into our good.
He who with a word stilled the waters, by His Word caused the dead to rise. He Himself conquered death. So we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Though death is our enemy that troubles us, we know that Christ has destroyed death for us, and has guaranteed us a resurrection of our bodies unto eternal life.
With the word of forgiveness, He puts at ease our troubled consciences. Even if we are guilty of fear and doubt, still we run to Him, knowing that He will forgive us as He has promised.
Or when it comes to the hardships in life if it is His will He will remove them. But sometimes, according to His infinite wisdom He allows us to suffer, but He is not sleeping. He gives us His Word that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His Word that He loves us. For Scripture says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
His Word strengthens us, giving us patience and faith to wait for Him and trust in His good and gracious will.
We understand that we will be troubled and distressed, but fear and doubt must give way to Christ, for He is God who has assumed human flesh for us to deliver us and give us salvation. We may face our troubles with courage, not standing upon our own two feet, but resting upon the care of Christ and His Word.
And we live in full confidence of Christ and His salvation, with this end in mind, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks, “God will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation” (Is 25:8-9). Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be forevermore. Amen.