Epiphany 4 January 29, 2006

In Nomine Iesu

Pastor Thomas L. Rank

Text: Matthew 8:23-27

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?”


Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,

When Jesus is sleeping it is hard to trust Him. That’s what the disciples discovered when they were in a boat with Him on the Sea of Galilee. Walking with Jesus on the shore, on a nice sunny day, then trust in Jesus is easy. In fact, one could be quite bold at that time and say all sorts of great things about how much one trusts in Jesus. But trust, or faith, is made visible in times of trouble.

St. Matthew relates to us the trouble that caused the disciples to doubt Jesus. They were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when the storm came up. There was a great wind and waves big enough to cover the boat.

Now, the disciples are not unaware of the storms on the Sea of Galilee. Some have made their living on that water. For them to reach the conclusion that they are “perishing” means that things were very serious in that boat. They truly have good reason to think they’re about to die. People who live by the sea for many years know many families who have lost loved ones through storms. No doubt the disciples could tell stories about disasters that occurred in past years on the Sea of Galilee. So they know what they are talking about when they conclude that they are in very deep trouble.

At least, we can say that humanly speaking they know what’s going on. But what do they forget to add to the equation that gave the answer as death? They forget about Jesus. And that is just what happens so often. When trouble strikes us we forget about Jesus.

Actually, the disciples don’t really forget about Jesus being with them. What they forget is who He is, and what He can do. And that is just as bad as forgetting about Him. Jesus is nothing more than a good luck charm if we forget that He is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity.

To their credit the disciples do go to Jesus. However, they do not do so with confidence, but with panic and fear. They cry out for help to the sleeping Jesus in the boat. This is worth noting. The disciples are in great difficulty. But they still do go to Jesus.

What does Jesus do? How does He respond to the disciples when they cry out to Him, when they pray for His mercy and help? There is some chastising on the part of Jesus. “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” But He still listens to them and answers their prayer.

Jesus does not yell at the disciples or wait for them to get stronger in faith and trust before helping them. He does not put more demands on them in their time of distress. And that is a great comfort. Jesus provides the needed help despite the little faith of the disciples.

And what is that help? Jesus rebukes the winds and the sea. The result is that the wind and the sea become calm. They calm down because that is what their Maker desires.

We went over this story in catechism class last week. I asked the students if they had ever tried to “rebuke” the wind. This past Tuesday we had wind up to 50 mph. If you were driving in it, did you tell the wind to calm down, or go away for awhile. My guess is that even if you did try it, you failed. You failed because the wind does not acknowledge you as its Maker. We have no power over the wind or water. But Jesus does.

“Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Consider these words from the first chapter of Genesis:

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” 7 Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. 9 Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.

God is the One who created the waters, the very water over which Jesus has power. Consider also these words from Colossians in which St. Paul describes Jesus:

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

So who is it that the wind and sea obey? It is God Himself.

Imagine the disciples, or you and I if we were there, trying to figure this out. Here is this man, Jesus, sleeping in the boat. Sleeping just like you and I sleep. Our bodies get tired, we’re worn out physically from the day’s work. We rest. But this Jesus awakes, stands up, and tells the wind to be quiet. And the wind obeys.

God was there in the boat with the disciples. He was not there in just some spiritual, invisible way. He was there in flesh and blood. He listened to the disciples cry for salvation, and He provided it. He saved their lives by His Word, His powerful Word.

Think of the One to whom you are speaking when you pray these words: “And lead us not into temptation.” You are speaking to God, to the One who took on human flesh and blood, who became incarnate, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. You are speaking to the One who created all things. You are speaking to the One of whom St. John proclaims: the Word became flesh and dwelt among and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

And you are speaking to the One who listens always to our prayers, and who always desires to help, no matter how little our trust, our faith, may be. We don’t ask because we deserve help, we ask because we need help, and Jesus is the One who has promised to help in all trials and temptations and troubles.

In the catechism we confess:

“God certainly tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our own flesh may not deceive us nor lead us into misbelief, despair and other shameful sin and vice; and though we be thus tempted, that we may still in the end overcome and retain the victory.”

The world wanted the disciples to fail that day on the Sea of Galilee. Certainly Satan did, too. Their own sinful flesh flinched at approach of certain death as wind and sea roared about them. But Jesus, even a sleeping Jesus, heard them. He had never left them. He had never forgotten them. He was there to help even when they didn’t think He would help or could help.

No matter what your trouble, no matter what your doubts may be, never be afraid to call out for help to Jesus. You might think He’s sleeping. You might think that you don’t deserve His help. But forget all that. Pray, trust in the One who hears you, the One whom even wind and sea obey, the One whom even death and hell could not overcome. That One is on your side against whatever may come your way in this life.

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 ((Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus will never leave you alone in the boat. He is here, and He is your salvation. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

(To God alone be the glory!)

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