Matthew 14:22-33; Christ in the Storm (8-10-14)
By Rev Bob Gochenour
Have you ever heard the phrase: “Yeah, but…”
A man who walked into a pet store and said, I want to return this talking bird.
The owner said, Well, sir, we guarantee that all our birds can talk, but we can't guarantee when they will talk.
No, no, the man said. The bird talks all right, but I don't like its attitude.
For six days I said to the bird, 'Can you talk?' The bird said nothing. Every morning and every night I stood in front of the cage and said, 'Can you talk?' The bird said nothing again.
So, what happened? the owner asked.
Finally this morning, I lost my temper and shouted at the bird, 'You stupid bird, can you talk?!'
That bird looked at me and said:
“Yeah, I can talk, but can you fly?”
Try this “yeah,but…” story:
A poor old man walked into a diner and sat down at the counter.
A big, hulking waiter in a dirty T-shirt came up and said, What's yours, Mack?
The man said, Give me two eggs, scrambled, and a few kind words.
The waiter clomped off to the kitchen and then returned with the plate, slamming it carelessly down in front of the man.
As he turned away, the man said, Wait a minute, what about those kind words?
The waiter turned back and said, Oh, yea. Don't eat dem eggs.
“Yeah, but…” happens when you least expect it!
You may have seen it on the news or read about it in the paper. The Assembly of God Church in Bushnell, Florida, received a computerized notice from the American Family Publishers, which announced that God, of Bushnell, Florida, had been chosen as a finalist for the $11 million top prize in the American Family Publishers' Sweepstakes.
The letter read, as those letters always read:
God, we've been searching for you! What an incredible fortune this would be for you, God! Could you imagine the looks you'd get from your neighbors! But don't just sit there, God. All us today.
It was, obviously, a computer error. But there's a deeper error here than just a computer typing God's name into a form letter.
We sometimes get into the habit of saying, “Yeah, but…” about EVERYTHING.
We hear this story and say, “Yeah, but…”
Did Jesus really walk on the water?
Where were the rocks?
Did Peter really get out of the boat?
Is this a true story or just a parable?
Did this really happen or are you just preaching?
What does this have to do with my daily problems?
We hear this story like a metaphor: Christ will calm the storms.
We know this kind of life: life can be a storm.
We do experience the rages of the wind and the waves.
We understand the fear of going under.
We can relate to the disciples: in a small boat on a big lake; battered by the waves, far from the land.
Perhaps we would react the same way they did when they saw Jesus walking on the water:
“they were terrified, saying, It’s a ghost!”
This strange vision: is this bad news?
We are seeing a ghost—so are we already dead?
Jesus spoke to them: “Take heart, It is I; do not be afraid.”
“It is I” is a translation of the title: “I AM.”
Jesus is alluding to the great name of God revealed to Moses at the burning bush: “I am who I am.”
Jesus is claiming the name of God—I am the God of creation.
This is a comforting word: keep your eyes on Jesus and he will overcome all your storms in life.
This is the truth: faith in Jesus makes all the difference.
Than the “yeah, buts…” interrupt our sermon.
Yeah, but… I’m still in the storm!
Yeah, but… this storm has lasted forever!
Yeah, but… my loved one died!
Yeah, but…why do good people suffer!
Yeah, but… this doesn’t match my experience.
If we are really honest with ourselves, we have to admit that the “yeah, buts…” creep into our thoughts.
That is what Peter says to Jesus: “Yeah, but.”
Peter said: “Yes, Lord, it is you.
But…if it is really you, bid me come out and walk on the water.”
Jesus bid him come to him on the water.
Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus.
I do not think we understand how great a miracle this is.
Peter, the fisherman, got out of the boat and walked on water.
Peter knew better. Peter understood the dangers.
Peter never did anything like this before…for good reason!
As a fisherman, Peter had a healthy respect for/Sea of Galilee.
He knew the dangers: the sudden storms, the big waves, the mighty winds.
He knew the size of the water: 7 miles wide and 12 miles long.
He knew that he was too far from shore to swim.
But there was another threat in the waters.
For ancient Hebrews, the sea was the place of chaos.
It was the abode for the devil, demons, sea monsters, the great leviathan, and every form of evil in the universe.
Many a sailor, fisherman, businessman, and tourist who sailed the seas suffered the awful fate of death by sea/ death by chaos.
For Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the waters meant he was facing the reality of all evil—daring the devil to take him to death in the deep abyss.
Peter got out of the boat and walked to Jesus.
But…when the winds started blowing, he remembered his fears, he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink.
Sometimes, we fall into the things we fear the most.
We suffer from our own fears and find ourselves in the midst of the things that frighten us the most.
Peter did the right thing: he cried out, “Jesus, save me!”
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
Jesus’ rebuke is instructive:
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
There were lots of reasons: the wind, the waves, and the realm of the sea with all the demons, monsters, and the power of death.
When Jesus and Peter got into the boat: the wind ceased.
The disciples got the message: they grew in their faith.
Their eyes were open about Jesus—their rabbi and teacher.
They confessed: “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Oh, Peter, if you only knew this, you wouldn’t have sunk.
Oh, disciples, if you only believe this you wouldn’t fear.
Oh, friends, all of your “yeah, buts…” are answered right here.
The story points us to the truth about Jesus: HE IS MESSIAH.
This Messiah Jesus is the great “I AM” of the scriptures.
He is the God of creation who was “moving over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2)
He is the God praised by Job: “who alone stretched out the heavens, and trampled the waves of the sea.” (Job 9:8)
Jesus reveals himself to us all:
He is the One who can work miracles;
He is the One who can walk on water;
He is the One who has dominion over nature;
He is the One who is worthy of our faith;
He is the One who is merciful when faith falters;
He is the One who should be worshiped as the Son of God.
This passage points beyond verse 33, to the ultimate future.
The story doesn’t end with the crucifixion of Jesus.
The story doesn’t end with the resurrection of Jesus.
The story doesn’t end with the ascension of Jesus.
The story doesn’t end with our Christian experiences, our struggles, our transformation, our growing faith.
The story ends in Revelation 21:1.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
When Messiah Jesus comes in his final glory as King of kings and Lord of lords, he will take his rightful place on the heavenly throne.
He will create a New Heaven and a New earth.
He will destroy the sea and all the power of evil contained therein.
The sea will be no more!
All of our “buts…” will be vanquished.
The sea monsters, demons, devils, and death itself will be destroyed.
This is the kind of faith we need to have.
Jesus is this kind of Messiah/ Son of God.
He walks on water to reveal his true nature: our savior.
He alone in worthy of our faith!