Epiphany 4 – Matthew 8 – February 1st, 2015
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
Well, having had our special days three Sundays in a row, we finally get to a full Epiphany text. And remember what the season of Epiphany is – it’s the time of the year where we focus on the ways in which this man Jesus reveals that He is indeed God Almighty. And what’s fun about this text, is that it all starts with Jesus taking a nap. Jesus has had a busy day; prior to our text He’s done some healings, the Leper and Centurion Servant, also Peter’s mother-in-law, he’s been casting out demons, preaching to large crowds. The first 22 verses of Matthew 8 has Jesus working His tail off, so some rest, a nap during a little cruise is probably in order. Any one of us would be tired with the day Jesus had, but what a time to take a nap. The storm has been raised, waves are crashing higher and higher, actually up over the sides of boat. To get a sense of how bad this is, remember this. Quite a few of the disciples were fishermen. They knew how to handle a boat. They knew the weather and currents of the Sea of Galilee. And these men of experience and knowledge, these are the ones who begin to freak out, to panic. Now, if I’m in a boat, I have no clue what’s going on. You’d expect me to freak out over little things, but when the veteran sailors start panicking, that’s a sign that things are really in a bad shape.
And so they figure they better wake Jesus up, who is quite calmly sleeping through the storm. “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” Up goes their cry. Jesus, wake up, do something! And, well, He does. First thing Jesus says is, “’Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Did you catch how Jesus does this? The disciples wake Jesus up, and still lying down, Jesus looks at them as says, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” And after Jesus has let the disciples know that there was no reason for them to wake Him up, only then does Jesus get up. He rebukes the disciples from His bed, His couch where He was lying. Guys, why did you have to wake me up for this? But still, Jesus does get up out of bed, and He speaks to the wind and the wave, and the storm is still.
And the Disciples are amazed. Now, this is something that has always stood out to me in this text. Here they wake Jesus up, “Save us”, and then He does... and the disciples are confused. “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?” What were you expecting? Isn’t this what you were looking for when you woke Him up? What, did you think Jesus was just going to pick up a bucket and help you bail water? You’ve just seen Him heal the sick and cast out demons, and you thought He’d simply be pitching water over the side? But as they ask the question, let us answer it. What kind of man is this Jesus?
For a great big hint, let us look back at our Old Testament lesson. Here too we see the seas in an uproar, here too we see experienced sailors in great concern and fear. However, the situation is a bit different with Jonah. Jonah has been called by God to go to Ninevah and preach, and Jonah doesn’t want to go. And Jonah flees, there is the storm, and to still it Jonah gets pitched overboard and swallowed by a fish. Before we go on, let us take a warning from this. All of us here have been called by God into various positions, into various tasks, into various duties. Some have been called by God to be faithful spouses and parents, some to be workers, some to be students and children who serve their parents. Many times we don’t like the responsibilities given to us by God. Many times they seem difficult and hard, and we wish to run away, to shirk our duty. Jonah does remind us of one thing. If the Lord calls you to a task, don’t run away, because who knows what type of fish He will send after you. But, with that bit of warning, back to the question at hand. Who is this Jesus who has control over wind and the waves? So Jonah’s on the boat, and the sailors ask Jonah what’s going on, and what does Jonah say? I am a Hebrew and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. Oh, you mean that’s who you are running away from? Well, that would explain the waves. And Jonah sees it, and has them toss him into the water, and the waves calm down.
So, who is this Jesus who has control over wind and wave? He is the very LORD God Himself who made the winds, made the waves. That is the main point of our Gospel text. This is the lesson we see here painted out again in detail, that Jesus Christ, that this Man the disciples are looking at wide eyed and slack jawed is God Himself. When we talk about Jesus, we are always talking about God, and this is something we must remember. Why? Because more and more this truth, that Jesus is God, is being denied more and more often, by the world out there, and worse than that, even by those who claim to be in the Church! Of course, there have always been series of people denying that Jesus is God in the Church. As proof of that, I present the Nicene Creed. What did we just say of Jesus? That He is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God. We say this precisely because 1700 years ago there were a lot of people supposedly in the Church who were claiming that Jesus wasn’t really God. And it is vitally important that Jesus is God. Why? Because otherwise that, the Cross, doesn’t do any of us one bit of good. If Jesus isn’t God, there’s no reason for any of us to be here, because only God can save us from our sin. Who is this Man who has control over wind and wave, who is this Man who goes to the Cross and suffers and dies? Thanks be to God that Jesus is indeed True God, whom we rightly worship and praise as our Redeemer from sin!
We do see some other implications in this text that are useful to us. One thing to remember is that we probably shouldn’t be too hard on the disciples here for asking the question, who is this Man? They were pretty scared, pretty freaked out, and I’m sure that if they sat down rationally and calmly, that they would say, “Oh, yeah, well, duh, this is Jesus. He is God, after all.” But this is illustrative for us in our lives. Think about it this way. When things come up in life that distress us, when we are discombobulated, caught off guard, do we tend to think calmly about things? Most certainly not! We get caught up in the moment, the situation, and we get so focused on things at hand that we forget God. Even among sincere, devout Christians, and even among Pastors, myself included, there are just times when we all spazz out and forget God. Part of this is simply the fact that in many ways we fail to fully understand God’s Control over our lives. We forget all that first article stuff from the catechism, that God made me and all creatures, provides me with house, home, eyes, ears, all my members, and still provides for them. We forget that “my stuff” isn’t really mine. . . it’s God’s Stuff that He is giving me to use. And this is something that we all need to be reminded of often. Luther himself, the guy who wrote the catechism, went over the catechism every day as part of his daily devotions simply to constantly remind himself that God was in Control. [This is why we go over it in the service all the time, and] I would hope you study it yourself at home. This is what provides that solid base so that the times where we are shaken and become forgetful become less and less frequent.
When trouble does come, when we are surrounded by storm and trial, what are we to do? Did you catch what the disciples did? They cried “Save us, Lord”. This is a great comfort to us. Even we with our little faith, even when we don’t make the connections that we ought, even when we are afraid needlessly and worried without cause, what do we have? We are still the temple of God, the Holy Spirit still dwells in us, and He guides us and gives us the Words to say, the Spirit directs us to call out to Christ. Isn’t this a comfort? Did you see what Jesus did? He didn’t say, “Well, you have little faith, I guess I’m just going to have to let you drown.” No, again, the strength of faith isn’t what moves God to action. Strength of faith, confidence of faith, understanding of the faith, these are benefits for us, they help to keep up from needless fear. . . but even with the lightest faith, God Himself still dwells with the Christian, and gives us the Words to say. And by God’s guidance we call out to Him for rescue and salvation.
And Jesus does. And note what Jesus does. Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea. He rebuked them. Here we see Jesus speaking, we see the Word go forth and make things right. Dear friends, we are people of the Word, we are those who live in and delight in the Word of God. We are those who trust in that Word. It is God’s Word, His promises to us of life and salvation on account of Christ Jesus our Lord that calms the storms in our lives. It is with God’s Word that we can rebuke the Tempter when he threatens us. It is with God’s Word that we find solace and comfort in whatever situation in which we are in. It is by God’s Word that we are forgiven, whether we hear that Word spoken to us, or whether we receive that Word in with and under bread and wine when we receive the Very Body and Blood of Christ Jesus our Lord in His Supper, the very same Supper which we will celebrate in just a few moments. Where there is God’s Word, the distressed sinner will find relief, for to the repentant sinner, there is no rebuke, but rather God speaks nothing but sweet Words of comfort, the Words of the Gospel. What will we hear at the Words of Institution? Given and Shed for you for the remission of your sin. What can be sweeter to hear than those Words? By His Word, Jesus is constantly telling us, reminding us of who He is and what He does, that He is the God who dies to take away our sin, and rises again with New Life that He shares freely with us. Thanks be to Christ Jesus our Lord, that He richly showers us with His Word, that He always seeks to strengthen our little faiths by His Word, that by His Word He protects and carries us through whatever trials we face in this life, even until life everlasting. God grant that His Word dwell richly in our midsts. In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World + Amen.