The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Pastor George Pejakovich
Matthew 14:22-33

 

TO GRADUATE FROM WEST POINT, YOU HAVE TO PASS A SWIMMING TEST. THIS INVOLVES STEPPING OFF THE HIGH BOARD BLINDFOLDED, THEN SWIMMING THE LENGTH OF AN OLYMPIC SIZED POOL. GROWING UP IN THE CITY, I NEVER LEARNED TO SWIM, SO ALMOST DROWNED IN THE FIRST YEAR TEST. I, AND THE OTHERS LIKE ME, WERE ASSIGNED TO “ROCK SQUAD,” AND SPENT EVERY FREE AFTERNOON FLAILING IN THE WATER. I FINALLY PASSED THE TEST THE MONTH BEFORE GRADUATION. THE SAME TEST IS GIVEN BEFORE ENTERING RANGER SCHOOL, BUT WITH HELMET, RIFLE, AND COMBAT GEAR. I KNEW I WAS STILL A “ROCK,” SO WHEN I STEPPED BLINDFOLDED OFF THE HIGH BOARD, BY THE TIME I HIT THE WATER, I LOST THE RIFLE, HELMET, COMBAT GEAR, AND ONE BOOT. WHEN I STRUGGLED TO THE FAR END OF THE POOL, AND MANAGED TO GRASP THE EDGE, A RANGER GENTLY STEPPED ON MY FINGERS, LOOKED DOWN AT ME AND SAID, “YOU ARE A WEAK SWIMMER.” THEY LET ME INTO RANGER SCHOOL, BUT GAVE ME A WATER ACTIVATED LIGHT TO WEAR, SO THEY COULD FIND MY BODY WHEN I DROWNED. RANGER SCHOOL IS A TOUGH PLACE.

PETER, WHOSE NAME MEANS APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH “ROCK,” AND THE OTHER DISCIPLES WERE IN A TOUGH SPOT. JESUS HAD JUST FED 5,000 MEN, AND PROBABLY HALF AGAIN AS MANY WOMEN AND CHILDREN, AND, AS THE SUN WAS SETTING, ORDERED THE DISCIPLES TO GET IN THE BOAT AND CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAKE WHILE HE DISMISSED THE CROWD. AS THEY ROWED AWAY, HE WENT UP THE MOUNTAIN TO PRAY. WHILE CROSSING THE LAKE, THE WIND TURNED AGAINST THEM, THE WAVES ROSE UP, AND THEY SPENT A LONG NIGHT TRYING WITHOUT SUCCESS TO REACH THE FAR SHORE. FOR THE JEWS, THE SEA WAS ASSOCIATED WITH CHAOS, AND, WHILE THEY HAD TO FISH IN IT, IT REMAINED A PLACE OF GREAT FEAR. AFTER THEIR TOUGH NIGHT, WHEN THEY SAW JESUS WALKING ON THE WATER, THEY THOUGHT HE WAS A PHANTHOM, OR GHOST, FROM THE SEA AND THEY CRIED OUT IN FEAR. JESUS IMMEDIATELY RESPONDED TO THEIR FEAR, AND WHAT HE SAID IS POWERFULLY INSTRUCTIVE. OUR TRANSLATION IS A POOR ONE, FOR WHAT HE LITERALLY SAID WAS, “TAKE HEART, I AM; DO NOT BE AFRAID.” I DOUBT THE DISCIPLES, AND THE EARLY CHRISTIANS, COULD MISS THE MEANING OF JESUS’ SAYING, “I AM.”

JESUS CLEARLY IDENTIFIED HIMSELF TO THE DISCIPLES AS THE GREAT “I AM,” SO WHEN PETER SAYS, “IF IT IS YOU, COMMAND ME TO COME TO YOU ON THE WATER,” HE IS TESTING JESUS. MANY HAVE SEEN THIS AS A STATEMENT OF FAITH; IT IS NOT. THIS IS THE SAME TEST OF JESUS TO PROVE WHO HE IS DEMANDED BY SATAN, THE HIGH PRIEST, AND THE MOCKERS AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS; DO SOMETHING TO PROVE WHO YOU SAY YOU ARE. IN THIS CASE, JESUS SAID, “COME,” TO PETER, BUT THINGS GO DOWNHILL QUICKLY. PETER STEPS OUT OF THE BOAT ONTO THE WATER, BUT THE WIND AND THE WAVES FRIGHTEN HIM, AND PETER, THE ROCK, STARTS TO SINK LIKE A ROCK. THIS IS AN ENACTMENT OF THE FACT THAT WE ARE NOT MADE TO WALK ON WATER, AND WHEN WE TRY, WE WILL FIND OURSELVES IN DEEP OVER OUR HEADS AND UNABLE TO SAVE OURSELVES. PETER, AT LEAST, DOES KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN WE FIND OURSELVE IN OVER OUR HEADS AND SINKING LIKE A ROCK: “LORD, SAVE ME!”

JESUS IS THERE FOR PETER, AND GRASPS HIM BY THE HAND. THEN HE ADMONISHES PETER, “YOU OF LITTLE FAITH; WHY DID YOU DOUBT?” THE DOUBT TO WHICH JESUS REFERS IS NOT PETER’S ABILITY TO WALK ON WATER, BUT THAT HE DID NOT TRUST JESUS WHEN HE TOLD HIM WHO HE WAS. WHEN THEY GOT BACK INTO THE BOAT, THE WIND AND THE WAVES STILLED, AND ALL THE DISCIPLES WORSHIPED JESUS FOR THE FIRST TIME; “TRULY, YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD!” THE NEXT TIME THEY WORSHIP HIM IS ON THE SHORE OF THIS SAME LAKE AFTER HIS RESURRECTION.

IT SEEMS, LIKE MOST PEOPLE, THE DISCIPLES AND WE CALL UPON THE POWER OF THE LORD TO SAVE US WHEN WE ARE IN OVER OUR HEADS. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT, BUT PERHAPS THE REASON WE GET IN TROUBLE IS THAT WE HAVE NOT BEEN RELYING ON THE STRENGTH AND POWER OF THE LORD WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL, AND START GOING PLACES AND DOING THINGS OR THINKING THINGS WE OUGHT NOT TO BE DOING. THIS IS WHERE REBELLION, VIOLENCE, AND HATRED BEGINS. JESUS ORDERED THE DISCIPLES TO GET IN THE BOAT AND ROW ACROSS WITHOUT HIM, TO BRING THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM TO THE GENTILE LANDS ON THE FAR SHORE.

THE CHURCH FOR WHOM MATTHEW WROTE WAS STRUGGLING WITH WHETHER OR NOT TO ALLOW GENTILES TO BECOME CHRISTIANS. ALTHOUGH NOT EXPLICT IN THIS STORY, WE KNOW THE ATTITUDE OF THE DISCIPLES WAS NOT FAVORABLE TO THE GENTILES. I WOULD BET THAT, AS THEY ROWED, THEY WERE GRUMBLING AND GROUSING ABOUT GOING TO GENTILE LANDS AND QUESTIONING WHAT JESUS WAS DOING. NO WONDER, THEN, THAT EVEN THE ELEMENTS WERE AGAINST THEM AND THEY COULD MAKE NO PROGRESS. WHEN JESUS SAVED PETER AND STOPPED THEM ALL FROM FLOUNDERING AROUND, HE RESTORED ORDER AND DIRECTION BY HIS PRESENCE BECAUSE OF WHO HE IS. WHEN WE RECOGNIZE THE LORD IS IN OUR MIDST, AND WORSHIP HIM IN TRUTH, WE WILL GO IN THE DIRECTION HE LEADS US; TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS TO ALL PEOPLE.

THE EARLIEST SYMBOL FOR THE CHURCH WAS A SHIP; AND IT STILL IS. THE AREA WHERE YOU ARE SITTING IS CALLED THE NAVE, THE SHIP. THIS IS A VERY ATTRACTIVE SYMBOL, AND WE CAN SEE WHY THE CHURCH ADOPTED IT. NOTE THAT JESUS GOT INTO THE BOAT WITH THE DISCIPLES. WHEN FACED WITH ADVERISTY, SAFETY AND SALVATION ARE FOUND WITH JESUS IN THE CHURCH. A SHIP IS NOT A STATIC SYMBOL; THE PURPOSE OF A SHIP IS NOT FOR SPORT OR PLEASURE, BUT TO GET US SOMEWHERE. THE CHURCH IS NOT A PLEASURE CRUISE TO HEAVEN, BUT THE VEHICLE TO MOVE US FROM OURSELVES TO OTHERS. JESUS WANTED THE DISCIPLES TO ROW TO THE OTHER SIDE SO THAT THEY COULD MINISTER TO THOSE WHO HAD NOT HEARD THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM. THE SHIP WHICH IS THE CHURCH IS WHERE WE BELONG, FOR IT IS THE VEHICLE THAT MOVES US TO THE OTHER SIDE, SO THAT WE, THE DISCIPLES OF THE SON OF GOD, CAN MOVE THROUGH THE LAND BRINGING THE NEWS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD TO ALL PEOPLE.
AMEN

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>