Romans 10:14-17 and Matthew 14:22-33
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
–Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”(v. 33)
You and I understand that Jesus’ walking on water was just another way Jesus could witness to his disciples who he was, not just another man, but God as well.
Humorist Mark Twain came up with his own conclusion as to why Jesus walked on water, in those early morning hours.
Mark Twain told of a time he was in the Holy Land with his wife. They spent one night at a resort on the Sea of Galilee. It was particularly beautiful–a full moon over the sea made for an especially romantic setting.
The Twains decided that they wanted to go on a moonlit boat ride on the lake. Twain approached one of the local fishermen and asked him how much he would charge to take them out in a boat.
The man looked at Twain–observed his white suit, hat, shirt, and shoes–and supposed him to be a rich man. “For you–my friend–twenty-five dollars!” the fisherman replied.
This was back when twenty-five dollars was a lot of money. Twain knew it was certainly too much for a boat ride. As he turned to walk away, he grumbled, “I always wondered why Jesus walked on the water. Now I know!” *
This miracle of Jesus walking on water was just one more way to build the disciples’ faith. Jesus had just finished feeding 5,000 plus people with five loaves of bread and two fish, He spent some quiet time with His Father God, and now in the midst of a storm, with the wind howling and the waves threatening to swamp the disciples’ boat, Jesus comes to them walking on water!
Peter, the impetuous one, says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (v.28). Jesus says one word, “Come.” Then Peter got down out of the boat walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, and cried out, “Lord, save me!” (v. 29).
When Jesus reaches down to take Peter’s hand, as Peter takes his eyes off Jesus and begins to sink beneath the waves, Jesus says to him, “You have so little faith, why did you doubt me?” (v.31) The disciples’ faith grew stronger in that moment. When Jesus and Peter get into the boat, the winds stop and the waves become calm. The disciples exclaim, “Truly you are the Son of God!” (v.33) The miracles of Jesus continue, and the people’s faith continues to grow.
What I want to talk to you about today is not faith in who Jesus is. Jesus is the Son of God, fully human and fully divine. What I want to talk about are Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid’.
Matthew 14:27, “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
According to psychologists, human beings are born with two fears; fear of loud noises and fear of falling. It does not take us long, however, to accumulate many other fears–fear of the dark, fear of lightning and thunder, fear of dogs, fear of pain, fear of loneliness, fear of being inadequate, fear of other people, fear of death, etc.
For many people, this list continues to grow over a lifetime–fear of heights, of closed-in spaces, fear of planes and trains and so on and so one. There seems to be no limit to our fears.
In a Peanuts cartoon strip Charlie Brown goes to Lucy for a nickels worth of psychiatric help. Lucy would hang the sign, “The Doctor is In,” when she was in her little therapy booth. She proceeds to pinpoint Charlie Brown’s particular fear. “Perhaps,” she says, “you have hypengyophobia, which is the fear of responsibility.” Charlie Brown says, “no.” “Well, perhaps you have ailurophobia, which is the fear of cats.” “No.” “Well, maybe you have climacophobia, which is the fear of staircases.” “No.” Exasperated, Lucy says, “Well, maybe you have pantophobia, which is the fear of everything.” “Yes,” says Charles, “that is the one!”
Sometimes we feel like we are afraid of everything. We are afraid of ourselves. We are afraid of people. We are afraid of the past. We are afraid of the future. We are afraid of death. We are afraid of life.
What are you afraid of? Fear of failing? I have come to understand that failing when we try something is always a learning experience; If we never try and fail, we may not learn what we can accomplish, if we try. Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.”
Are you afraid of death? The story is told of old Bishop Warren Chandler, after whom the school of theology at Emory University was named. As he lay on his deathbed, a friend inquired as to whether or not he was afraid to die. “Please tell me frankly,” his friend said, “do you fear crossing the river of death.” “Why”, replied Chandler, “I belong to a Father who owns the land on both sides of the river.”
Maybe you’re afraid of life? It was in the midst of the storm that Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.” You and I must deal with the storms of life. The greatest storms in life come up unexpectedly with sudden twists and turns. One day you or one of your family members go to the doctor’s office for a routine exam and the next day your life is turned upside down by the results. Or your marriage seems to be going smoothly until one day your spouse tells you he wants a divorce. Or you struggle to keep your head just above water financially, and then the boss announces her downsizing plan. A child gets sick, or a spouse or a parent dies, or there is a fire which takes everything.
Suddenly, a storm hits you with a vengeance, and your life takes a dramatic and serious turn. The one common thread in each of these circumstances is that you didn’t see the storm coming, just as the disciples could not know the storm would arise on the Sea of Galilee that night.
Over and over again the message of the Bible is fear not, don’t be afraid. When Abram took his family to the Promised Land he feared that he was turning his back on everything he knew, for the unknown. God spoke to him: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, and your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1)
When the Hebrews stood at the Red Sea and could see Pharaoh’s chariots coming on the horizon, they cried out that they would all be slaughtered. Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Stand still, and watch the Lord rescue you today.” (Exodus 14:13)
When the angel of the Lord came to Mary and said that she would bear a child, she trembled with fear. Gabriel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God!” (Luke 1:30)
When Joseph is afraid of what the people in Nazareth will think if he takes Mary as his wife, Gabriel appears to him and says, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20)
With God, conquering our fear is possible. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
How do we deal with our fears?
First, we have to identify what it is we fear. If our fear doesn’t have a name, how can we deal with it? Are you afraid of people? What is it about people that you are afraid of? Are you afraid of messing up in front of them? Haven’t you seen people make mistakes? Did they dry up and blow away? No, they learned and they continued to live. We are all imperfect people and we are going to mess up! I mess up, you mess up. We go on living, we learn and we grow.
Second, I think it helps if we ask our self, what is the worst that can happen? When confronted with a serious illness, even one which is terminal: Romans 10:9 tells us “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So, no worries! Remember Bishop Chandler, “Why should I be afraid, I belong to a Father who owns both sides of the river,” (earth and heaven).
I was raised in a generation that had to live for years with the ultimate fear: Nuclear war. In 1961 President Kennedy urged people to build bomb shelters in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. As a child, I distinctly remember believing that the world might come to an end. Over 500,000 bomb shelters were built during a three-year period in America. We lived with needless fear.
Today we have this crazy president of North Korea threatening nuclear bombs again. Do you seriously think that can happen? I do not. I think Kim Jong Un’s actions will result in even more suffering for his own people. I have compassion for innocent people who suffer at the hand of corrupt leaders.
Third, when dealing with our fears, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. When those storms of life surround us and engulf us, it is easy to give in to our fears. Remember, Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
We become deaf to Jesus’ voice when we give into our fears. When you and I are speaking to someone who has a difficult time hearing, it helps if we look directly at them and speak slowly and clearly. It is the same for Jesus. We need to keep the eyes of our heart focused on Jesus, spending time with Him one on one. Prayer, reading our Bible, worshiping with other believers: These three help us to bring our fears into perspective, and to remind us, “—Neither trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword can separate us from the love of Christ—Neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39, my emphasis).
Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Today God revealed to us; when we encounter the storms of life and find ourselves over come by waves of fear, we must name our fear, identify the worst case scenario, and keep our eyes on Jesus the Son of God. We take hold of Jesus’ hand and He saves us from our fears.
We live in a world giving into fear, and the Apostle Paul tells us this morning in Romans 10:14-17, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
It is our mission as Christians to share this good news of Jesus with others who are battling the spirit of fear. Fear is debilitating, as some of us have experienced. Drugs, alcohol, hate, violence, and suicide are some of the outcomes of debilitating fear.
Let us seek to have beautiful feet, taking the good news of Jesus to our broken and hurting world!
I am sending you out today to preach the good news. Simply share with someone who is encountering the storms of life, how your faith in Jesus the Son of God helped you conquer your fear. Go forth on your beautiful feet and tell someone, Do Not Be Afraid!
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: * Dr. Jerry Tankersley, http://www.lagunapreschurch.org/cgi‑bin/sermons/write_htm.cgi?102231246.