By The Rev. Sherry Deets
August 7, 2011
Matthew 14: 22-33
Last week, we heard in our gospel reading, about Jesus feeding the 5,000. This week we hear another miracle – Jesus walking on water. There are so many facets to this story and in the times before, I have focused on Peter and how he takes the risk. He gets out of that boat and believes that he can walk on water because Jesus is there. As soon as he loses his focus, as soon as he takes his eyes off of Jesus, he begins to And And that is a good and true message.
This time, I want us to look at what Jesus does in this story. So maybe we could try a little guided meditation with this text… Relax. Close your eyes. Imagine that you are Peter. You are in a boat on a large lake. It is night time. A storm is brewing. The wind is picking up. The waves are getting bigger and bigger. The boat is rocking. You are getting anxious. It seems a little dangerous. And then you see Jesus walking toward you…on the water. You and your companions question what you are seeing. Is it a ghost? Could this be Jesus? So you say, Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” And he says, Come. You are so excited. Feel that excitement, that relief that washes over you. You will be safe. You will be fine. And then you remember how big those waves are, the worries and concerns and anxieties that are a real part of your life, those worries and concerns and anxieties that you carry.
Now come back to the present, open your eyes.
So, right there in verse 31, what does Jesus do when Peter begins to sink? He immediately reaches out his hand and catches him. “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him”.
Allison Krause and Union Station have a beautiful rendition of Keith Whitley’s song, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Part of the lyrics go like this:
There’s a truth in your eyes Sayin’ you’ll never leave me The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall.
Can you get a mental picture of Peter and his relationship with Jesus from this morning’s Gospel reading? The touch of your hand says you’ll catch me if ever I fall.
“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him …. When they got into the boat, the wind ceased, ….” (Matt 14:31-32 NRSV)
When my friend, David, was nine, he went hiking with his brothers, sisters, some cousins, and an uncle. They came to some steep terrain and ended up in a cave of sorts. They ventured in and could soon see a hole up above, which they figured led out onto the ridge they were hiking to. The path through the cave narrowed until David was the only one small enough to climb any further. Bold and impetuous as a typical nine-year-old, David eagerly climbed farther to investigate. Just before sticking his head out of the hole, though, his foot slipped and he fell. It was, maybe, all of ten feet – even though it felt like thirty to him — and it was over in a terrifying heartbeat, as his uncle caught him. Literally. He was down below and reached out his arms and just grabbed hold of David. And David shares that it was the best feeling ever.
I have a hunch that’s what Peter felt like. And then he didn’t need to be told to look to Jesus anymore. What else could he do? That’s the thing about the gospel, it doesn’t just tell you to do something, it makes it possible to do it. Sometimes, it actually makes it seem impossible not to. “Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.” There it is, the heartbeat of the story. Yes, Peter should have kept his eyes on Jesus…and so should we. But when we don’t, when we falter, or even fail, Jesus will be there to grab us, to catch us, to support us and set us up straight again, ready to give it another go.
Jesus, finally, isn’t simply our guide or life coach; he’s our Savior, the One who does for us what we cannot. Too much of American Christianity, I think, has forgotten that, reducing the gospel to one more spiritual self-help recipe. But the Lord who walks on top of the sea in this story not only directs wind and wave but also death and life. This Jesus wants more than to command our attention; he wants to save our lives. And he has promised to do just that. Amen.
The text of this sermon is the property of the author and may not be duplicated or used without permission.