"It Is Christ! Do Not Be Afraid!"
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
St. Mark 6:45-56
July 30, 2006
IN NOMINE JESU
Normally, when one is up somewhere between three and six o'clock in the morning, one really is not fully awake and is on the verge of falling asleep; so one's alertness may well not be what it should be. This was likely the case with the disciples, for they were human, after all. They were quite spent, for on the evening prior to our text, which we dwelled on last week, they had just returned from their mini-commissioning. The Lord invited them to rest upon their return, but the crowds came from everywhere to see Jesus, and He fed them, using the disciples as deacons; so they were put to work again. Now they had to row across the lake. Actually, they did not have to go too far, as they to go by boat from one town along the northern shore to another on the Sea of Galilee. They did not have far to go, but it took a long time for them to get there because the wind was against them, and their rowing was nearly in vain. Remember that it was almost sunrise, and they had not been to bed yet. Now they are completely exhausted and quite frazzled. At this time the Lord came to His disciples, walking to them on the water. The Lord was not wading to them in the water. He literally walked on the water and acted as if He would pass them by. Fear overtook them, and they were greatly afraid. They thought they had seen a ghost—NOT the Holy Ghost. They thought they had seen the spirit of the water approaching them, which, in Jewish thought, meant impending disaster of titanic proportions. Then He who created the universe by speaking a word brought His disciples comfort by speaking a word to them: "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid" (v. 50). Peter then went from being fearful to being fearless, if not being brainless. The blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew notes that
"Peter answered Him and said, 'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.'
"So He said, 'Come.'
"And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, 'Lord, save me!'
"And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'
"Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly You are the Son of God'" (Mt. 14:28-33).
Saint Mark notes in our text that when the Lord got into the boat, "the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. For they had not understood about the loaves because their heart was hardened" (vv. 51b-52). Their hearts were hard, for they did not behold the Lord's divinity in His feeding the 5,000 a few hours earlier, using a mere five loaves of bread and two fish to do so. They did not behold the Lord's divinity when He came to them, walking on the water. It was not until the Lord saved Peter, who sank like a rock (very much in keeping with his name), and got into the boat with them that the disciples worshiped Him, calling Him the Son of God.
The disciples had difficulty seeing the Lord for who He is. The crowds did not see Him for who He is at all, for they sought to take Him by force and make Him their king, as the blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. John notes in his account. No matter how one looks at them, there were still at least 5,012 pairs of eyes (at least 10,024 eyes, for those of you keeping score at home) that were clouded by their own wants, needs, desires, and troubles, and were not focused on the Lord, His coming to them, and His presence among them. The crowds viewed Him as their personal welfare agent, giving them food and healing, and they saw Him as no more than that. We are no better than they were. We come to our Lord with our wants, our needs, and our desires, and we want little more to do with Him that for Him to answer our prayers. Yes, the Lord hears the prayers of His people, as He Himself has promised. For this reason we pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs. But we seem to only want God around when times are bad. We want to chastise Him for the bad things He, in His divine and infinite wisdom, has allowed to happen to us. It is never God's will that we suffer, but He uses our sufferings to draw us closer to Him. He uses our shortcomings to draw us closer to Him, as He offers forgiveness to all who come to Him in repentance and faith. Yet we forget His grace in the midst of our troubles. We want Him to bring healing to our bodies and financial stability to our lives. I would like the Lord to remove my bride's cancer from her completely. We have our thorns in the flesh, thorns which we want God to remove from us, but our Lord, in His wisdom, says, "My grace is sufficient for you." God still answers our prayers, but He does not always say yes to our petitions and intercessions. While He may or may not give us the answer we want to our prayers, we lose sight of the main reason why our heavenly Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world: to bear our sins and be our Savior.
Our Lord has come as the God of grace. He had compassion on the crowds who were as sheep without a shepherd. He taught them and fed them. He had mercy on His disciples and calmed the storm. He has had compassion for and mercy on us, for He won for us by pouring out His blood from the cross as He died so that we would have life in heaven with Him forever, eternal life made possible by His victoriously rising again on the third day, according to the Scriptures, ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, and comes to us today in His Word and in His body and blood to give us His gifts that He won on the cross for us and gives through His Means of Grace, namely, the forgiveness of your sins, the healing of your soul. When the tempests of life rage and seek to upset you, He comes to you in His Word and says to you, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid, for it is through water that I have called you through your Baptism in and into My Name. I have washed your sins away with My blood, and I have washed them at the font, and I wash them away every time your pastor, in My stead and by My command, forgives you all your sins." He comes and says to us, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid, for I give you My body to eat and My blood to drink, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins." Do not be afraid, for your Lord is with you. Let not your heart be troubled. Again He says, "Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid, for I am your Immanuel, your 'God-with-us,' and lo, I am with You always, even to the end of the age. And do not be afraid, for as your prayers come through Me to My Father, He, the Lord, in His mercy hears your prayers, and God is the power in prayer, for He is the One who answers prayer for My sake." Thanks be to God!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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