The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
These past few weeks our lessons have been focused on some of the miracles of Jesus. This is what the Epiphany season is all about—revealing God’s power and might to His people, and the miracles of Jesus do just that. If you’ve been paying attention, there isn’t a whole lot of fanfare or hoopla associated with these miracles. Jesus turns water into wine by simply telling the stewards to draw a glass of water and take it to the head steward. No one except the stewards who filled the stone jars up with water knew where the perfect wine had come from. Jesus didn’t make a big scene. The same goes for the healing of the leper. Jesus speaks a simple Word, and the guy is instantly healed. The same goes for the healing of the Roman centurion’s servant. Jesus simply speaks His authoritative Word (from miles away), and the guy was healed from that instant. Today we hear how Jesus rebukes a storm, and the storm immediately obeys. I don’t think we realize just how simple this act of Jesus really was. St. Mark tells us in his parallel account that Jesus spoke two simple words of rebuke. Siopha. Pephimoso. That’s it. “Peace. Be still.” And it was…immediately.
Matthew then proceeds to tell us that the disciples—the same guys who had been spending all this time with Jesus and had witnessed first-hand all those miraculous healings; the same guys who were literally freaking out, convinced that their Lord, who was sleeping peacefully in the back of the storm-tossed boat, was fine with letting them die—marveled. “What sort of man is this, that even the wind and the seas obey Him?”
I want you to think about that question. As I said: They had borne witness to all these different miracles (and many more). Sickness immediately obeyed. Demons immediately obeyed. The elements/creation immediately obeyed. Even death obeyed when Christ commanded resurrection. The Word and Will of God is like that: He speaks; He wills, and there is instant obedience. God is in absolute control. In all these things Christ was clearly making known the fact that He was the all-powerful, omnipotent God in the flesh, in their very midst. And yet…they still marvel. They still question. They still wonder. In the case of the storm, they make clear that they still doubt. Call it what it is. Your Lord does. Even after witnessing all these different miraculous displays and signs of Christ’s divinity, they still doubted. “We’re dying! Don’t you care, Jesus?!” “Why are you afraid, O you little-faith ones?” After the calm, “Who is this guy?” They still don’t really get it.
What about you? On the one hand it’s very easy to look down our noses at those thick-skulled disciples. Like I said, they bore witness to all those miracles of Jesus, and yet they still wonder who He really is. “O ye of little faith!” I know I’m not the only one who shakes my head at such ignorance. And yet… how often do we turn around and excuse our own doubt and ignorance, claiming that things would be different for us if only we had the signs and experiences that the disciples did? Do you honestly think that? Those guys at least had the excuse of being on the pre-resurrection side of the cross. The story was still playing out for them. It hadn’t happened yet. Who looks at this [the cross] and sees victory?!
What’s our excuse? We know how the story ends. We know the rest of the story. And yet…we still wonder. We still question. We still doubt. Even after the calm of the resurrection; even after the calm of our baptism into Christ’s victorious death and resurrection, things get a bit sideways in life and we dare to question, “Who is this guy? Lord, do you not care that I’m perishing?!”
But here’s the thing: Rather than harp on our “little faith” that often can/does suffer when the storms of life rise up and toss us about, let us fix our focus on the One who bespeaks and gives us peace—His peace, which surpasses all understanding. Again, I will point you to the simplicity of it all, because it really is that simple. Christ speaks, and it is so. “It is finished.” Does it get any simpler than that? In the original Greek, that’s one single word—tetelestai—it is finished, once and for all time. “Peace.” This is the simple one-word sermon Christ preaches to His disciples on that first Easter Sunday as He stands in their terrified midst. “Peace.” He then shows them His pierced hands, and then repeats “Peace.” This is the same cruciform, resurrection peace that Christ bespeaks and bestows upon us in our baptism. This is the same cruciform, resurrection peace Christ bespeaks and bestows upon us each and every time we confess our sins and cry out to God to be merciful to us, not for our sake, but for the sake of Christ. “Save us, Lord, we are perishing!” “Peace. Be still. Your sins are forgiven.” This is the same cruciform, resurrection peace that Christ not only proclaims to us, but physically nourishes us with as He bestows His own victorious Body and Blood upon us in Holy Communion. And upon receiving this peace of Christ, He reiterates this blessed fact as He bestows upon us His Word of benediction. “Now depart in peace.”
And that brings up one final point: I don’t know of a single Christian who doubts this storm-calming miracle of Christ. Christ speaks peace, and the storm-tossed creation immediately obeys. Amen. And yet…Christ speaks and bestows His peace upon us in the very simple elements of Word, Water, Bread and Wine, and still we worry. Still we question. Still we doubt. May it not be!
Yes, there will be storms and tumults and dark valleys you will traverse in this life. There will be crosses to bear and sorrow, grief, and heavy-laden burdens to bear as you make your way through this storm-tossed existence we call “life.” No one—especially your Lord—promises you a storm-free, cross-free life on this side of eternity. But…through it all, your Lord abides with you. He is NOT asleep at the wheel. He is in complete control; the Lord and Master of all creation.
Remember: We have His promise that the very gates of hell will not prevail, so neither will whatever is tossing you about and roughing you up. Your Lord is well-aware of whatever it is you’re going through, and through it all He is in complete control, working all things for your good and for the good of those who love Him. He abides with you in the very midst of your tumults, speaking and bestowing His peace upon you. The Captain, Anchor, and Rock of your salvation is right here, protecting you, providing for you, and leading you through it all to your heavenly home. Nothing and no one can ever take this blessed Christological reality away from you.
Dear baptized children of God: Rejoice, even as you are tossed about, for here is your peace, now and into all of eternity. The Almighty God and Lord of all creation; the same God and Lord that even the wind and waves and sickness and demons and death obey, speaks this peace to you. He gives His peace to you. May ever and always hold fast to Him, and may you simply, faithfully, and joyfully obey His loving command and be at peace.
And may this same peace of Christ, which surpasses all human understanding, guard and keep your hearts and minds in Him.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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