Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
Unbelief simply can’t get past the fear of the here and now of the belly, of the imagination, of the desires of the heart. That was the disciples problem—fear. They were amazed at Jesus as one would be at a magician. Magicians are scary—until you figure out their magic. But the disciples couldn’t figure out the magic like stuff they had seen. They were amazed—and terrified. If this man can do this with bread and fish, if he can do this to wind and wave, what could, what might, what is he here to do to me?
...While Jesus told His disciples to stop being afraid of Him, of God, their fear was indeed the Proverbial beginning of wisdom. While God does not want your fear to be the end of your thinking and understanding of God, He does want us to fear Him as the author and giver of life who has the power to give and take it away before we fear anything else, because what you fear is in reality your God.
To hear the entire sermon preached to the saints at Christ Lutheran-Elkhart, KS and Faith Lutheran-Hugoton, KS for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, "Take Heart; It Is I," click on the audio link provided above. The audio begins with the Old Testament reading, Genesis 9:8-17 at 14:50 of the MP3 file.
A servant of the Word and His folk,
Graphic: Daniel Jimick woodcut--“Christ Calms the Wind and the Waves”
For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript follows below.
Nota Bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Bullet points in the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.
TEXT: 45Immediately [Jesus] made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:45–52
Dear People of God,
Did you hear that? Jesus’ own disciples hearts were hard in unbelief—His hand-picked men who had just seen Him feed 5000 men plus women and children with five barley loaves and two fish. Not only that, but they were the ones who actually distributed the food with their very own hands. What must that have been like? Then, to top it off they collected twelve baskets full of leftovers—that is, more than they started with, one basket for each of them.
Now we look at that and think, “How cool! If Jesus would only do something like that for me. Then I’d really believe. If He’d do something like that here in Hugoton/Elkhart at one of our potlucks so we could feed everybody in town, people would be breaking down the doors to get in on Sunday morning.
Well, true enough. But why? Would that even be a good thing? Remember, Jesus had dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples ahead in the boat so they could get away from the crowd and He, the Son of God, could go pray and be strengthened by His Father in heaven for the task that still lay before Him. In chapter six of his Gospel, St. John tells us more about this episode. When the crowd who had been so miraculously fed came looking for Jesus “on the other side of the sea” Jesus was not particularly pleased, for He knew their hearts and why they were looking for Him.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent….
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” [John 6:25-41]
The ones He had just miraculously fed grumbled. The disciples themselves were so amazed--not only by the feeding but by Jesus walking on water and calming the wind--they couldn’t believe their eyes. If the crowds and disciples hearts were hardened, what chance do we have?
Apart from continuing to the cross to die and rise for us, none. And even then, as Jesus explains in His story of the rich man and Lazarus about the relatives the dead rich man wanted Abraham to warn: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
If a crucified, dead, and risen Savior isn’t enough what miracle will suffice? It’s the “What have you done for me lately” syndrome. How can you let me be hungry now? How can you even let that storm, that cancer, that divorce, that loss of a job, that death of a loved one, happen to me if you love me?
All of this, like the disciples hard heart is of unbelief. Unbelief simply can’t get past the fear of the here and now of the belly, of the imagination, of the desires of the heart. That was the disciples problem—fear. They were amazed at Jesus as one would be at a magician. But magicians are scary—until you figure out their magic. But the disciples couldn’t figure it out. They were amazed—and terrified. If this man can do this with bread and fish, if he can do this to wind and wave, what could, what might, what is he here to do to me?
That’s what Adam and Eve’s fear was when they heard the Lord walking in the Garden after they had done and eaten what God had told them not to do and eat. It’s the same story throughout Scripture time after time. People sin. God comes looking for them. Sinners are afraid. Sinners lash out at God as if it’s His fault, not theirs. The trouble is, they are putting their hate and vengeful thinking on God. They are imaging what they would do if they were God and someone had sinned against them. Indeed, they are remembering what they HAVE thought and how they have retaliated against those they even think might have sinned against them.
Adam tells God, “That woman YOU gave to be with me. It’s her fault.” Eve says, “The serpent YOU put in the garden. It’s his fault.” IOW, it’s your fault, God. All the pain and suffering and fear is God’s fault in the eyes of sinful men.
In today’s OT lesson God tells Noah--and all mankind who would born of him and his family to repopulate the earth to what it is today:
13I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth… When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
IOW, He will withhold his wrath from destroying the whole earth in this fashion again. And to this day He has. Not only has He withheld His wrath from using a flood to destroy the earth and all that is in it, He unleashed the total fury of His wrath on His only begotten Son—you know, the One who miraculously fed the 5000; the One who walked on water and saved the disciples from the winds on the sea; the One who sanctified all water for Baptism with the forgiveness of sins into the kingdom of God.
Yes, that what the rainbow stands for—not the adulterous lust of men for men and women for women, but the love of God for sinners and even for those who have taken His rainbow and rebelliously use it to stand for their sin. Don’t let an adulterous world redefine God’s love. And don’t let your fears stand in the way of God’s redemption.
While Jesus told His disciples to stop being afraid of Him, of God, their fear was indeed the Proverbial beginning of wisdom. While God does not want your fear to be the end of your thinking and understanding of God, He does want us to fear Him as the author and giver of life who has the power to give and take it away before we fear anything else, because what you fear is in reality your God.
So dear people of God, Jesus is here today telling you, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid of going hungry. Do not be afraid of that storm on the horizon. Do not be afraid of that cancer. Do not be afraid of, that divorce. Do not be afraid of that loss of a job. Do not be afraid of that death of a loved one. Do not be afraid of running out of money before you die.
“Take heart; it is I… [And this is] my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That means that as long as you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all your other fears will never overtake and consume you and the gates of hell will not prevail against you. “Take heart; it is Jesus here now in the boat of your church. “Do not be afraid” Because Jesus isn’t here using all His divine power to destroy you. He is here for the same reason He was there in the boat with the disciples—to save them. And Jesus saves you the same way He ultimately saved them—He forgives you all your sins and gives you eternal life with Him—in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
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