“Peter and the Sea”

Matthew 14:22-33

9 August 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 14:22-33

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Prayer.

Finally, Jesus caught a break.

The crowds were fed, so he dismissed them.

His disciples were done collecting the leftovers.

The kitchen was closed.

Jesus put them in a boat and might have told them as they pushed off from shore,

“Thanks for your help cleaning up.

I’ll catch up with you later.”

Imagine the conversation in the boat:

“Wow! 5,000 people, plus women and children. That was the biggest crowd yet.”

“Whoa! Did you see what Jesus did?”

“Completely healed; like the broken arm set itself; a miracle right before my very eyes!”

“The demon leapt right out of him!”

“Unbelievable! I saw that, too!”

“All that food left over? There were 12 extra baskets! He fed everyone with nothing more than five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Imagine the conversation Peter was having with himself.

Peter might have remembered Jesus inviting him

“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people,” (4:19)

“5,000 people, plus women and children.

Yep. Fishing had been good today.”

The setting sun.

The smell of the sea.

The lapping of waves.

Seagulls circling overhead.

The rocking boat was familiar to Peter, the fisherman.

Peter and the sea were one.

The gentle afternoon wind accelerated with dusk.

The sun set and the wind and seas rose.

The increasing storm

Might of reminded Peter of the not-too-recent past

When Jesus,

In a boat just like this one,

Was woke from sleep by his frightened disciples.

He stilled the storm and

Saved all their lives from drowning.

“Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Jesus asked them. (8:26)

Little faith.

Perhaps Peter was searching for something more than just ‘little.’

Finally, Jesus could get some personal time in this desolate place to pray.

Prayer, spending time alone with the Lord, listening, discerning,

Is a way forward when trying to sort out family issues and broken relationships.

Remember? Jesus had just been rejected by his family in Nazareth.

Family or relationship problems?

Turn to God in prayer.

Setting aside the world and focusing on God in prayer

Is a way forward when working through,

Pushing through,

Wading through,

Death, grief, and mourning.

Remember? Jesus had just received news that Herod Antipas had murdered his cousin, John.

Suffering through the pain and loss of a loved one?

Turn to God in prayer.

Jesus ascended a mountain to pray.

He climbed right to the top;

Where he could look out over the expanse of the Sea of Galilee

13 miles long, north to south,

8 miles wide, east to west.

Jesus knew from his Jewish upbringing and education

The God of creation,

Moses, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

Often came calling on a mountain top.

Jesus could see it all from the pinnacle,

Memories of his outreach, ministry, and healing

Were folded into the small villages, roads, and fields below in his view.

He could see it all from the peek,

Where one could be closest to God.

Reflection.

Connection.

Listening.

Discerning.

Put it all together.

Searching for meaning in life?

Trying to put it all together?

Climb a mountain.

Turn to God in prayer.

As evening fell

Jesus gazed down to the sea below.

Being a native Galilean,

He would have known the western breeze

Cascading over the high ridge,

Sweeping down,

Accelerating across the water,

Meant for a rough ride,

A true storm for the east side of the lake.

The eastern shore;

Right were Jesus knew the disciples would be in their boat.

Refreshed by prayer,

Restored by quiet time with the Lord,

Healed by the merciful grace of God’s hand and presence,

Jesus discerned what he was meant to do next.

His quick-to-answer-the-call disciples,

Were slow to comprehend what

They had experienced in Jesus’ presence.

Now they were in danger of sinking, drowning, and losing it all.

Jesus descends the mountain and

walks on water

to save disciples of little faith

from the storm.

Allow this Gospel truth to wash over you for a moment.

This is mercy.

This is God’s grace.

Jesus comes to disciples of little faith

And saves us from the storm.

What is your storm?

Where is your heart boiling over in anger?

What is threatening you life? Your soul?

Fight the fear of ghosts, prior failures, and immediate dangers.

Jesus is approaching.

“Take heart,” he assures.

“It is I,” he identifies himself.

“Do not be afraid.” Jesus commands.

The heart you have is sufficient.

Little faith doesn’t mean no faith.

Little faith is sufficient

To get someone out of the boat,

To meet Jesus halfway,

To walk on water and for

The raging storms of life to be stilled.

What makes Peter different from his eleven colleagues

Is that he wanted to go to where Jesus was.

He wanted to answer the Lord’s invitation to come.

The rest of them must have been content to roll the dice and take their chances.

I have learned like Peter that

Failure is inevitable in life.

I have failed so many things, so many people, so many times.

I can be defeated.

Or, I can learn from it,

Be better because of it.

From personal experience

I know I can trust in Jesus;

He’s not going to let me perish.

Though I might be sinking

I’m still walking on water.

Though I might be going down in defeat

I’m still making my way closer to our Savior.

Jesus comes to disciples of little faith

And saves us from the storm.

Take the little faith you have,

Get out of the boat, and

Make your way to Jesus.

Peter does great

As long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus.

He begins to sink when he notices the strong winds,

Becomes frightened, and

Calls out “Lord, save me!” (14:30)

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus asks

As he reached out his hand and caught Peter. (14:31)

Doubt caused Peter to sink,

Not the distraction of the storm.

Jesus’ response reveals the fact that the

God given little faith,

Freely given to each person in our creation,

Is sufficient to overcome all doubt,

Even when doubt threatens our life.

We, Methodist,

Drawing our theological lineage from John Wesley,

See the world through the eyes of God’s amazing grace.

Prevenient grace …

Pre- meaning before

-Venient meaning God’s intervention …

Means that God gives us all the grace that is necessary,

From the moment of our conception,

Before we know or become aware of needing it.

Prevenient grace is the dollop of “little faith” that Jesus repeats

Throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

The little faith you have already been given and received

Is sufficient for the living of these days,

As a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, and

For the living of every day in your future.

Your little faith is more than enough to overcome every doubt,

Now or in the future.

Little faith is all that’s necessary to lock hands with Jesus and

To let him pull you to safety. 

Dearly beloved,

It’s almost a given

There are times when you and I will

Find ourselves just like

Peter and the sea.

We will find ourselves swept up in a storm

Fearful for our future,

Fearful even for our very life.

Watch for Jesus to come.

Take whatever faith you have …

You’ve got enough …

Get out of the boat, and

Go where Jesus is.

He will catch you.

Jesus will save you.

In the end,

The wind will cease.

The storm will be stilled.

In the calm that follows,

Worship the Lord.

Worship the Lord, Jesus Christ;

For he is truly, the Son of God.

Amen.

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