Pent. 1020 (Prop. 14)– “The Great Value of Little Faith.” Mt. 14:22-33
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon meditation is taken from of the Gospel account of St Matthew, the 14th Chapter:
22Immediately [Jesus] made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
So far the reading.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
There was a time when value was equated with size. He bigger the vehicle the more value there was to the vehicle. To some extent that remains true. Cadillacs and other expensive vehicles are a little larger than less pricey vehicles. Yet even the high end vehicles are down sized from years ago.
Or consider computers today. How much smaller can these tools of technology get, and still remain powerful. At one time, a hand-held calculator had memory for only one number, and was able to do a few trigonometry calculations. Now computers are the size of a cell-phone. You can surf the internet, record videos, take pictures and post pictures, videos and your latest musings to your website with your hand-held computer. Smaller seems to be better.
The Gospel reading from St Matthew reminds us that small is good. Moreover small faith is of great value. Small faith does great things. Small faith receives great blessing from God.
The first blessings we see is that Jesus will unquestionable defend the believer, regardless of strong their faith is, and he will protect that faith.
Jesus had just dismissed the crowd which he miraculously fed on Word and bread and fish. They came to Jesus and his disciples on the hillside near the sea shore. While Matthew does not say anything, John records that the people were seeking to make Jesus king. His powerful words and his miraculous works convince the crowd that Jesus would be a good king. If Jesus could multiply loaves and fish, what else might he be able to do? Perhaps this Jesus is powerful enough to remove the yoke of servitude to Rome.
Jesus knows the thoughts of the crowd. He does not want his disciples to be swept away by such thinking or desires. More than that, it was not time for Jesus to reveal his kingship. He certainly revealed his kingdom through word and miracle, but his kingship was for another time yet to come.
Jesus knew his kingdom did not come through earthly bread and fish. Such earthly things were only multiplied blessings to fill the body and meet the needs of the flesh. Jesus kingdom would come through the cross of suffering and death when he would be crucified for the sins of the world. So Jesus sends his disciples away protecting their faith and defending their faith from false hope and misdirected thinking.
We are in need of such protection even today. For, we are no better off than the disciples in Jesus’ day. There is danger all around us that would lead us in to misbelief, despair and other great shame and vice. We are surrounded by the turmoil of a virus. People are fearful because of what this virus may do. Precautions are taken, but still one may contract this virus. Politicians, news people and doctors are not in agreement regarding how best to address this medical need. Hearts are fearful. People are unsettled. Attitudes are riddled with anxiety. Faith is shaken. God’s mercy is questioned.
Consider, also, the church bodies today which are departing from the path of truth and promoting politically correct thinking rather than Biblically sound teaching. For the politically correct, marriage is no longer between man and woman. It is now acceptable in these church bodies for two men to marry or two women to marry. Instead of confronting sinful behavior, these church bodies are encouraging sinful behavior. Instead of calling sinners to repentance, these church bodies are confirming sinners in their sinfulness. Instead of protecting faith, as does Jesus, they destroy faith. Instead of bringing sinners to God’s grace, they lead sinners to God’s judgment.
Jesus desires to protect his gift of faith. Jesus always works toward that end. He does this because he chose his disciples, and knows the weaknesses of each disciple. He knew these men would be swayed by the crowd. Jesus knew these men would face the temptation to think His kingdom to be an earthly kingdom. Jesus wanted the faith of his disciples to mature and strengthen and become unwavering even in the face of temptation and the enemies that were surely to come. Jesus wanted his disciples to be with Him when he revealed the kingdom yet to come. For, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world.
Jesus desires to relieve fear. His disciples face the great storm in which they are trapped. They fear the force of the storm. All its fury is revealed in the wind that is blowing fiercely and whipping up the waves which buffet their boat. They fear the supposed ghost walking toward them through the storm on the waves.
Scripture teaches us that “perfect love casts out fear.” God is love. Jesus is God. Jesus is perfect love. Jesus in perfect love calls out to his fearful disciples with the voice of the Good Shepherd. He speaks the words that calm the most troubled soul. Jesus says, “Be cheerful, I Am! Stop fearing!” Jesus is comforting his disciples by telling them, “God is near.”
God is near. The God who created the heavens and the earth, is near. The God who brought the wind and the waves into existence, is near. The God who set the boundaries for the waters, is near. The God who controls all things, and sees that His will is done, is near. He comes to you walking upon the waves. He will grant you relief from your trial, and give you courage to face your fear.
Peter responds with faith. Peter asks this God to bid him leave the boat and walk upon the water.
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you upon the water.”
Peter was commanded by Jesus to come to him. Peter climbs out of the boat and walks on the water toward Jesus. Can you imagine the exhilarating feeling of this short journey? Peter is actually walking on water, contrary to those who would doubt. Some theories about this event are that there was an ice shelf just under the water, a sand bar just under the water, rocks just under the water, or it was plainly shallow water. Both Jesus and Peter knew this and that it only appears they are walking on the water.
How ridiculous and slow of heart such people are to believe the God who creates heaven and earth, and who also controls the wind and the waves. How slow they are to believe what is written for their learning. They are worse off than Peter. For, Peter began to fear what he saw in the rough water and howling wind. He began to sink beneath the waves, but cried out to his Lord for salvation. On the other hand, those who deny the ability of the God of love to walk on the water, sink below the waves of unbelief, and will not cry out to this same God for salvation. Their destruction is complete for they do not believe.
Even in times of fear and doubt we have hope in and help from our God. It is at the time of trial that our God would have us know and believe that he remains near to us. He is as close to us as he was with Peter and the other disciples. He lifts us individually out of our trials as he did with Peter, and collectively as he did with the others who were in the boat. For, after lifting Peter out of the rough waters, Jesus enters the boat with the others. Upon entering the boat, Jesus calms the wind and stills the waves. He rescues those who are His.
Let us look at the question Jesus asks Peter and the other disciples as well. “One of little faith. For what did you doubt?” This is a good question is it not? Jesus is telling Peter to look at what even a small, weak faith can do. In another place Jesus said faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains or trees. Faith is the miracle of salvation which God works in the sinner’s heart. Faith is the gift that gives to the sinner all the blessings and power of God. Faith allows the sinner to look past the trials of this world and see that God is near and His kingdom is ever present. Faith reaches out to the hand of the Savior who is always ready to rescue the sinner from the perils of this life.
Most assuredly, faith holds fast to the One whose hands were stretched out upon the cross. Those hands outstretched effected the greatest rescue from the peril of eternal death. Jesus came not only to relieve us from worldly troubles. Jesus came also to rescue us from the spiritual destruction that comes upon us because of sin. The same hands that rescued Peter and the other disciples from the raging sea, rescue all sinners from the tempest of sinful fear and doubt. Those same hands carried the burden of our sinful fear and doubt to the cross. Those same hands were pierced that we might have divine power over such sinful fear and doubt which pierce our hearts.
There are times when we desperately hope for God to intervene and reach down from heaven to rescue us. We fervently pray that God would heal us, or a loved one from serious illness or injury. We wait in expectant hope that God will answer our prayer as we desire to see it answered. Hezekiah was given such an answer. On his death bed he prayed for restored health and was given 15 years longer to reign over Israel as king. Peter was given such an answer. Jesus reached down as Peter was sinking beneath the waves and rescued him.
However, we must remember that perfect relief from the trials and toil of this world will not always be as we desire it. Sometimes perfect relief comes to us through healing and restoration here on earth. Sometimes the perfect relief is given when we are carried by Jesus to the throne of the Father in eternal life.
In all this we are to remember that the gift of faith, while it may be small and seemingly weak, it is able to accomplish much. The same Jesus who lifted Peter out of his fear and doubt, strengthen and defend your faith unto eternal life. Amen.