The question before us this morning isn’t how Jesus was able to walk on the water but why did Matthew think it was important to include it in his gospel. The people of Jesus’ day didn’t have any doubts that God could do things that no one else could do. They accepted that and they didn’t worry or think about how God did what he did. God did what he did and they were to pay attention.
So why did Matthew tell this story to his readers? Could it be that he wanted people to know that Jesus could do things that were beyond anyone’s understanding? Could it be that he wanted folks to know that Jesus did and could do things no one ever expected could be done? Could it be that he wanted everyone to see that, where Jesus was concerned, what looked like failure or catastrophe to ordinary people, like the disciples and you and me, wasn’t.
The disciples were in a boat that was about to be swamped by the wind and the waves. They’d been tossed about for some time it sounds like. And then early in the morning they looked and saw a figure walking across the water…and they were scared.
Do you think that Jesus knew the disciples were going to be in trouble even when he sent them out alone across the water? Do you think maybe he was preparing them for his eventual departure and his final command to go to all nations, make disciples, and baptize them in the name of the Triune God?
Do you think the disciples thought about this later as they worshipped in their house churches and struggled to follow in the ‘Way’ of Jesus? Do you think they compared their boat to the new and struggling church? Maybe not.
So, good friends, do you get the ‘Message’ for us in the gospel lesson today? Don’t you feel sometimes that we are sometimes sent out alone to make disciples and baptize? Don’t you sometimes think that the wind and the waves are too much? Don’t you sometimes wonder, “Where is Jesus when we need him?”
Maybe that’s part of God’s plan. Maybe God wants to see if we’re going to rely on our own wits to make disciples and baptize or if we’re going to turn to God in faith and patiently wait for him to assure us that it’s all right, to not be afraid, to trust in his Son.
So many times we read this gospel lesson and are in awe of Jesus’ ability to control the wind and the waves and we miss the real point of the lesson. It’s not about Jesus’ power. It’s about the fact that he has compassion, he cares. He cares enough to come to us in the storm.
Why’d he walk on the water? Maybe it was the best way for Jesus to take care of the disciples in the situation they were experiencing at that particular time. Aren’t we all in the boat with the disciples? Aren’t we all ready for Jesus to come to us and give us a hand?
I’d hope we are. And if we are, then don’t you think we should be prepared to take risks, like getting out of a boat in the midst of the wind and the wave, to try new ways to be the church where we are, to try new ways to build community, to try new ways to share our faith and bring our friends to come and know Jesus as we do?
Friends, just like you need to keep your eye on the ball when you’re playing catch so we need to keep our focus on Jesus as we step out in faith to this work we’re all called to do.
Sometimes, when we get outside of our comfort zone we’re going to fail. And then when we cry out for God’s help we might hear the words, “You of little faith. Why do you doubt?” God’s hand will lift us up out of our failures and walk with us as we try something different. Maybe it will work and maybe it won’t.
The important point to remember that God is always beside us. God always cares no matter what predicament we get ourselves into. All God asks is that we have faith.
Thanks be to God for his grace. Amen.