Do we recognise Jesus when he comes to us?
(We can think of times when we have recognised Jesus working in our lives.)
Jesus came to the crowds in similar ways that he comes to us.
He came as the living word through his teaching and as Saviour, healer and deliverer through his healing ministry.
In our gospel today he had just fed 5000 plus women and children, revealing him as the bread come down from heaven. Jesus still reveals himself to us in the breaking of the bread.
Jesus was already tired from ministering to others when the crowd followed him. He was disappointed and grieving. He had been unsuccessful and rejected in his home village of Nazareth when he heard the news of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. He had wanted to spend time alone to grieve, pray and recuperate.
The crowds, however had followed him. Even though it was evening, Jesus taught them, healed their sick and then fed them.
He must have been exhausted when he dismissed the crowd, sent the disciples away in a boat and went up a mountain to do what he had initially intended to do, grieve, recuperate and pray
Jesus knew he was not alone. He was communing with his heavenly Father
What about the crowds and the disciples? Were they alone in the face of danger? Was God no longer with them?
Were they alone in the dark hours of the night?
When they couldn’t see Jesus with their physical eyes, where was he? Was he only a prayer away? Were they still in Jesus’ thoughts? If he was absent, were they helpless in the storm? Did Jesus care for them?
The disciples were inevitably terrified in the storm. They were a long way from the land and thought they were going to die
They must have thought Jesus had placed them in an impossible position. They were tired and wanted their beds
Jesus had sent them ahead but he hadn’t told them to pass over the lake without him. They were stuck between where they had been and where they were going.
We are in a similar position to those disciples. Like them many of us feel we are in the dark. We cannot see where our future is going. We are sort of stuck in the storm caused by COVID 19, the economic down turn and climate change
We have had to adapt quickly and many of us feel tired and some of us wonder whether we are going to survive and emerge out of the crisis.
Like the disciples whose plans were initially disrupted by the crowds and then disrupted again by Jesus failure to stay with them, our plans which we believe were God given have been disrupted and we are having to make new ones and then the new plans are disrupted.
When the disciples were in physical and spiritual turmoil, Jesus came to them in the storm, walking on the water
Jesus’ followers became even more terrified. They thought they were seeing a ghost. They must have though death was now certain. Maybe Jesus had already died. Their hearts cried out for fear.
They did not recognise Jesus. They had limited Jesus in human terms Humans do not walk on water.
Jesus had already shown he could multiply bread and fishes. He was now showing his power over the wind and the waves. There is nothing that Jesus cannot do and there is no place too dangerous, hostile or remote where he will not come to his friends in need.
Sometimes we don’t recognise him when we are in grim, dark, painful situations.
Jesus speaks to his friends to reassure them. “Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid.”
Jesus is the great I am. He is the Son of God who has power over the evil principalities and powers of this world. He has promised he will never leave us.
When we don’t recognize or see him he wants us to exercise our faith in him.
Jesus berated Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Peter in the story showed much more faith than the rest of Jesus’ friends. I think the criticism was tough on him.
This poses another question, what is faith?
Why does Jesus contrast faith with fear? Fear is natural and reasonable. Fear in the face of danger keeps us alert. It might enable us to take the precautions that will save lives. Some preachers believe they do not have to take precautions at the moment because their faith will protect them. That is a dangerous position to take. We take precautions, socially distance, wear masks and sanitise because we believe that is God’s will. You may have heard the render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s argument this week. I believe that in rendering to Caesar in this instance we are rendering to God.
Prolonged fear, however is destructive. Fear has been called the dark room in which all our negatives are developed.
Faith is not an obvious contrast to fear. I would have expected Jesus to have contrasted fear with reason.
Instead, by his actions, he gives us a wonderful picture of what faith is and how it affects our behaviour. Jesus walks over the chaos he sees around him and invites Peter and ultimately us to do the same.
FAITH, has been described as Forsaking All I Trust Him. It is keeping our eyes on Jesus in whatever situation we find ourselves, however dire
We can stay terrified in the boat, unable to help ourselves or we can do what Peter did and get out of the boat.
Peter asked a stupid question. “Lord if it is you command me to come to you on the water.”
He opened himself up for what was to come, putting Jesus to the test.
Once Jesus issued the command there would be no going back without losing face
Jesus said “Come,” so Jesus got out of the boat and walked on water
When we feel God is absent, we need to stand on the promises of Jesus and come to him
To take our eyes off the wind and waves, the turmoil and the pain and focus on him
While Peter kept his eyes on Jesus he was safe. When his fear overcame him and he began to sink, he prayed. He called out, “Lord save me,” and Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.
When we call upon the Lord, he will always save us. We may suffer physical death, but Jesus saves and holds us wherever we are
Paul says in Romans that we don’t have to ascend to heaven to bring Christ down or to bring Christ up from the dead
Jesus is wonderfully alive and raised from the dead. All we have to do to receive his salvation today is to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth that Jesus is risen from the dead and we will be saved.
Everyone who does what Peter did and calls upon the Lord will be saved.
That’s why it is important we share the good news
Jesus saved us when we called upon him to forgive us
Jesus is our salvation as we call upon him now. He will save us in the future
When Jesus and Peter got into the boat, the wind ceased. The storm was over but the friends of Jesus recognized that he truly is the Son of God and they worshipped him.
God is never absent even when we don’t recognise his presence with us. He never leaves us helpless. When we call out in faith he saves and heals and he gives us his power to do his work in the world
May God help us to trust in his saving power wherever we find ourselves.
Lord help us to focus on you trusting that you will enable us to do whatever you are calling us to do. In our present circumstances help us to push out our boundaries, praying and trying new things recognising that with Jesus we can walk on water.
revive your Church in our day,
and make her holy, strong and faithful,
for your glory’s sake
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen