Archive for August, 2017

Who is Jesus?

Saturday, August 26th, 2017
Text: Matthew 16:13-17
Jesus went to the territory near the town of Caesarea Philippi, where he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” “Some say John the Baptist,” they answered. “Others say Elijah, while others say Jeremiah or some other prophet.”  “What about you?” he asked them. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  “Good for you, Simon son of John!” answered Jesus. “For this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven.

Without a doubt, the person who has been depicted in art the most down through the centuries is Jesus. We have seen pictures of Jesus in Bibles and Bible storybooks, all of them radically different in how they depict him. Rembrandt’s Jesus is very human, all light and shadow; El Greco’s Jesus is a striking, lean somewhat wild and demanding Jesus; Angelico portrays Jesus as sweet and angelic. There is Jesus the Good Shepherd, loving, smiling, caring and holding lambs or carrying a child in his arms. There is Jesus, the judge with a dark severe expression, sitting on a throne, staring as if he could see right through us.

Without a doubt, the person who has been written about the most is Jesus. Whole libraries are filled with books about Jesus and almost every book gives us a different picture of Jesus. To mention just a few.
H.S. Reimarus (early 1700s) contended that Jesus wasn’t divine but a Jewish revolutionary figure who died a disappointed failure. His disciples stole his body and made up a story about him being the redeemer. Paul spread the lie which was swallowed by a gullible world.
Ernest Renan (mid 1800s) presented a rather romantic picture of Jesus – a strange, sweet-spirited poet walking about Galilee teaching morality. He won the hearts of many people but fell foul of the temple authorities.
David Strauss (mid 1800s) said that the gospels were untrue and the miracle stories were just “myths”.
Albert Schweitzer (early 1900s) who portrayed Jesus as a prophet who was disappointed that God did not step in and end the world, work justice and set things right.

In both art and literature there are so many images of Jesus and so many ideas about what kind of person Jesus was. Who is right? The search for the historical Jesus, Jesus as he was known back then in Palestine, has only led to confusion and futility. What is important is who is Jesus today.

In our text today, Jesus casually asks the disciples “Who do people say I am?” The reply came, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah (because it was believed Elijah would return) while others say Jeremiah (the prophet of gloom and doom) or some other prophet.”
People who had witnessed Jesus work miracles,
listened carefully when he taught about the Kingdom of God,
heard him speak harshly to Canaanite woman
and witness what the kind of person he was,
were all guessing about this man from Nazareth really was.

Jesus wasn’t interested in what others thought of him. He got straight to the point, “What about you?” Jesus asked the disciples. “Who do you think I am?”

This question is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago.

A Christian rock-magazine reported an interview with Mike Portnoy, the drummer of a popular metal band. The interviewer asked, “Who do you think that Jesus Christ is?”

“Whoa, uh, this is a question for Kev,” laughs Mike. ” … He’s got a pretty strong outlook on that question. I tend to go with the general consensus that he is God or was God or whatever. I’m not a very religious person, but I do believe in God and I believe in Jesus Christ. To be honest, I’ve never been a very religious person, so that’s another question that I couldn’t answer from the bottom of my heart.” (Heaven’s Metal #42, page 24).

Mike Portnoy might be an exceptional drummer in a rock band but he expressed what most think about Jesus. Jesus is God or was God or whateverThat’s something I can’t answer from the bottom of my heart. That means, I think Jesus was a real person but he has no effect on my life whatsoever.

What makes it even more confusing for people is the growth of other religions within Australia – all claiming to have the truth. As a result we have people saying that all religions are true, all are heading in the same direction, all speaking about peace and harmony. Whether you are Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Moslem, Taoist, Mahikari, Jew or Christian, it doesn’t really matter. They all proclaim good living and love toward the members of your family and your friends.

A student went to a university chaplain and asked him to explain what were the differences between Christianity and Judaism. She was in love with a Jewish student and they were thinking about getting married. They talked about worship, rituals, festivals, customs, traditions, prayer and even God himself. Finally, she asked, “When it comes down to it, what is the one thing that makes Christians, Christian?”

The reply came, “The thing that makes us who we are is who Jesus is. Jesus Christ is Christianity. Other faiths have love; have beliefs about the good and the true. Only Christianity has Jesus.”

We believe that God came in the flesh, as a Jew from Nazareth.
We believe the way God saves is through Jesus.
We believe that the Jewish carpenter’s son, who was born, lived briefly, died violently in his thirties, and rose from the dead, is God who has brought us forgiveness and hope.
We believe that we have met God; we have met God as Jesus.
We, along with Peter, confess, 
“You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.”

Christianity is more than knowing biblical facts, or the teachings of the church. It is more than memorising Bible verses and Luther’s Small Catechism. It is even more than doing good things for others.

It is about a relationship – a relationship between God and us. How many people have said to me that everything they had learnt at confirmation classes didn’t make a great deal of difference to their lives at the time of their confirmation. In fact, a lot of what they learnt, had gone right over their heads. It was some time later that they became aware of what Jesus was all about. Suddenly in some cases, and in others, more slowly, the penny dropped. It’s not that they were searching for more meaning in their lives and suddenly found Jesus. Rather they were minding their own business and from out of nowhere, God found them. The Holy Spirit finally got through to them and they could see in full technicolour detail that their faith is all about the relationship between God and them and how this relationship now changes everything – their attitudes and their relationship with their family and others.

A man tells how he was just biding his time in a church service, looking at his watch every now and then in order to keep himself awake during the sermon. He didn’t really know what the preacher was rattling on about. In the middle of his boredom, he heard just one sentence. That one sentence grabbed him and he began to see his faith in a totally different light. He claimed that God opened his ears to hear that one sentence and things were never the same again.

When Peter made his confession, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God” Jesus makes a point of telling him that this truth isn’t something that Peter had worked out for himself. Jesus said, “This truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in heaven”.

It’s our sin-stained humanity that gets in the way and clouds our understanding of God. How can we have a relationship with God when we constantly hurt him, forget that he even exists, ignore his power and presence, deny any connection with him through what we say and do. In other words, we are downright awful and horrible to him. If we were like that to any of our human friends, they would soon exit any relationship with us. We need God’s help.

God planned from the days of Adam and Eve to send Jesus to make things right again between himself and us. God closed the gap between us; has made us members of his family at our baptism; and reaffirms his relationship with us every time we go to Holy Communion. Whether we speak of God as we know him in the Old Testament, or see him stretched on a Roman cross, his attitude toward his people is always the same. His commitment and love are the same, and he is determined to establish a relationship with people who are unwilling even to acknowledge him. The Bible tells story after story of God reaching to people in love. We read about his patience with the people of Israel in the wilderness and his grace toward the thief on the cross.

We love God, we believe, because God first loved us in Jesus. Christianity is not the adherence to a set of rules, nor is it a set of ideas, a philosophy you might say, that leads to peace, harmony, inner peace, and good karma. It is a way of life, a way of walking with Jesus, a relationship. Christians are often looked at with a degree of scepticism by those who don’t know when we say we believe that Jesus rose from the dead and is present with us now, that he walks with us, and is closer to us than we are even to ourselves.

Mother Teresa was asked by a young man why she always talked about this Jesus stuff. He said he was going to work among the poor like her, do charity work, but without the Jesus baggage. Mother Teresa responded something like, “Go and work 20 years or a lifetime among the poorest of the poor. Then come back and tell me how you did it. I know that the only way I have been able to do it is because of Jesus.” Her faith, her understanding of Jesus, gave her the ability to be a doer, a doer not just for a week or a season or a year, but for a lifetime. She was able to do work that would have turned off the bravest hearts because of her relationship with Jesus.

As we stand around the deathbed of someone we love – Jesus is with us.
As we try to decide what direction to take and what is the right decision – Jesus is with us.
As we struggle with disappointment, guilt, and depression – Jesus is with us.
As we grieve over change in the church, or the lack of love in our family – Jesus is with us.

By his grace, we are able to say, “You are the Christ! You make all the difference in my life. Thanks!”

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy

“The Power of Fear”

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Fear is a fascinating word. Attached to fear is our negative response when we do something wrong or are expecting something dreadful to happen at any moment in the immediate future.

What is the opposite of fear? Or what does it mean to have no fear? When we ask ourselves these things we might assume positive things such as liking or loving to be opposite to our negative understanding of fear. However, liking or loving someone or something can be a positive demonstration of great fear.Fearing and loving the Lord therefore is not the opposite of fearing the wrath of the Lord. Both are fear, with opposite results. So what is the opposite of fear? Indeed, what is fear?

A worthy subject in examining fear is my family’s dog – Rufee. He’s a Jack Russel Foxy cross, and he’s generally a happy-go-lucky type of dog. When we are out walking there’s a flock of birds, Noisy Minors, and they lay siege upon Rufee every time we walk past their territory. It’s a sight to be seen as Rufee sniffs around the place with thirty odd birds dive-bombing him and creating a commotion that’s heard some distant away. But does he care? Not in the slightest! In fact I don’t even think he knows they exist.

However, it’s a different story if he sees a bird scavenging around on the ground, or he sees a hare or a wallaby or a cat. He notices them and usually tears off after them in a cloud of dust. The other morning he took off after two Magpies who were innocently foraging around amongst the frosty clumps of grass. I thought to myself, this was probably not a wise course of action. Chasing them now might seem like fun, but in a couple of month when they begin their breeding season, and the Magpie’s temperament changes, he will incur the wrath of old man Magpie. And every Australian knows that a Magpie attack can be a little more viscous than a bunch of Noisy Minors.

But then after we arrive home I give him a bone and Rufee displays a regular ritual that seems to show fear. He first looks at me as if to say, “Wow, am I really allowed to have this morsel of meat and bone, boss?” Then he sheepishly examines the bone in a rather subtle way. He stands back from the bone as if to not raise too much attention, looking around, looking at the bone, then looking around again, then the bone, then around the place once more, to see if the coast is clear. He genuinely fears that someone else is going to come and steal his bone. So he moves the bone from where I dropped it on the back lawn and takes it to a place where he can enjoy it in peace.

One might wonder what the point of all this might be! However, these different responses, I believe, demonstrate the opposites of fear.

The Noisy Minors bomb the living daylights out of Rufee and he doesn’t care. These little noisy birds have no power over him. Fear and power are connected.

The animals that take off when he chases them might also seem as though they have no power over him; that he doesn’t care about them either. But he loves chasing them and he loves the fact that they run or take flight. Although I’m sure he would be surprised if it happened, he is also disappointed he can’t catch the animals he chases. These creatures have power over him and therefore he demonstrates fear. Somewhere within the dog’s makeup is his inbuilt desire to chase and with it is his love for doing so. He actually respects the fact that they flee so he can chase them. They flee and this empowers him to impulsively chase.

Then when he is eating his bone this same power instinctively causes him fear of me in the same positive way as when he chases another animal, but then when he surveys the surrounds for other dogs he goes through his ritual to protect what is his. Something has power over him, the bone, his instinct, or both. This power causes fear in the negative sense. And when the Magpies start diving Rufee in Springtime I’m sure he will be the one fleeing in fear, especially if they hit him a couple of times with their beaks. This also is a power, causing negative fear. And it’s one we all respect and know of – all too well!

So fear has a lot to do with power. The opposite of fear is not caring. Or to put it another way, there’s no respect, acknowledgement, or interest for the good or the bad which might happen. Not fearing is when something has no power over us, either positively or negatively.

When we speak of fear in the bible, there are many occasions where we hear of fear that causes people to worry and doubt. But the positive side of fear is also to be found. In Matthew 9 Jesus heals a paralytic some men had brought to him on a mat. Then in verse 8 we hear, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:8) The crowd which was filled with awe is actually filled with fear, as it is written in the Greek but translated as awe in English. The crowd attributes authority, or power, to Jesus at his healing of the man and they worship God.

In fact, fear and faith go hand in hand. What we fear, whether good or bad, is something or someone we trust is going to do something of power to us.When we fear, we believe something or someone to have the greatest power or authority at that moment, if not all the time.

Unfortunately, most of the time, our fear is negative. Many occasions in the bible Jesus calls those he speaks to, to not have fear. This is negative fear that something bad is going to happen, because of Jesus’ extraordinary power, or since they see his power fear and believe their weakness or sin will bring them punishment.

When Jesus approached the boat on the lake, the disciples are full of fear. This is not because they recognise it’s Jesus coming toward them with extraordinary power, but because they had wearily fought against the rough sea right through the night. The disciples were Jewish men and held a fear for the water. They had a deep respect for its power as they superstitiously thought the depths were full of chaotic evil. And since the waves had antagonistically fought against them for most of the night, the appearance of Jesus walking on water is the last straw, leading them to believe a phantasmic spirit from the deep has come to get them.

When Jesus approaches the disciples in the boat, he immediately says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 15:27) What he does is refocuses the disciples on him and his power. He instructs them to fear him, not because he is a phantom or a spirit from the deep coming in power over them, but rather, he is Jesus coming in power over the deep. When he says, “Take courage”, he tells the disciple to be of good cheer or to positively and boldly fear him who has power over all things.

So Peter is bold and he says to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) But when Jesus invites him out of the boat the negative inbuilt fear and belief in the chaotic waters overcomes his newfound bold faith in Jesus standing on the water just outside the boat.

What is it that you fear? What do you believe has power in your life? And is this fear negative or positive? Most people are usually overcome by a negative fear like Peter, and fail to see the awesome power of God and fear him in a way that glorifies his love for us.

You are called to a fear of God that acknowledges his power over your sin. You need not fear God like a bogeyman who’s going to get you in the night; like the phantasma the disciples thought was going to get them on the lake.

You have been called not to waver, and turn about face, as the struggles come and go in your lives. Rather believe the extraordinary power of God, the power won at the cross over sin, and the power of God the Holy Spirit in the written word of God.

Sin and all the forces of evil, although still present in this life, are not to be feared. When we fear these things we give back their power over us and turn away from he who has all authority in heaven and on earth.

God says to us, I am the Lord your God you shall have no other Gods! And we know that to mean, we are to fear, love and trust God above anything else!Therefore, come to him as he extends his hand to you. Let your sin have no power over you as you expose it to the cross and the forgiveness of Christ who hung there for you. And positively fear God who has placed Jesus Christ, the foundation of faith, in you. Amen.

For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever, Amen!

  Pastor Heath Pukallus

Have you ever wanted to be alone?

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Matthew 14:13-21

 

In the Gospel for today we read where ‘Jesus went off by himself to be alone’ (v 13). He had received devastating news! His cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded and his head served up on a tray to Herod’s wife. After John’s followers had buried John’s body, they came and told Jesus their ghastly news. Then we read: ‘Jesus went off by himself to be alone.’

When we are grieving, we need space to be alone away from the rush and pace of normal life – and away from other people! John was about six months older than Jesus. Their mothers were related – probably cousins – and were close. Jesus had not been able to go to the funeral where they would have talked about John’s unusual life – how he survived in the desert living a simple life. John became a famous spiritual person, a sort of spiritual guru people loved to consult. His most important spiritual task had been to point out Jesus to his people – and to the whole world – with the words:

 ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’  (John 1.29)

John pointed out Jesus as the one who would be offered up as a unique sacrifice, just like the lamb that was killed on the Day of Atonement every year. When Jesus went to be alone to grieve the shocking and unjust death of John, Jesus knew it would soon be his turn too.

Sometimes people learn from their doctor they have a terminal illness and they only have months to live. They need the support and comfort of close friends, but they also need the precious time to be alone.

Jesus needed time to be alone. Jesus is human. He knows what it is like to lose a young relative in shocking circumstances. He knows it will be the same for him too. ‘As soon as Jesus heard the news he went off by himself by a boat to a remote area to be alone.’

Jesus did not come into the world just to heal the sick and give out free food to the crowds! He came to be the Lamb of God. Jesus would be alone again on the cross, and share the devastating loneliness of being abandoned by his Father. When you go through the terrible agony and loneliness of grief, you might feel no one else has been through it before. Be assured that God has been there. Jesus has been there, and he knows what one is going through. It was even worse for him. He was abandoned by his Father and bore the punishment for all the evil in the world, including the ghastly death of John the Baptist.

Somehow the location of where Jesus is headed gets out, and soon people from the villages nearby head out to see him. They bring their sick with them. They don’t even take time to prepare some food to take along with them. They rather rush to get their sick to Jesus: ‘A vast crowd was there as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.’

It seems Jesus does not get much time to be alone to grieve for John – or for himself. His energy is directed to the people with their sick, the bodies hurt and maybe broken by sickness and accidents. No doubt there would have been people of all ages, from tiny babies to the elderly. There would have been a lot of joy and excitement in the crowd after experiencing the healings.

In all the excitement we need to remember Jesus was more than a doctor. Out of compassion he used the creative power of God to heal the sick. But there was an even greater compassion in Jesus – to heal the sickness between God and the people – a spiritual sickness that can destroy people forever.

The disciples had a touch of concern in them too. In verse 15 we read:

‘That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and it is getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”’

The disciples are very practical and down to earth people. They have compassion too, and the obvious answer is to send the people off to the villages to buy some food in the evening.

Then Jesus makes an odd and unreal statement: [In verse 16]

‘That isn’t necessary – you feed them.’

They had already considered that option and dismissed it.

‘Impossible!’ they exclaimed, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish.’  [v. 17]

There was a huge crowd, with 5000 men, not counting the women and children. They had hardly enough food for a table of five, let alone over 5000!

Jesus takes the little they have and asks God’s blessing on five loaves and two fish. Then the food goes out from hand to hand and person to person:

‘Breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave some of the bread and fish to each disciple, and the disciples gave them to the people.’

No one pays for anything!

It is not a case of the rich paying to sit up the front to get the best food, and the crusts and fish bones passed down the back to the poor who have no money left, or who had wasted what they had in drink and gambling.

Everyone gets a full meal. Even the ones who had been sick and previously had no appetite. The crusts and leftovers fill twelve baskets.

What does one make of this event? Why does Matthew include this miracle of Jesus and leave others out of his gospel?   Here are some possible explanations:

Firstly, it is a reminder that God is generous and provides more than enough food for everyone in the world. He designed seeds of wheat and rice that produce an abundance of food. He created varieties of fish to multiply in the seas, lakes and rivers and animals to roam the land. All the food we receive comes as a blessing from the generous hands of the creative God.

In contrast, the way we humans share the food is a disgrace. The powerful in society get the main course and the poor people the scraps! The powerful seem to get richer and the farmers who do all the hard work are paid little for their efforts!

Secondly, the food the people receive comes from the hands that were nailed to the cross. Jesus suffers for the greed of all people.

Thirdly, if daily food and good health are the answers to life, then we have everything we need are there was no need for Jesus to go to the cross.

If people’s hunger for food is the main craving to satisfy in this world, then we Australians would be set up for life, and the most contented, satisfied, thankful, happy, compassionate and fulfilled people who have ever lived on earth. We have an abundance of food. We probably have a wider variety of food in our country than any other place on earth. We can enjoy dishes from every nation on earth.

In reality, we are gaining a reputation as the fattest generation who ever lived, and among the least thankful people on earth. Jesus knows there is more to life than the food we eat. There is some truth in the saying, ‘We are what we eat!’ Our food comes from the earth, and so do we. We return to the earth, ‘Dust to dust and ashes to ashes.’ But we are more than the daily food we eat. We are designed to be the people of God, fed on the spiritual food of grace, forgiveness and new life.

God is more than a generous supplier of an abundance of food for the hungry in the world.  It is true God has a deep compassion for the starving people on earth, and so do his children. But God knows there is a hunger no earthly food or drug can satisfy. There is an emptiness and brokenness that Jesus wants to heal. A craving he wants to satisfy. A fatal spiritual sickness he wants to heal. He wants to hand out a totally new food for living that leaves a person contented and satisfied, thankful, compassionate and fulfilled. A spirit filled life that lasts forever.

This new life comes at a tremendous cost. It only becomes possible when the Lamb of God is sacrificed on the cross.

The Jesus who blesses the bread and hands it out to the hungry people in the crowd is the same one who comes to you and me in the bread of the Lord’s Supper – the bread of life that lasts forever. The new life comes free of charge; a healing gift; an undeserved gift flowing out of God’s compassion. It is there for everyone. No one is forced to eat it. No one is force fed. And there is enough for everyone in the world. It is a miracle of God’s concern for people.

Our daily food and the spiritual food both come undeserved from the generous hands of God. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Don’t be afraid

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Text: Matthew 14:25-31
Jesus came to the disciples, walking on the water. When they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. … Jesus spoke to them at once. “Courage!” he said. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” Then Peter spoke up. “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you.”
“Come!” answered Jesus. So Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water to Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he was afraid and started to sink down in the water. “Save me, Lord!” he cried. At once Jesus reached out and grabbed hold of him.

Last Sunday night on 60 Minutes the amazing story of Nick was told. He came into this world without arms or legs. He told of the shock and grief of his parents when he was born. It’s clear no one knew how to react to a baby born without any limbs. But as we watched the incredible story of how Nick deals with having no arms and legs, we couldn’t help but be amazed at all that he is able to achieve in spite of his disability. He tells how he was tormented at school and was suicidal because of it but in spite of this he became school captain, got a double degree at university and set himself up with a great job. He has spoken to school children, church gatherings, and huge crowds of people around the world. Teenagers especially have responded positively to his words of encouragement and hope. People can’t help but be amazed at how someone can be so positive, so happy and with such hopes for the future which include getting married and having his own children – all of this even though he has no arms and legs.

It would have been easy for him to hide away and give up because of the incredible disadvantage that he had been dealt and with no real medical explanation of why this should have happened to him. But instead he has made it his life’s goal to encourage and inspire those struggling with life’s difficulties and tragedies. He isn’t afraid to let his Christian faith show. In fact, he saw his disability as an opportunity for God to work through him and to be an encourager of those who in some way feel that life has treated them poorly.

Nick was asked the question, “Do you pray for arms and legs?”
He answered, “Every now and then I do pray for arms and legs. You know, I do have faith that God right now, in front of us, can just come down with his light or whatever and bang I have arms and legs. But the joy of having no limbs and being able to be used in such a unique way and powerful way for people, you can’t give me any amount of money to even consider taking a magical pill to have arms and legs right now.”

Following this there is a clip of Nick speaking to a huge crowd. He says, “I’m here to tell you that no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, that God knows it, he is with you and he is going to pull you through.”

I think what is so amazing about this Aussie is his amazing trust in God. Sure, he wouldn’t mind being like everyone else but he believes that God is using him to help others and give God the glory.

Without a doubt Nick is an exceptional person. Our problems in life may be minuscule compared to those of Nick, but somehow we find it hard to get above our feelings of self pity and frustration let alone see our problems as an opportunity for God to work in us. We are simply overwhelmed and overcome with our difficulties to the point where we feel we are drowning and our trust in God’s goodness has vanished.

The Gospel reading today is one of those events in Jesus’ life that is well known. I believe it is a story that most of us can relate to because it tells about a man who is super confident his faith in Jesus yet finds himself sinking beneath the churning and life threatening waves. He is bold and willing to take risks on the one hand, and fearful and full of doubt on the other. He shows us what it means to swing from faith to fear in a matter of minutes – something to which we all can relate.

As you know, Peter and the disciples were caught in a storm out on Lake Galilee. Their lives were in danger. No matter how hard they rowed and bailed the water out of their boat they were convinced that they were doomed. Suddenly they see a figure walking across the water. They think it’s a ghost but Jesus calls to them above the howling wind, “Don’t be afraid. It’s me, Jesus”.

Even though the storm is still raging, Peter calls out to Jesus asking if he can walk on the water to where Jesus is.

A strange request don’t you think. If that was me in the boat I would have called out, “Jesus, help us. Stop the storm. If you don’t do something now, right now, the number of your disciples will be reduced to zero. We’ve done our best to stay afloat but you need to stop the storm immediately”. But we don’t hear anything like this. Instead we hear about Peter who is filled with such confidence on seeing Jesus that he feels he can walk on water.

It’s easy to imagine the scene. Peter swings his legs over the side of the boat. He places his feet on the surface of the water – the waves still crashing on the side of the boat and the wind whipping through his hair and clothes – he takes a deep breath and stands up. In spite of the life threatening waves, the wind and the deep water beneath him, he was walking on water. He heads to where Jesus is but the confident look on Peter’s face turns to one of fear as he looks at the churning water around him. He gets scared. His feet start to sink into the murky water below. He goes down like a stone. He knows Jesus is not far away and when everything seems to be going wrong, with the little faith he has left, he calls out “Save me, Lord!”

Remember the words of Nick recorded in the 60 Minutes program – “I’m here to tell you that no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, that God knows it, he is with you and he is going to pull you through.”

Jesus knew his disciples were in trouble on the lake as the storm threatened to overwhelm them and their little boat. He walked across the water to make sure they knew that he was not far away and that his help was there when they needed it the most. His presence gave them confidence and certainty that Jesus would not let anything happen to them.

And then we see Peter with arms and legs thrashing away as he tries to keep himself afloat. Immediately Jesus is there reaches out to grab him and pulls him above the water that was about to overwhelm him. Those words ring true, “No matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, God knows it, he is with you and he is going to pull you through”.

This is a story about us. We know Jesus, his promises to be with us always, his very real presence in every moment of every day. We trust Jesus and his powerful love for us and yet in spite of knowing all this when we hit stormy weather and the wind and waves threaten to overwhelm us we find ourselves floundering. It seems that our faith and confidence evaporate when we are overcome with hopelessness. We start to think that no one can help us. Pastors, doctors, family members and friends can sympathise but can’t really change what is happening in our lives. I refer back to Nick. No one could tell him why he was born without any limbs. He is a bright, intelligent, obviously a very likeable young man with a special sense of humour and a special ability to communicate with others. He admits that there were times in his life’s journey so far that he wanted to end it all. As hard as he tried to fit in he would always be different. There was no way he could change. He would always be the person with no limbs and there would always be those who would regard him as a freak. I’m sure he asked “Why me?” “Why can’t I be like everyone else?” And we would say the same if we were in his shoes (that is if he could wear shoes).

There are so many times in our lives when we live in storms of worries and upsets. The death-dealing waves, the white caps, the winds of worry distract us completely. Struggle as we might to overcome the circumstances, in the end there is only one who can give us the calmness and peace that we need.
In the storm on the lake the disciples were at peace and filled with confidence even though the storm was still raging. Jesus had walked across the water to be with them and help them in their troubles. It might happen, as in the case of Nick, that our situation doesn’t change for the better but all is well because Jesus is there in the storm with us and will help us through it. A bit like the 23rd psalm where we hear, “Even though I walk through the darkest valleys, I will not be afraid, you are with me and you will protect me”.

There are also those times when our faith, as strong as it might be, gives way to fear. We can think of nothing else but the trouble we are facing. We are even distracted from looking at the one who has called us to follow him and to trust him in the midst of these storms. The worries and fears that fill our minds and souls make us forget about the one who is really in charge; the one who can really help us in our deepest time of need. Even when it seems that our faith is at its weakest and the troubles are their greatest, Jesus reaches out and grabs a hold of us and helps us rise above the storm. The water is still churning but we are safe in the arms of the one who has the deepest love for us. We are reassured again and again by the words of Jesus, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid!”

I want to finish with this last thought. When we want to come face to face with Jesus, we often go away to some quiet, out of the way place far removed from the storms of life, we seek some quiet gentle place to gather our thoughts, to pray, to feel Jesus close to us. It’s good to do this but this isn’t the only place where we can meet Jesus face to face. Sometimes we meet Jesus in the middle of a storm or when we have gone down three times and wonder if we will survive a fourth. Like Peter and like Nick Jesus will find us and rescue us when all of our strength has been exhausted. He will grab a hold of us and raise us up with a faith and purpose like we have never had before. Then too we will join with the disciples in the boat that day and worship Jesus declaring Jesus is truly the Son of God and our Saviour.

“No matter where you are, no matter what you are going through, God knows it, he is with you and he is going to pull you through”.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy