Sermon: Jesus, Save Me (Matthew 14)
Order of Service: Divine Service – Creative
#817, “Earth and All Stars”
#717, “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (original Navy Hymn lyrics)
#715, “Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”
Location: Our Savior’s, St. Paul, MN
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31)
I want to start off the sermon looking again at the Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and merciful God, preserve us from all harm and danger that we, being ready in both body and soul, may cheerfully acknowledge what You have done.
Sometimes, we just fly by the Prayer of the Day. Sure, it’s printed in the bulletin, but they are usually short and pass by quickly without much thought before we give our “Amen” to it, as the bulletin instructs us. Let’s slow down so that we might see just what a wonderful prayer this actually is for today. Not just to go with the readings and the hymns. But with what is going on in our world today.
First, we acknowledge and confess that we have an “Almighty and Merciful God.” We see this straight away in our Gospel reading. Jesus is walking on the water!1Matthew 14:25 That’s an amazing feat, if you don’t live in Minnesota. Most of the lakes around here you can walk on between December and March with very little problem. But that’s cheating. Even though the wind may be whipping around out on the icy lake, the only problem for you is the ice’s slipperiness.
But Jesus isn’t walking on a lake in Minnesota in January with 18 inches of ice on top. He’s walking on the Sea of Galilee. 650 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer. On average, 85 feet of water beneath Him. But He’s walking along like He is going through the surrounding desert landscape.
It is a very similar picture to the very beginning of Creation. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”2Genesis 1:2 The Hebrew word for “spirit” can also be translated as “a disembodied being.”3Strong’s Dictionary H7307 The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost because physical people don’t walk on water!4Matthew 14:26
When they cried out, Jesus comforted them: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”5Matthew 14:27 For eleven of them, that seemed to be enough comfort. However, Peter needed a bit more assurance. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”6Matthew 14:28
And we know what happens next. Peter, the rock of the Apostles, walked out on the water for a few seconds. Then he began to sink like a rock! “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’”7Matthew 14:30 The man who thought he was the solid rock for the others to lean on, found himself surrounded by doubt and worry as the waves tossed about him. He began to sink under the waves. Fear and doubt took control, as it does every time you panic in deep water. You cry out for rescue to the Almighty God because only He can save you.
But just because God can help doesn’t mean He has to help. He helps because He is merciful. Although the language sounds strong, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”8Matthew 14:31 it is truly full of mercy. Jesus mercifully holds out His hand to drowning Peter and brings him back into the boat. While rebuking Peter, Jesus doesn’t deride him for even the attempt to walk on the water. Jesus would go on to tell His disciples, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”9Matthew 17:20
God shows His mercy in letting us know that the impossible is possible with Him, but the impossible is only possible when we do not doubt.10Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37; 18:27 But we live in a world of doubt. These last few months have especially shown that. Doubts are everywhere. There is disease. There is racial strife. There is rioting. There is political maneuvering. There is the future, where no one knows what will happen. Doubts toss us about like the waves slamming against the Apostles’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. All we can do is cry out, “Lord, save me!”
Our merciful Lord controls the wind and the waves. In our sermon hymn, I requested that the verses from the Navy Hymn be printed. They show God’s mercy on the Apostles and how we are able to call upon Him to “preserve us from all harm and danger.” Not in fear but in faith. “O Christ, whose voice the waters heard and hushed their raging at Thy word, who walkedst on the foaming deep and calm amid its rage didst sleep.”11LSB #717.2 (Navy Hymn lyrics)
Amidst all the chaos and doubt surrounding him, Peter cried out in faith to the One he knew would save him! As a fisherman, Peter knew the perils that could happen at sea. But he had also seen Jesus calm a violent storm.12Mark 4:35-41 We are called to imitate that faith. Even though he was a professional fisherman, probably an expert swimmer, Peter cried out in faith because he could not save himself. So we also, in the midst of the chaos whirling around us, can call upon our merciful Lord to “preserve us from all harm and danger.”
Notice, the prayer is not that we be free from them. After all, that is not how Christ works. In His Great High Priestly Prayer, in the midst of the bloody sweat and agony of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the Truth; Your Word is Truth.”13John 17:15-17
We often think of sanctification as simply being set apart. That’s the primary definition of “sanctify.” To set someone or something apart for a special purpose. That purpose leads the One who sanctifies to preserve that someone or something so that it doesn’t get trampled on and defiled. Preservation is an ongoing action of sanctification.
How does God preserve us? He gives us the Spirit of truth to guide us in all our ways.14John 16:7-15; Acts 2:38 Through the Holy Spirit’s prompting, you are preserved from spiritual harm and danger because He is the Spirit of truth. His promptings cause our faith to rise so that we might say with David in the Psalms, “I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in My mouth. … Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.”15Psalm 34:1, 5 Blessing and praise come from our mouths because our Almighty and merciful God has preserved us when we cried out to Him.
Sanctified and preserved by the Holy Spirit, radiant in His grace, we are able to face the challenges and doubts of this world with bold faith. Faith doesn’t rely on sight. You haven’t seen Jesus walk on water. Calm a storm. Heal the sick. Raise the dead. You have only heard about these things. But, what did Paul say in our Epistle reading? “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”16Romans 10:17 Hearing God’s Word grants you faith. Just as it did for Peter and the rest of the Apostles. They hadn’t seen any of these things before they started following Him. Several of them left everything and followed Jesus simply at the command: “Follow Me.”17Matthew 4:19 (Peter, Andrew, James, John); 9:9 (Matthew); John 1:43-51 (Philip, Bartholomew) His Word made them ready in body and soul to follow Him.
That same Word, which you have also heard, creates and sustains faith in you. Continually making you ready in both body and soul for what the world will throw at you. Disease. Violence. Persecution. They take different forms from time to time, but they are always around. They’re around because the Holy Spirit makes us enemies of the world. They aim at us with everything they have, but we have a weapon far greater. God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit.18Ephesians 6:17 It is “living and active … piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”19Hebrews 4:12 Wielding it prepares you to take on anything that comes at you.
Prepared for anything, you can “cheerfully acknowledge what [He has] done.” Earlier, we sang for all of Creation to praise its Creator.20LSB #817 That is the beginning of what He has done. Without Him, we do not exist. Without His creative Word, the universe would still be empty and void.21Genesis 1:2
But Creation isn’t His only work. He didn’t just let things go. He have been actively involved in the history of this world. Through faith we can cheerfully acknowledge that He has saved us. He does save us. And He will save us eternally.
He saved us in the waters of Baptism. All our sins were washed away as the waves of His mercy splashed against us. His grace came upon us and gave us salvation. We cheerfully acknowledge His gift of salvation through that wondrous sacrament.
He saves us now through the means of this world. Medicine to heal diseases. Government to make laws and curb violence. The ability to defend our faith to battle against persecution. These are all things we must deal with. They are all opportunities for us to cheerfully acknowledge His preserving work in the world.
He will save us eternally when He returns to this world to bring us into the Paradise He is preparing for us.22John 14:1-3 With this blessed assurance within our hearts, minds and lips, we can cheerfully acknowledge Him in everything we do. Even when the disease, violence and persecution are great, we are able to stand up against the world’s sinful desires. We are able to combat them because we have the great examples of the saints who have gone before us. Especially those who gave their lives because of their faithful witness to Jesus in the face of everything, cheerfully acknowledging what He had done for them.
In our weakest moments, we have the greatest opportunities to show our faith. The simple words, “Jesus, save me,” are one of the most basic confessions of faith you can say. It shows your reliance on Him for everything that you need for this body and life. We don’t need great, flashy miracles to have faith. We simply need His Word. His Word provides faith in His power and mercy. Power and mercy that translates “Jesus, save me,” into the great words of our sending hymn today: “Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous sea; unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treacherous shoal. Chart and compass come from Thee. Jesus, Savior, pilot me.”23LSB #715.1 And we are fully confident that He will pilot us to safety. Amen.