Five Sermon Summer Series
Incredible, Contemporary Miracles of Jesus
Life Uncontrollable: Miracle of Rescue – No. 2 – August 11, 02
Matthew 14:31     Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

   Last Sunday we began a five sermon series on incredible, contemporary miracles of Jesus. 

   This sermon about Life Uncontrollable: Miracle of Rescue! is the second sermon in this series.

   Life Uncontrollable! Let me read you a series of developments and you tell me what these various developments all have in common.

   Mother fell again. She’s back in the hospital!

   We’ve done everything we can for your father but at his age pneumonia really takes a lot out of a person.

   Don’t report for work tomorrow.  Your job has been eliminated.  You have ‘til 5 o’clock to clean out your desk and get your last paycheck.

   Hey, kids, I’m sorry, but your mother and I just can’t live together anymore.

   They say the fire is coming our way.  We’re going to have to evacuate.  Better take what valuables we can carry.

   What do all these developments have in common!  What they all have in common is the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature of life.

   “Isn’t it curious how fragile life can be,” a mother said who had survived a serious auto-mobile accident, “Here you are, everything just fine, then comes this car from around the corner, a crash, and everything is changed in an instant.  I think we delude ourselves into believing that life is much more predictable and certain than it really is.”  We are not immune to such developments.  We are none of us ever totally safe from unpredictable accidents, storms, and misfortunes of life.

   But having said that, let me hasten to add that what all these

unpleasant, unpredictable developments also have in common is that in the midst of “life uncontrollable,” the Lord Jesus still works incredible, contemporary miracles of rescue. . . miracles of relief   . . miracles of hope . . miracles of reconciliation & peace with God. 

   In this Sunday’s Gospel, in Matthew 14, Jesus approached His

disciples in the midst of a raging storm, a storm where it was dark and wet and the disciples were a considerable distance from land, not making any headway. Their little fishing boat was “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against them.”

   One minute Jesus is off by himself, up on a mountain to pray, to rest, to let the Spirit recharge His spiritual batteries.  A few hours later, Jesus is walking on water, not to show off, not to impress his disciples, but to reach them; to rescue them.

   Ever notice in the Bible, darkness and water are powerful forces not to be taken lightly. Remember how Genesis One says in the

beginning God the Creator pushed back the forces of darkness and water when He first made the world.  Then after Adam and Eve fell into sin and great was their fall. In fact, their fall into sin is what made this a fallen, imperfect world where darkness - disaster - disease - and destruction seem more & more and not less & less to get the upper hand no matter how hard we strive to protect ourselves.

   “If it weren’t for irrigation,” I heard someone say recently, “we’d have the dirty 30’s all over again; only worse!”  Up until a few years ago, it used to be a bad year now and then, but more recently what some are seeing & saying is a bad year, plus another bad year, plus another bad year.  It’s enough to make a person wonder if the world and everything in it is as much in God’s hands as we would like to think or believe it is.   

   But it is.  It IS!  Though there be wars & rumors of wars; though there be storms, hurricanes, devastating floods, drought, forest fires, environmental pollution, and great ecological imbalances in nature brought about by bad politics and poor stewardship.

   None-the-less, the Bible is full of passages like this, from Psalm 46, where the Psalmist says, and this I’m reading from a contemporary paraphrase:  

   Look, everyone!  See the marvels of God!  He plants flowers and trees all over the earth, Bans war from pole to pole, breaks all the weapons across his knee. “Step out of the traffic!  Take a long, loving look at me,” says the Lord our God, “Take a long, loving look at me. I am your God, above disasters, above drought, above storms, above politics, above everything.”

   What’s wrong with this world; what’s so unpredictable, so

uncontrollable, so hard to take when things go bad is one thing we all have to deal with.  But He Who is here for us; He who still rules wind & wave, amid storm & stress; He who knows about lost jobs, lost marriages, lost opportunities, that’s another thing, a greater thing that ought to call forth praise & worship from us.  

   Which really is what this Jesus contemporary miracle of rescue, is all about.  Yes, a sinking, frightened Peter winds up back in the boat safe with Jesus! It’s a miracle of rescue.  Yes, the other disciples are greatly relieved that the wind dies down, and the seas are quiet again. It’s a miracle of  rescue.  

   But then Matthew writes, Matthew doesn’t want His readers or us to miss this all-important detail either.  Those who were in the boat, both Peter and those other disciples worshiped Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 

   I like Thomas Long’s comments on this miracle when he writes that this miracle of rescue is first a picture of Jesus Christ’s church on earth, and second, it is a revealing look at the surprising,

powerful, wonderfully authoritative nature of Jesus as God’s own dear Son and true Savior of us all.

   “Indeed, according to this miracle story, the journey to the other side is no lazy summer sail,” writes Long.  “The boat is ‘battered by the waves’ and fights the wind as it struggles toward a difficult landfall.  Such is the recurring experience of the church, straining to be faithful in perilous times.

   The second thing, Long says is the key to seeing this old miracle story as a contemporary miracle story, is that “We get more than just snapshot of ourselves as weak & struggling members of Christ’s church in an imperfect & uncontrollable world. We also are given in this a picture of Jesus as Lord . . The emphasis here is not on Jesus’ ability to perform an amazing miracle, or his capacity to do a dazzling stunt that shows off his supernatural powers, but rather the emphasis is on who Jesus is theologically. 

   “Jesus is portrayed as: Lord, walking majestically over the sea,  authoritatively ruling over the wild, fearsome, humanly untamed powers loose in the world.  Jesus is portrayed as: Savior, reaching out to deliver a frightened, failing, faint-hearted disciple who could be anyone us.  Jesus is portrayed as Son of God, as Emmanuel (“God with Us”), one who is worthy of all praise and worship and faithful confession.(Matthew, Thomas Long, p.166, John Knox, 1997)

   When Jesus gets into the boat with His disciples and they feel this great sense of peace, they don’t just sit back and relax, they worship. They confess.  They are comforted, encouraged; they are

beginning to see the Light.  They say with one voice, “Truly, you are the Son of God!”

   This is why there are hospital chaplains & chapels in hospitals. This why most Christian pastors visit in hospitals and are quick to come when called.  This is why churches have prayer groups & group prayers in church on Sunday.  We’re all in the same boat; life is unpredictable; life is uncontrollable. We all need rescuing, saving, healing, forgiving.

   When mother’s in the hospital; when grandpa is weak from pneumonia, when husband or wife lose their job; when a marriage falls a part; when drought or forest fires or serious accidents suddenly change things; when there are losses, break-downs, burdens, shortages, unpaid bills, unplanned expenses, uncontrollable sins, unrelieved guilt; we need rescuing, we need saving; forgiving; healing; renewing;

communing, sitting together & worshipping with one another.

   Let this miracle of rescue remind us, reassure us God is not off in the heavens somewhere watching us struggle helplessly against forces & powers outside us, or fightings and fears within us, but God who is God for us is God with us in Jesus Christ

   Jesus is Lord of life who comes to save us & gets in our boat too.  No storm, no matter how fierce or frightening can destroy us as long as Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us.   

   Or as Jesus’ disciples said that day of their miraculous rescue and Jesus’ presence with them, “Truly you are the Son of God.”