Download the Worship Folder & Announcements for August 22-23
Fill out a card to record your family’s online worship attendance
For supporting the ministry of the Gospel at Salem
Worship Series: Summer School - Lessons from Jesus
Worship Theme: Jesus Walks on Water
Lesson: Exodus 14:10-31 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)
Music: I Have a Shelter, Oceans (Where Feet May Fail), CW 451 Precious Lord, Take My Hand (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions
Message: Does Jesus Really Care About My Physical Well Being?
Last week, Pastor Enter shared the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 and asked this question: Does Jesus care about our physical well-being? He encouraged us to take a step back and see the wonderful things God has done for us. See how he created our bodies to heal themselves? We step back and look at our bank accounts and pantries, realizing that we are wealthier and better fed than 70% of the world. Step back and see the promise: whoever believes in Jesus will live, even if we die! Jesus does care about our physical well-being!
Have you ever seen this before? Dad stands in the pool. His little girl stands at the edge. She is afraid. She has never jumped into the water before. He holds out his arms and says, “Jump! Daddy will catch you!” He encourages her. She leans forward, but then takes a big step back. He coaxes her. She inches toward the edge. Finally, hopefully, what happens? She’ll jump into the waiting arms of her daddy.
Isn’t that where we find ourselves every day? We need to take a step forward, but we’re not sure if it’s the right time or the right direction. We even wonder if we should try taking a step forward at all! This week, we bring another question to Jesus. WHAT IF MY FAITH IS WEAK AND I’M SCARED? Learn from Jesus, as he encourages us with his words of comfort and promise: “Don’t be afraid! Take a step forward!”
Jesus offered that advice to his disciples following the miraculous feeding. In John’s account, we hear that the crowd intended to force Jesus to become their king. The disciples were caught in the middle of this mess. Some may have even joined in. Mark adds this to the story: the disciples “had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52 EHV). Jesus wanted them to take a step forward...away from the world’s influence. So, “Immediately Jesus urged the disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd” (Matthew 14:22 EHV). Even though we don’t hear Jesus say a word, the message is clear. “Guys, get in the boat. Get away from these people. They don’t understand why I’m here!”
Take a step forward...away from the world’s influence. That’s good advice, but we don’t always take it. Where do we turn when we have questions about what is going on in the world around us? Last year, a survey revealed that teens primarily get their information from social media and YouTube.1 60% of those who get their news from YouTube are more likely to get it from celebrities, influencers, and personalities as compared to news organizations. It’s not just teens. More and more people see headlines shared on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and pass it on as truth without pausing to read it and think it through. Jesus’ advice is good! Take a step forward...away from social media. Take a step forward, away from worldly opinions on race and gender and politics. Take a step forward...away from the world.
The disciples followed Jesus’ instruction and boarded their boat. Jesus took a step forward too—up a mountain to pray for a while. He needed to talk to his Father, mourn the death of his cousin John, clear his head, and refocus on his mission. Meanwhile, the disciples were rowing hard. Have you ever tried to row a boat against a strong wind? Every time you raise the oars, the wind catches them and drives the boat back. For every stroke forward it seems you slide farther back! Wind and waves rise quickly on the Sea of Galilee. Check out this home video! Matthew describes the rough seas: “By then the boat was quite a distance from shore, being pounded by the waves because the wind was against it” (Matthew 14:24 EHV). Not only was the wind pushing hostilely against them, but the Greek word Matthew chose describes the waves “torturing” the boat!
To make things worse, these men had been rowing for hours. Jesus sent them to the boat in the evening, and now it was the 4th watch of the night—between 3 & 6 am. They were exhausted, frustrated, maybe even angry. “How could Jesus do this to us? Why did we have to leave? We could have slept on the mountainside and left in the morning!” As they struggled with the oars and with their frustrations, suddenly fear erupted. They saw something, or someone! In terror they screamed, “It’s a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26 EHV).
What fears grip your heart as you struggle against the wind and the waves of life? Are you afraid for our country? We have a lot of choices for leadership, and I’m not sure what direction any of them will take. The state of Minnesota? The latest projections show a $2.4 billion deficit at the end of 2021, and an additional $4.7 billion deficit for the following 2 years.2 It doesn’t look good for Minnesota’s economy. Your family? The relationship with your spouse is on the rocks. The kids aren’t pulling their weight in the household. No one seems to take any initiative. Your job? Thankfully unemployment numbers in our state have dropped a little, but that doesn’t take away the sting of layoffs and terminations. Your health? The news from the doctor isn’t great. Your cholesterol numbers are up along with your weight. The tumor isn’t shrinking. Surgery is necessary. Oh, and don’t forget to wear your mask! Your sanity? The CDC reports that adverse mental health conditions, substance abuse, and suicide have risen dramatically thanks to COVID-19 related stress.3
We are all struggling with fear. Jesus calls us to take a step forward...out of fear. Listen to his voice! Immediately from the darkness came a voice. It wasn’t a ghost. “But Jesus spoke to them at once, saying, ‘Take heart! It is I! Do not be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27 EHV). Jesus’ answer is even simpler in Greek. He said, “I AM!” Who’s the hero of the story? Jesus is! He’s doing the impossible—he’s walking on water! He says, “I AM! Don’t be afraid!” I AM—that’s God’s special name. I AM means that the Savior God has come. He won’t pass us by as hostile winds of fear slam into us and the waves of life try to torture us. He is with us. We don’t need to be afraid. Come on, take a step forward...out of your fear!
Do you recognize this movie clip? This scene was the reason I never watched the movie Titanic again. The idea of so many people, including little ones like these two children sinking into the depths of the ocean, broke my heart. I can’t watch it any more. It was hard enough to play the clip. The Titanic was unsinkable, or so its builders and owners thought. One iceberg proved them wrong, and the unsinkable ship sank.
Peter, ah, good old Peter never held back. He boldly asked Jesus, “Lord, if it is you [you are], command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28 EHV). Only Peter was bold enough to request the impossible. No one can walk on water, not really. Jesus doesn’t tell Peter how foolish he is. He invited Peter to take a step forward...in faith. “Jesus said, “Come!” Peter stepped down from the boat, walked on the water, and went toward Jesus” (Matthew 14:29 EHV). The wind hadn’t stopped howling, and the waves still tried to slam the boat. When Peter looked around, fear gripped his heart. He started to sink, and not just sink—he was going to drown. He cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Peter, whose faith was so strong; Peter, whom Jesus included in his inner circle; Peter, whom Jesus would later tell to feed his flock; wasn’t so strong. In fact, his faith was weak. What if my faith is weak? What if I’m afraid? What if? Here are the answers to my questions. My faith is weak. I am afraid. The winds of life are swirling. The waves are torturous. I am going down, and I’m not coming back up. Like the Titanic, I thought I was unsinkable, but I’m not. One day, probably sooner than later, I’ll go under for the last time. I might have a heart attack or a stroke. It might happen when I’m on hospice care or involved in a car accident. It could be the result of COVID-19 or or an infection. When that time comes, no doctor, no treatment, and no scientific data will change anything. There’s only one who can save us and keep us from sinking.
“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, took hold of [Peter], and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.” (Matthew 14:31–32 EHV). Here’s the most beautiful part of the story. Jesus, the hero, saved Peter from drowning. “Immediately.” There’s that word again. Each time it shows up in response to something someone said. The crowds said, “Let’s make Jesus our king.” Immediately he sent the disciples to the boat. The disciples screamed, “It’s a ghost!” Immediately Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid! I AM!” Peter gasped as the water closed over his head, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus “took hold of him.” When Jesus grabbed Peter, he didn’t let go until they were safely back in the boat. Peter was safe—regardless of how weak his faith was. Jesus asked him, “Why did you doubt?” Can you hear daddy say that to his little girl as he holds her, wet and giggling in his strong arms? “Why did you doubt? Daddy will always catch you!” Can you see the smile tugging at the edges of Jesus’ mouth as he asked Peter?
Can you see it as he asks you and me, “Why do you doubt?” Our struggles are real. The winds of life howl, rattling the doors of our hearts. The waves of fear and doubt slam into us, and it hurts. Sometimes it hurts badly. When it feels like we’re going down for the last time, cry out to Jesus. Not to the doctor or nurse, not for mommy or daddy, not some unseeing and unhearing deity. It doesn’t matter whether you whisper, croak, or scream, “Lord, save me!” He will. He wants you to know that, right here and right now. He wants you to trust it, right here and right now. Jesus answered that cry. Not on a wavy, windy sea, but on a hard, harsh cross. The same hand that reached for Peter felt the bite of a nail, the rush of blood, and the coldness of death. That hand emerged from the grave and reached for “little faith” Peter, pulling him back from his denial and fears. Jesus’ hand reaches for “little faith” you and me, pulling us back from our sin, our fear, and from death itself!
What if my faith is weak and I’m scared? Don’t forget—Jesus is the hero of this story. He’s the one calling us to step forward in faith. Jesus is the one who walks on water. He’s the only one who can rescue us. So take a step forward. Jesus is right there, holding out his arms. Jesus is right there, calling your name. Jesus is right there, ready to help. Step forward...away from the world’s distractions and lies. Step forward...out of your fear. Step forward...knowing that Jesus is there to save you. Take a step forward. Amen!