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Stepping Out

Date: 
February 28, 2016
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson

STEPPING OUT

 

THEME: Promising his presence always, especially through the storms of life, Jesus calls us to discipleship…

INTRODUCTION

  • Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, lived more than 100 years ago.
  • Twain was visiting the Sea of Galilee with his wife, Olivia, many years ago… it was a beautiful moonlit evening… Twain thought it would be romantic to take “Livy” for a moonlight boat ride… He escorted her to the lakeside where they found a man with a rowboat… Twain asked him how much he would charge to take them for a ride… seeing that Twain was nicely dressed in a white suit and a Stetson hat, he offered to take them for $25… now that was more than 100 years ago… $25 was a lot of money in those days… in today’s dollars that would be more than $700… $700 for a moonlight cruise! Twain, being a successful author married to a wealthy woman, could easily afford the $25 fare, but he was a practical man who, as the old phrase goes, “didn’t want to be taken for a ride.” So he thanked the man, took Livy’s arm, and started walking back to their hotel, but as they left the lakeside, Twain was heard to say, “Now I know why Jesus walked!” <sermonwriter.com>
  • The story of Jesus walking on the water is found in three of the four gospels, so the early church obviously thought it was important.
  • The gospel accounts vary slightly, so we do not know for sure what happened on the Sea of Galilee on that stormy night, but most people would agree that some sort of miracle took place – something very out of the ordinary… “When God breaks into the ordinary, miracles occur.” <Marquart>
  • In Matthew’s gospel, a number of miracles have already taken place: stilling the storm, raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead, the feeding of the 5,000, plus a number of healings.

THE STORY

  • There is an important lesson to be learned in the story of Jesus walking on the water… the lesson is this: God reaches out to us in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves…
    • There are times in our lives when we are really up against it… times when we battle the storms of life and our fears get the best of us… it happens to all of us.
  • The story of Jesus walking on the water is not just the story of what Jesus did once a long, long time ago… it is the story of what Jesus will always do if we have faith in him… Jesus will always come to us in the storms of life so that we do not have to struggle alone…
  • In Matthew’s retelling of this story, Jesus had just finished feeding the 5,000 and the disciples had gathered up all the leftovers…
    • Jesus decided to go up to the mountain to pray by himself, so he sent the crowds home and dismissed his disciples…
    • The disciples got into a boat and started across the Sea of Galilee, which is more like a lake than a sea… it’s 8 miles wide and 13 miles long…
    • You can get into trouble on a big lake in a small boat, especially when a sudden storm comes up… sudden storms were frequent on the Sea of Galilee… the storm would come up over the hills and whip up the waves…
    • As the disciples rowed across the sea in the darkness, one of these sudden storms came up and they were terrified…
    • They rowed as hard as they could, but the wind was against them and the waves were crashing against the boat… they made little progress… it was exhausting: rowing, and bailing, and worrying… worrying always saps our strength.
  • Just before dawn, the disciples saw a figure walking toward them on the water… they were terrified…
  • Jesus said to them, “Take heart. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
  • Peter said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

SIMON PETER

  • Let’s focus our thoughts on Simon Peter…
    • Peter said, “Lord, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
    • That seems like a strange request… why not, “Lord, if it’s really you, do something about this wind and these waves!” They had been with Jesus once before when he calmed the seas…
    • But Peter said, “Lord, call me to come to you on the water.” Maybe this was Peter’s way of asking Jesus to prove himself: “Lord, if it is you, prove it! Let me walk on top of the waves to you.”
  • To understand Peter’s strange request, we have to understand a little about the background of Jesus’ world…
    • Simon Peter and the others were disciples of Jesus… the word disciple can be equated to the word student… a disciple is someone who knows what the Master knows… they learn by listening, but they also learn by doing…
    • A disciple wanted to do what his teacher did… a disciple wanted to talk like his teacher talked… a​
  • disciple wanted to walk like his teacher walked… good disciples devoted their lives to being just like their Master.
  • So Peter is just being a good disciple when he asks to walk on the water to Jesus… because Jesus is walking on the water, Peter, the bravest of the twelve, wants to walk on the water, too.
  • Notice that Peter doesn’t jump out of the boat… he is smart enough to know that if he’s going attempt something as impossible as walking on the waves, he’s not going to do it without first being encouraged to do it by Jesus… Jesus can make the impossible, possible….
  • Jesus often invited his disciples to do what seemed impossible to do…
  • Peter, in spite of his quirks, has been the ideal disciple… he’s willing to do what the others will not do, but Peter is also an example of what not to do…
  • He boldly hops out of the boat, takes a couple of steps, feels the wind in his face, notices the waves breaking over his feet, and he loses his nerve… he loses his focus… he gives in to his fears… and he starts to sink…
  • In fear he cried out, “Lord, save me!”… Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
  • But even as he rescues Peter, he scolds him: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
  • Maybe it was self-doubt… Peter was an ordinary person, and Jesus was inviting him to do something extraordinary, the seemingly impossible…
  • What might Jesus be calling you to do? What might Jesus be calling us to do? Something extraordinary? Something seemingly impossible?
  • What keeps us from stepping out of the boat? What is it that holds us back? Our doubts? Our fears? Our lack of faith? The sinking feeling that we are in way over our heads?
  • It is amazing what Jesus can do with individuals or churches who are willing to step out of the boat; with people who are willing to think “outside the box;” with people who respond to his invitation…

CONCLUSION

  • By many accounts, Peter, “The Rock,” who almost sank like a stone, is a saint… the definition of a saint is not one who never fails, but one who gets up and goes on again… Peter failed often as a disciple, but he never gave up…
  • Like Peter, Jesus calls us to discipleship – to know what he knows, to do what he does, to be just like him…
  • Jesus wouldn’t call us if he didn’t have faith in us…
  • The good news is that if we stumble, if we fall, if we fail, Christ will reach out his hand to rescue us and to keep us afloat…
  • Jesus calls us… push out into the deep water, muster up your courage, confront your fears, focus on Jesus, and follow him.

 

SERMON SEEDS

  • Daily Study Bible – Matthew – William Barclay
  • Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew – published by Tyndale
  • The Pulpit Resource – Vol. 35, No. 3 – Year A – July, August, September 2008 – p. 25-29; written by Michael Turner
  • Materials from sermonwriter.com for August 10, 2008