Sermon Pentecost 9 July 21,2018
Text: Matthew 14:25-31. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”:29 “Come.” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith”, he said, “why did you doubt?”
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord:
“Why did you doubt?” That was the question Jesus asked Peter. Why do you doubt? That’s a question that Jesus can ask you isn’t it? We can and do have a doubt now and then, especially regarding those things that we can’t see.
But there is an interesting aspect to this subject. One pastor explained it this way. You don’t or can’t doubt unless you have faith. With no faith in something, there is nothing to doubt. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you don’t doubt about your faith in him. There is a relationship between faith and doubt. So if you believe in Jesus you can be assailed by doubts. This is what happened to the disciples in our text. This is what happens to you at times.
Yet we don’t want to doubt. But how can we avoid doubt, how can we overcome it. Our text today answers this for us. It teaches us to look at Jesus in order to avoid or erase doubt. Our text teaches us, Let Jesus Overcome Your Doubt. As we study our text let us learn what causes doubt. Then let us review why we are to fix our eyes on Jesus to overcome our doubt.
Let’s begin with the question, why do we doubt. Doubt is connected to our thinking, to our mind. In fact, we can say that human reasoning is at the center of doubt. The Bible gives us many examples of human reasoning causing doubt. Consider the story of the 12 men sent into the land of Palestine which God had promised to give to them. They saw it was a rich land, which would be very good for them. But they saw the fortified cities, the soldiers of those cities, and 10 of the 12 doubted they could take the land. Their reason caused them to doubt God’s promise. In our text it is the same; when Peter turned to look at the waves and wind, he doubted he could do what he was actually already doing by Jesus’ power. Our reason causes us to do the same. Allowing our reason to cause doubt about our Lord in any way is sinful.
Now we can add that two things contribute to our reason causing doubt. The first is the circumstance or situation in which we find ourselves. When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God led them led them through a vast semi desert area. The ran out of food and water they had brought along from Egypt. Though God was present in the pillar of cloud and fire, they thought they were going to die of hunger and thirst. They doubted that God would feed them. The circumstance of wind and wave caused Peter to doubt; “Lord, save me”, he cried. The same can happen to us; you’re told your child has cancer, why our child? Jobless and your savings almost are gone, why Lord? A couple want a child and there is a miscarriage. You doubt thinking, if God loves me how could he allow this to happen. In all this we allow our reason to dominate our trust in God. That’s not only wrong and sinful, it’s foolish.
The second way our reason causes us to doubt is because of the devil. He uses words and our feelings to cause us to doubt. This is clearly what he did with Adam and Eve; he caused them to think and feel God wasn’t good and generous to them; “has God really said you shouldn’t eat of that tree”? Eve & Adam saw that the “fruit was good to eat”. It looked like triple chocolate fudge candy to them. So they ate the fruit. So reason concludes the devil is right and God is wrong. And that is why we can say, that human reason is often wrong; especially when it tries to make us believe something contrary to God and his Word. And this is true, no matter how logical our thinking is.
Now how does Jesus overcome our doubt? To have doubt one must first already have faith in Jesus. How did that come about? Thru God’s Word. God’s Word in our text teaches us about the love and power of our Savior for us. Look at Jesus, you see he is the Son of God. He walks on the wavy water, the very water the disciples fear. They fear the water, yet Jesus empowers Peter to walk on it. ---But also note Jesus’ love, - the disciples struggle mightily just to keep the boat afloat. They will soon run out of energy. At that moment Jesus comes to them. ---Peter begins to sink, in love, the Lord reaches out to him. He saves Peter. We find all this true in our lives also. At times, we struggle with some sin, problem or sickness. We become exhausted, ready to give up, and then the Lord comes & resolves it for us. Also, how many times has the Lord saved you from death? Most all of us have had very close calls, but God saved us. This is because Jesus is the same today as he was yesterday; he will be the same tomorrow as he was in the life of the disciples. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.
But there is another interesting aspect to our text. After Jesus enters the boat, the waves and wind die, and the boat arrives immediately at their destination. This teaches us that while the disciples struggle with the immediate situation, Jesus helps them. But at the same time he uses what is happening to set up what will follow. ---In our lives as we struggle, Jesus not only helps us, but he is guiding us into what is to follow in our lives. He uses today’s lesson of life to help us with tomorrow’s difficulties; specifically he teaches us to count on him.
So learning and knowing everything we can about the Lord is the first step in fighting doubt. The second step is to keep your focus on Jesus. Paul wrote to the Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” The writer to the Hebrews echoes this very clearly, 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” Peter in our text is a very fine example of this. When Peter looked at Jesus, he was able to walk of the water. When he paid no attention to the wind and the waves, when he focused his attention on Jesus, he could in Jesus do the impossible. But when he took his eyes off of Jesus, when he considered the wind and the waves, that’s when he doubted.
It is no different for us. If we take our eyes off of Jesus, we will begin to doubt; if we focus on other things in life as too important, we will begin to lose our faith. . –So Jesus reaches out to you; he speaks to you and me in his Word where he says; I am right there by you. I have divine power to help you. On the cross I showed you my love. So don’t doubt your sins are forgiven you! Don’t doubt that I can help you in all your needs. Continue to fix your eyes on me at me; I will show you my power and love again and again.
Peter reached out his hand to Jesus, Jesus grabbed it. You daily need to reach out your hand to Jesus. He will grab it. He has already done that for you in the past, hasn’t he? So he will do it again and again. Amen.