7/29/2000, P7, Year B
Calms Our Fears
(16) That evening the disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. (17) But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got into the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum. (18) Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough. (19) They were three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, (20) but he called out to them, 'I am here! Don't be afraid.' (21) They were eager to let him in, and immediately the boat arrived at their destination!" (John 6: 16-21, NLT).
An old man lay dying, alone and with no name except Joe. He kept rambling about a picture of his son in his pocket. Sure enough a newspaper clipping was found of a young Marine who was stationed in Korea. His only son was flown home and he sat beside the dying man's bed constantly holding his hand, whispering to him, and praying, until the end came. As the nurse was completing the death certificate she asked, "What was your father's full name?" "He was not my father." "I had never laid eyes on him." The young man said. "Well, why did you sit and hold his hand while he was dying?" The nurse asked. "Because I was here and he needed me!" Came the answer.
Here is the response of Jesus to our needs. He responds because we need the touch of the Master's hand so often in our lives.
Christian faith is a mind set that expects Jesus to respond to our needs no matter how great or small.
If the Apostles had thought about all the miracles they had already been a part of we would expect that they would have not been so terrified by seeing him walking on the water toward their boat. In this same chapter of John they had assisted Jesus in distributing massive amounts of food to feed five-thousand from five loaves and two small fish. But do any of us ever get to the place where we truly expect miracles through the extraordinary power of God changing the outcome of our ordinary human predicaments in which we find ourselves? Although Jesus has never failed me, I sometimes find myself terribly afraid.
The Apostles, many of them professional fishermen, were not terrified by the storm. Since the Sea of Galilee is 650 feet below sea level, 150 feet deep, and is surrounded by hills, it is often subject to violent and sudden storms that still today cause extremely high waves. They were afraid of the windstorm, but not "terrified." Their terror was because they thought they were seeing a ghost, as recorded in Matthew 14: 26, and in Mark 6: 49.
My parents taught me to never be afraid of the dead, although my older brother, Eddie, is terrified by even a "Boo" on a dark night. We used to tease him too often about his fear. We all seem to have our own set of terrors. I was with a friend last week who still is haunted my nightmares from the Vietnam war. Some of us are afraid of failure, others seem to be afraid of success. Most are terrified by their own prospects of non-being after death.
But the Good News for us is that, no matter what our fears are, Jesus wants to calm them. He wants to call out to us as he did to the apostles huddled terrified in their little boat tossed by high waves.
Fears can be conquered by the power of the Risen Christ at work within our lives. Oftentimes, friends, counselors and family members can be used by His Spirit to heal our foreboding anxiety, and sense of panic and dread. Praying together is often the antidote to our anguish and consternation. It worked with the apostles; Jesus called out to them, identified himself, and told them not to be afraid. He has done that for me.
Notice that after they realized who Jesus was, they were eager to get him into the boat with them. Each of us realize that we need to ask Him into our lives. He is able and willing to help us, but in the way spiritual things operate, we must ask for His help.
One of the first steps in any of the "Twelve-Step" addiction recovery programs is to ask for help. Sometimes we have to get deep into the hiding place in the bottom of our little boats of false security before we can recognize our utter need for help, and to finally cry out for a helping hand. It is never good enough to just know about the help, we have to want relief and be willing to confront our fears, our problems, and to confess our sins. The young prince and princess in the gutter will never climb out until they desperately want Jesus in their lives.
The best news of all is that when we confront or weaknesses, obsessions, sins and fears, Jesus is faithful, just, righteous, and will always forgive our sins and will cleanse, and extend his power to help cleanse us from all that is destructive in our lives. (see, I Jn. 1:9).
Since we live every day by faith we never know exactly how spiritual things will work out, but with confidence in Him we can have inner confidence that somehow things will eventually work out for the best if we will put our trust in Him. The Apostles allowed Jesus to come into their boat, and more completely into their faith processes, and immediately the boat was at the place where they were trying to go. None of us interpret this to mean that we can be instantly turned into a mature disciple, but immediately we can know that we are headed for the shore by His power at work within our lives. How can any of us begin this long journey with Him without having some hope and vision that we will one day finish our course?
Eleven of us began our doctoral work together at Emory. We could not fully understand all of the thresholds that we would have to navigate, but we began anyway, by faith. Some dropped out along the way for various reasons, but those of us who banded together and helped each other finally began to see the distant shore. This is our lives in Christ even yet.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor