8/8/99, P11A

“Jesus Reached Out His Hand to Me”
Matthew 14: 22-33

omehow I missed out on learning how to swim until Boy Scout Camp Woebegone where the requirement was to swim out of Sink-Easy (renamed Stink-Easy) in order to advance from the lowly rank of Tenderfoot. It was only about thirty-feet and I could actually dog-paddle that far, but the older boys would walk along the pier jabbing poles at us (I don’t think that was actually a part of the requirement). Finally, after a number of attempts, I did successfully meet my last requirement to become a 2nd Class Scout, which did not sound much better than Tenderfoot.

Having been reared inland by parents who preferred vacationing in the mountains, I did not know much about traversing on water; but, one basic instinctive thing I did know was that, “You can’t ordinarily walk on the water.”

I suppose this inbred awareness is why the accounts of Jesus’ walking on the water is such a point of disbelief for some folks. Many times it is considered a way to illustrate accomplishing the impossible. I am told that in the military a promising Lieutenant whom everyone expects to be swiftly advanced beyond others is called “A Water-Walker.”

Many times it becomes a joke: Like the one about the recent seminary graduate young pastor who was invited out to fish with two of the codgers in their boat. After rowing into the middle of the lake they realized that they had left the bait on the dock, whereupon the young fellow said, “I’ll go get it!” He hopped out of the boat and walked on water to the dock and brought the bait bucket back with a smile. One of the grumpy old men turned to the other one and gruffed, “That young preacher boy don’t know nothing; he can’t even swim!”

Living in a world of reality, you and I know that people can’t ordinarily walk on water. In fact, this was a first time water walk even for Jesus. However, there was no other way for him to get from shore out to his beloved Apostles who were about to drown in a major storm on the Sea of Galilee. It was a practical matter; kind of like his prior need to feed thousands, with only five barley loaves and two small fish. In our day, Jesus would be able to call for a helicopter rescue to pick his Apostles out of the storm. Jesus could even have called ten-thousand angels to fly him out to the boat, but living in the first century, his only option was to walk out into the lake to rescue his friends. And to me that does not seem like a big accomplishment for the God who stepped out on nothing and created this universe. This was what we call a miracle: an intervention of the Divine into ordinary things; and I believe it!

Let me tell you how I can believe that Jesus did indeed walk on water. I believe in miracles for I believe in the existence of God, which in itself requires a major leap of faith because there is no analytical proof of God’s existence. Thus, just to believe in God is a plugging into the miraculous. Another way to look at it is that if we can believe the first four words of the Bible, then we have made the plunge into the realm of the unprovable, and we believe in miracles. We believe in God’s very existence with the same kind of mixture of faith and doubt that we believe in anything else that is extraordinary. Furthermore, if we allow for God, we have to say he is omnipotent and could walk on water or multiply the loaves and fishes. The process is so simple, yet it is so hard.

The Apostles didn’t believe it either, and they had just shared in feeding thousands with next to nothing. They thought he was a ghost. They were afraid of faith. After hearing his voice, only Peter believed. His faith was strong and he actually started walking on the water toward Jesus. Maybe your faith has been that strong at some time, but then you doubted, you looked down and realized that you could not really walk on water, and you began to sink. But then Jesus did something for you that he also had done for Peter. He performed the act that he had walked out upon the water to do: “Jesus reached out his hand to him, and to you!

Here is the real point of the story--- Jesus wants to rescue us.

Evidence, the inner proof, we will pick up later along the way as we walk with him, and as our faith develops. But then it will not matter so much. Who needs mere proof when we have an abundance of faithful relationship with the Christ of the Water Walk?

I was afraid that the Hubbell Space Telescope would send back some proof of God’s existence. I feared that proof would short circuit the beautiful faith experience and that we would be stuck with baby believers who had nothing to sustain them in life but a bunch of pictures and factual information. Factual stuff never leads anybody to faith, it’s a blind alley. But, when we step out of the boat ourselves and start to walk, then our faith crescendos. The little boat with twelve on board was about to sink in the storm anyway. Our safety is vulnerable. Our belief system is sometimes a sinking ship. Our only real hope is in God who reaches our his hand to us.

Or, are we like Wiley Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, always taking the wrong turn and running over the rim of some wide canyon out into space (Air-Walking), and making it a while until we look down, and then falling thousands of feet to the canyon floor and going splatt.

This story can become a great source of comfort when we next need a hand up. And we all will need His help along the way. Our security is often compromised, the old doubts resurface and we wonder why things turned out wrong and if God will rescue us once again. And then we hang in there and pray, and we hear His voice, we catch a glimpse of the Christ in the crisis, and we know that beyond all odds, we will survive, again.

What a great story for today’s crazy world! What a source of hope when we feel hopeless!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

8/8/99, P11A