A Christian’s life begins with faith,
a gift from God through His Word and through Baptism.
But faith is not constant.
At any point, it’s either growing or shrinking.
If it weakens too far, it can die.
But a Christian’s life is also filled with other things.
There is joy, peace, and a sense of God’s love.
But there is also sorrow sometimes, grief, or fear.
Bad things happen to anyone in this world,
so much that it can seem random and senseless,
like the wind and waves on a stormy sea.
Our text is about something common to every Christian:
what happens when our faith meets the world’s storm?
In this world there is violence, anguish, death.
The threat of it darkens the vision of our faith,
like a fiery, twisting storm cloud.
How do you respond? Where is our trust in that moment?
Today we see what happens when we call upon Jesus for help.
The world’s raging alarms His disciples in their weakness.
Jesus remains with you so that you may call upon Him.
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.
So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
It almost always surprises us, but it shouldn’t by now.
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea…
Wherever Jesus goes in the world, there is a great tempest.
It happens so often that we can grow weary of it, or fail to notice.
But Jesus Himself said (Matthew 10:34),
Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.
I did not come to bring peace but a sword.
And in Luke 12:49, He said,
I came to send fire on the earth,
and how I wish it were already kindled!
This is so because the world is in rebellion against Him,
and He came here to make all things new.
Every one of you was originally part of that rebellion.
It still clings to you like the smell of stale smoke.
To see it best, you have to consider Jesus.
He was slandered in the worst way,
but how did He deal with His vile accusers? In love.
Even when He was stern,
it was not for His own benefit; it was always for others.
But that’s not how you react to false accusation, is it?
When you are slandered, you are concerned about yourself,
rather than the good of your accusers.
Or consider Jesus’ trust in our text.
The waves tossed the boat like a match stick, and the wind howled.
But Jesus slept on.
You don’t have trust like that! You have anxiety, and fear.
So when Jesus calls you to be His disciple, it’s a great blessing.
He provides a peace that passes all understanding,
flowing from His forgiveness of your sins.
But the world is still around you, and in you.
The day comes when the wind rises and sky darkens.
Horrible things happen around you to other people,
like flashes of lightning with their booms of thunder.
Though no temptation has come beyond your ability to bear it,
yet anxiety rises with the foamy waves in your life,
and it becomes very hard to trust in God.
That’s where the disciples found themselves in our text.
And why? Because they had followed Jesus into a boat.
Often the Church has been compared to a boat.
It travels through this fallen world,
bearing its passengers toward their home in heaven.
If there is a boat with Jesus on it,
then that boat could easily represent the Church;
any boat without Jesus is surely not His Church.
But following Jesus in His Church is not easy,
because the world rages and cries out against Him.
If Jesus were not with His Church,
then the world and the devil would leave it alone.
But because Jesus is taking His Church out of this world,
there is much strife, hardship, and turmoil.
Sometimes part of you wishes for a vacation from it all.
Christians may take a break from God’s Word and Sacraments,
forgetting or neglecting daily devotions,
neglecting the power and meaning of their own baptism,
neglecting the power in the Lord’s Supper.
Now, the devil may well leave you alone then,
letting you rest in peace while here on earth.
But that’s because he knows you won’t rest in peace forever.
Our Small Catechism doesn’t use the word “neglecting.”
The word it uses is more accurate: “despising.”
Because when you esteem the Word of God as less important,
then you are truly despising it.
The fact that Jesus was sleeping in that boat is important.
For one thing, it shows His great trust,
because He was also a humble man like us.
But it also shows that His disciples forgot about Him.
Many of them had fished on that sea all their lives.
They thought a storm should be within their own capability.
“We know this work.
You handle that religious teaching, Jesus,
and let us working men handle these earthly needs.”
Do you ever go about your business as though it were only yours,
and not the work of a greater Master?
Any time you are working only for yourself or of yourself,
you are inviting the kind of storm those disciples experienced.
So God allows the world to rage against us
in order to teach us to rely upon Him in everything.
Jesus slept on, while the disciples became more frantic.
They tried everything they could think of,
but knew that many had also died on that sea.
You should see your own sin and weakness in those disciples,
who finally were driven by God to give up all hope in themselves,
and place it where it always belongs: in Jesus.
Our text says,
Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying,
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
Unclean lips have never uttered more beautiful and powerful words.
But to whom were they speaking?
It was the man sleeping in the same boat with them.
Maybe they intended that He should start bailing water too.
But what they witnessed was something quite different.
Jesus spoke to the elements of the world, and they obeyed.
It was clearly the authority and power of God,
by which Jesus had created Light and every other created thing.
But where did they find their help?
It was within the very same boat they thought was sinking.
It wasn’t the boat itself, but the Savior found there.
So also now, fellow passengers.
Don’t look for your help in your own strength,
like the disciples did.
Don’t look for it outside the boat of the Church,
where you will find only wind and waves.
And don’t think that the Church will save you in itself.
But within the Church you will find your Savior,
Who can rescue you with a Word from His mouth.
The disciples cried out to the Lord for help,
and He was right there with them to answer their cry.
Now, what if they wanted Him to bail water alongside them?
That would mean they still intended to save themselves.
In earthly business, people try to create synergism,
where different forces work together for a single purpose.
But in matters of salvation, it doesn’t work.
The disciples couldn’t save the boat on their own,
not because they needed extra hands to bail water,
but because bailing water wasn’t enough to save them!
God was using that storm to preach His Law:
showing the disciples the limits of their ability,
and imposing the terror of God upon them.
For sinful man, trying to merit God’s favor by keeping His Law
is like trying to bail out a boat with your hands,
while wave after wave pours over the gunwale.
The Law is not a gentle thing for us,
because God uses it to drive us to the point of:
“Lord, save us! We are perishing!”
It wasn’t the prayer for help that saved them, either.
That prayer was nothing more than a confession.
But when you confess the truth of God’s Word,
that your sin is dragging to the depths of hell,
then you are ready to hear the main point of Holy Scripture:
that Jesus Himself saves you, all on His own.
There may have been times in your life that were tough.
Maybe you’re in the middle of a tough time right now.
You may ask with Job, “Why would God allow such evil upon me?”
Or with the Psalmist, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
“Why are you so far from the words of my groaning?”
But dear fellow passengers in this boat,
Jesus, your salvation is nearer than you think.
You may have a certain job in mind for Him,
but when He rouses to help you, it will be Him alone.
And you have this promise, in the end:
that He will see this boat safely to the shore of heaven,
where no stormy sea will ever touch you again.
The word that Jesus spoke was powerful to calm the air and water,
but the word that Jesus speaks for you is even more powerful.
He tells you “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.”
And so they all are forgiven, just like that.
Your rebellion, your words, your fears, your panic:
He forgives them all.
His words remain upon you personally, indelibly,
as spoken by His instrument in combination with water:
“I baptize you in the Name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
By those words, you are His, and nothing can snatch you away.
His words are sealed to you with His body and His blood,
which He would have you eat and drink personally,
since they were given and shed for you,
for the remission of sins.
The Savior who does so much to save and comfort you, even now,
is surely not far from any of us.
He’s here, in this humble boat of His Church,
and though He may seem to be sleeping sometimes,
you know why you will turn to Him in every need.
Soli Deo Gloria!