Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7B, preached on Sunday, June 20, 2021, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.
In the Gospel reading we heard again one of Jesus’ famous miracles, His calming of a storm. After a day of teaching the crowds, Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. They set sail in the evening and Jesus rested in the back of the boat, falling asleep. Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a windstorm came upon them. The waves grew, splashing against the boat. The boat began to fill with water, and the disciples were terrified. They feared for their lives. And that should tell us something about that storm.
Several of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. Peter and Andrew, James and John, they made their living on that sea. They were used to its waters and waves. Professional fishermen don’t get scared from a little bit of wind and waves. A bit of water in the boat was normal. So for these men to fear for their lives means that this storm was anything but normal. It brought great risk and the threat of a watery grave. Terrified, they cried out and woke Jesus. How could He be sleeping through this? Didn’t He care that they were all going to drown and die?
When Jesus got up, He spoke to the wind and waves. “Peace! Be still!” And the weather obeyed. The wind stopped. The waves calmed. And the disciples continued to stand there in fear...not because of the weather, but because creation obeyed Jesus.
Undoubtedly you’ve heard this miracle before. It’s one of Jesus’ most famous ones. It’s illustrated in most story Bibles for children. It’s seen in stain glass windows. It makes for a great story. And undoubtedly you’ve heard this miracle explained as a story, as an allegorical lesson, kind of like a parable, teaching you not to fear the “storms of your life” because Jesus is by your side.
You have nothing to fear in this world because Jesus is always with you. You have nothing to fear in life because He brings peace and quietness. You don’t need to fear stress and turmoil, lives turned upside down because of tragedy, difficulties of normal everyday life, because Jesus takes them away. That’s how this miracle is so often taught and understood. That’s what we want this miracle to mean. But that isn’t true. Jesus doesn’t calm all of the storms in your life.
Yes, Jesus is always with you. Yes, He gives you peace. But Jesus miracle isn’t an allegory promising you a perfectly calm life.
Try teaching that kind of lesson to the martyrs of old who lost their heads for the faith. Try teaching that kind of lesson to modern day martyrs and their families who live with the risk of death every day for confessing Christ. Try teaching that kind of lesson to our brothers and sisters in Canada who are suffering forced locked downs of their churches. Try teaching that kind of lesson to the person who lost their job last year. Try teaching that kind of lesson to the person who just received a stage 4 cancer diagnosis and there’s nothing that can be done, or the person who can’t pay their mortgage and is at risk of eviction, or the one who can’t buy groceries, or name whatever turmoil and difficulty people endure in life. Where is Christ in the midst of all of these storms? Why doesn’t He calm them? And that’s the problem. When we think of Jesus miracle as only an allegory, it leaves us asking the same questions the disciples asked, “Does God even care?”
Jesus miracle on the Sea of Galilee isn’t a parable. It isn’t an allegorical story. It’s history. It’s God’s history of salvation; part of what the Creator has done to save His creation; what He has done to save you and me, not from figurative storms, but from the everlasting grave. Jesus’ storm calming miracle, all of His miracles, are about the Creator entering His creation to save it from sin and death.
The disciples were afraid of the storm because they feared death. Death is the problem. Sin is the problem. This goes all the way back to the Fall and when God spoke everything into existence. For six days God spoke. He said “Let there be,” and there was, and it was good. Then He made us, men and women. He made us in His image, and it was very good. The Creator made creation the way it was supposed to be, perfect; no storms. But then our first parents listened to Satan and his lies. And when they ate that fruit sin entered creation, plunging it into chaos and death, not just for us, but for all of creation. All of creation suffered in the fall (Romans 8:20-22). All life dies because of our sin.
It’s this death that the disciples were afraid of, and in their fear they cried out to the Lord, “[Don’t] you care that we’re perishing?” “Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” … Yes. Yes, Jesus cares. That’s why He came. God entered creation to save creation. The Second person of the Trinity, the very Word that was from the beginning, the Word by whom all things were made, He became incarnate (John 1:1-3, 14). Christ took on our flesh and blood to save you and me from death. He took on flesh and blood to save all of creation. And He did this with His very own death on the cross.
God died for your sins. Christ died your death so that death would have no more power over you. He died and rose so that you would have life. He rose so that you’d be made new through the waters of baptism, a new creation with everlasting life. Jesus does care that you are perishing. He does care that you suffer from your sin, so He has done what was needed to save you from your sin. That’s what Jesus’ storm calming miracle is about.
This miracle is about how Jesus, the Lord of Creation, has entered creation for your salvation. It’s our sin that threw creation into chaos. It’s our sin that causes storms. It’s our sin that kills the life God creates. And if He wanted too, God could’ve stood back and let us suffer what we deserve. But He didn’t; and He doesn’t. He entered Creation for you, redeeming you by the cross of Christ. And He continues to enter creation through the Word of His Gospel proclaimed, through the waters of baptism, and through the bread and wine that are His Body and Blood, giving you the very forgiveness and everlasting life that Jesus won with His death and resurrection. The Creator enters creation for you.
When the disciples heard Jesus speak, “Peace! Be still!”, and when they saw the wind and waves obey, they wondered “who could this be?” He is Christ our Lord who’s come not to quiet all the “storms of your life,” but to give you everlasting life. To Him be glory forever and ever…Amen.