After a Bible study about one of Jesus’ sea crossings, one of our members asked for a sermon about “the other side.” This is what I came up with for our congregation’s homecoming service on September 25. This sermon focuses on the call to go. Something needing ongoing prayerful thought and creativity: what are some alternate routes to reach the other side?
A Rough Ride to the Other Side
A Sermon on Matthew 14:22-33, Matthew 8:23-9:1 and Romans 10: 12-15
When Jesus insisted that his disciples get in the boat and head for the other side, they didn’t put up any argument. They knew where he was coming from. They knew the need that waited on the other side. They didn’t know exactly what they would find, but it would be some form of what they had seen already: perhaps another hungry crowd like the one they had just left. Definitely they would see lots of sick people, and they might even see a really fearful situation like what they had seen in Gerasa: demon-possessed people living in the place of the dead—the cemetery.
The disciples also didn’t argue about setting out because Jesus had sent them out before with a commission. In Matthew 10 he told them:
• Go and proclaim the good news
• Cure the sick
• Raise the dead
• Cleanse the lepers
• Cast out demons.
They could hear the urgency in Jesus’ voice, the same urgency that Paul expressed later in this way: How can people call on Jesus if they haven’t put their trust in him? And how can they put their trust in him if they haven’t heard of him? And how can they hear unless somebody goes and tells them?
No, the disciples didn’t put up an argument.
But deep in the night, far from the shore, I am sure they wished they had. Because of the topography at the Sea of Galilee, windstorms can quickly come up with little or no warning. It happens because the Sea itself is down in a bottom, 700 feet below sea level, while the hills around the sea soar up to 1200 feet above sea level. Air cools off quickly at the top and rushes down to take the place of warmer air rising up off the sea. The disciples didn’t have a barometer to detect the subtle changes in air pressure that might have warned them that a storm was forming.
They were hit without warning, and this was a bad one. Even the most seasoned sailors among them didn’t have the stomach for this churning sea. In the Greek Matthew says that the waves tortured the boat.
And being just as human as anyone else, the disciples probably “lost it” as they struggled to hang on. I can imagine them shouting at each other over the noise of the storm. We should have rested in port when the crowd dispersed! Andrew, James and John, you’re the professionals in this bunch. How come you didn’t notice that the wind was changing? Peter, how come you didn’t speak up? I knew I didn’t like the looks of those clouds I saw on the horizon! But the wind carried their voices away. (more…)