Epiphany 4 2022

Epiphany 4
January 30, 2022
St. Matthew 8: 23-27

(modified from February 3, 2019)


In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Jesus gets in a boat. His disciples follow Him. They are going to the other side. But it isn’t going to be easy. There will be a terrifying storm. They won’t respond perfectly. They will be rebuked: “O you of little faith.” But they continue to follow Jesus. They ask Him for help. They accept His rebuke. He saves them.

Such is the life of faith. It isn’t easy. We aren’t perfect in it, but Jesus hears our prayers. He saves us.

The first lesson is that the prosperity Gospel people are wrong. The Son of Man has no place to lay His head. His goal is not to give you a mansion or earthly success and health. The reward the apostles gain for following Jesus is a storm that terrifies them and threatens to kill them. All but Judas and John will be killed for their faith.

The Greek grammar implies that this storm was not accidental. The Lord willed it. He caused it. It was not incidental that the boat was swamped. Rather that was the purpose of the storm, its intent was to swamp the boat. The disciples panic and Jesus sleeps.

His sleeping indicates that He trusts His Father. He does not panic. God is in control. Thus we get this important little word “Behold” to introduce the whole thing. Our translation strangely translates it as “suddenly.” I don’t know why. It reads: “Behold – there arose a great storm.” Behold means “Look here! Pay attention. This is significant.” This isn’t a coincidence. It is a Divine plot. The Lord is doing something. The plot is that the disciples would pray and be comforted by Christ, not only for the moment but as a preparation for their ministries and as a model for us.

This is the religion of the cross, not of 70 virgins. It is not a diet plan or fitness regime. It is not particularly interested in time management, fiscal responsibility, or anything that the world considers useful and wise. There are, of course, both spiritual and bodily benefits, in this world and the next, for good works and for keeping the Law, but those are corollaries of the goodness of God’s Law. We love them but they are not the center of our religion. The good life upheld by our religion is not success as the world counts success, but is faithfulness lived in the presence of God’s mercy. It is not meant to help us escape storms, so much as weather them with faith. It is not meant to spare us suffering, but to see its purpose.

This storm was calmed. The disciples were delivered. But that was not the end of their suffering. Rather, the storm is typical of their and our suffering. None of them will be bodily assumed into heaven. More sorrows are coming. They will know great sorrow and the shame of failure at the cross. They will eventually be martyred. But they learn, over time, to live by faith. They learn that they are not perishing, that God is with them, that there is more to the storm than meets the eye. So it is also for us.

The second lesson is we should not be afraid of pain or death. The disciples were right to call upon Christ and to arouse Him, but they were wrong to panic. They were not perishing. No one who believes in Jesus perishes. Suffering does not mean you have been abandoned, even when it seems that Jesus is sleeping away, ignoring your prayers. Behold the Lord sends cancer, the secret police to arrest you, a rebellious daughter. The storm is evil, but God sent it. He uses it for good. He is teaching you to live by faith lest you become too comfortable in this world and lose your faith.

Christ became flesh and blood, in need of food and drink and sleep, and made Himself mortal, under the curse of the Law, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver us, who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. The crosses that Christ places upon you, even the sorrows of this broken life and your own failures, are not meant to bind you into slavery. They are meant to show you what slavery is and to teach you that this world is not your home, that you are not perishing. You are more than your sins. You are more than your past. You are more than the circumstances of your life and your achievements. You are baptized. You belong to Christ. He drowns you, to raise you up. He is with you.

Who is this that commands even the wind and waves? It is Christ, the Lord, Creator of all things, a Man, in a boat, with us, on His way to the cross and out of the tomb. God be praised.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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