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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

 

 

KJV Matthew 8:23 And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. 24 And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. 25 And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. 26 And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. 27 But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!

 

Ye of Little Faith

 

In this Gospel we have a brief but powerful lesson about faith and lack of faith.

 

The foundation for many different errors is confusion about the two natures of Christ. Jesus was and is both divine and human, God and man. Before the Holy Spirit conceived the child in the Virgin Mary, the Son of God existed from all eternity, but only in His divine nature. From the moment of conception the Son of God took on our human nature without losing any of His divine nature. He has both natures now. In that respect the Holy Trinity changed in time, since the Word of God became Incarnate in the Virgin Mary.

 

This is important to remember when we read the text about the stilling of the storm. Travel by foot or by donkey was slow and arduous in Palestine. Those who live in the desert can easily imagine why anyone would travel in a boat straight across a lake rather than walk around it. The Sea of Galilee is not a gentle fishing lake, but a large body of water, easily tossed about by storms and great winds.

 

The cults do not realize this, but Jesus chose to hide His divine nature most of the time. It was never absent, but it was often difficult to imagine that this ordinary looking man was anything other than a teacher. The disciples saw many displays of God’s power in Jesus and yet they still forgot.

 

We should not be quick to condemn them for being block-heads. We know far more than they could imagine. We can look back at the miraculous spread of Christianity, at the glorious lives of the apostles, the unfolding of church history. Centuries of sincere believers have explained the Biblical texts to us. And yet we doubt.

 

And how do we doubt? We doubt when we are in exactly the same position as the disciples. In the midst of a great storm that seems to overwhelm us, we stop viewing our world with faith and start looking at the raw facts. No one can really do that. We process the facts with our minds. We start filtering. Our emotions take over. And they are remarkable filters.

 

Have you ever been afraid in the dark? Any sound or movement can make you jump and suck in your breath. Sweat breaks out, even in cold weather. Hands get moist. One fact after another increases the fear. The sounds and the movements are raw facts, but the fearful mind turns them into terrifying evidence. My wife Chris and I were walking down the street in Chicago, late at night. We heard steps behind us. We walked faster. The steps quickened. We looked at each other. We were being stalked. We were sure of that. Downtown Chicago. Late at night. No police in site. We could hear the steps getting closer. I decided to look at our assailant, perhaps to have some evidence to offer, this side of the morgue. I saw a somewhat familiar face. “Jack?” It was Jack Preus, president of the LCMS. He was walking back to the same hotel, LCA convention, 1978. Fear vanished. He said, “Are you one of ours?” I said, “No.” Years later he signed my copy of The Two Natures of Christ, by Martin Chemnitz, and we discussed a few things.

 

Luther reminds us that fear and faith are opposites. The lack of faith causes fear. Fear leads to despair. Many people live in despair even though their outward circumstances are pleasant and stable. The facts do not mean much. In fact, telling someone not to worry because of the facts is rather fruitless. It’s like yelling shut-up at a crying baby. It relieves tension in the speaker but not in the listener.

 

The disciples were frantic in the storm. The waves were swamping the boat, which was large and flat-bottomed, to provide stability in those waters. All of us would have been scared, too. Jesus was asleep. Looking at this from our perspective, we can say, “If the King of Creation is asleep in my boat, then I am not going to worry.”

 

But at that moment they did not see the Lord of Creation but their beloved teacher, a man, asleep. They saw indifference.

 

KJV Mark 4:38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

 

Once again, we can place ourselves in that same boat. How often has each one of us said, in one way or another, “Lord, don’t you care that I am suffering?” Although hundreds of passages in the Bible tell us that God does care, that Jesus does understand our fears and weakness, we still fall into the same frame of mind.

 

God knows that our doubts make us fearful. He tells us not to be afraid, but He teaches us why we should not be fearful and anxious. The antidote to doubt, anxiety, and fear is the Gospel promise. The more we hear the promises of God, the more confidence we have in Him. “I believe, Lord. Help thou mine unbelief.”

 

KJV Mark 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

 

Do Not Be Afraid

KJV Genesis 15:1 After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

 

KJV Genesis 46:3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

 

KJV Psalm 118:6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?

 

KJV Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

 

KJV Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

 

KJV Romans 8:15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

 

KJV 2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

 

KJV Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing {do not be anxious}; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

 

Antidote to Fear

 

The antidote to fear is clearly revealed in the text. The disciples awakened Jesus by saying, “Save us, we are perishing.” (Notice what the little Gospel says, using that same verb, perish: KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.)

 

Jesus berated the disciples for saying they were perishing when they were in the same boat with God Incarnate, God-in-the-Flesh (the literal meaning of God Incarnate). Although the disciples only saw the human nature of Jesus, His divine nature was not missing or inactive in any way. Jesus quickly rebuked the storm, silencing the wind and waves. Only God can perform such a miracle.

 

Why did Jesus allow the disciples to become so fearful before He revealed His awesome power? Times of great fear, despair, or anxiety show us how weak we really are. Then, when we see how God takes care of us through His Word, in an instant, we grow in faith.

This is extremely important. Faith either increases or shrinks away. God allows us to go through times of trial so that our trust in Him grows.

 

Lutherans have become terribly afraid of the word faith. I do not know exactly why. It is the most frequent word in the Bible and the Book of Concord. The word faith appears in the KJV 247 times, without counting the verb (believe) or such compounds as faithful. When faith grows in an individual, it is solely because of the effect of the Word. In other words, faith grows when the believer knows and believes what God is like and what God can do.

 

Our daily experiences create a little school where we receive our lessons. Too many people, especially in the secular world, think that the experience itself is good. But it is God’s Word informing us about our role in His kingdom, and experience opens our eyes to what God can do and what we cannot do. The more we grow in faith, the more we have confidence in God and lose confidence in ourselves. I know that will not sell on TV talk shows, but it is the essence of the Christian faith.

 

We are by nature self-centered and prone to imagine we have the answers. The Christian faith takes our attention away from ourselves and turns our eyes toward God, what He has done and what He will do.

 

In this light the most important storm God can quell with His Word is the turbulence caused by sin.

 

KJV Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

Forgiveness gives us peace with God. Jesus gives us forgiveness through His cross. The Gospel says to us: This is your faith, Christ crucified for your sins. He has paid the price. Gone are the illusions that we can atone for our sins. Vanished are all the promises that we can improve ourselves by our own willpower. The broken bones rejoice (Psalm 51) because the Gospel brings healing, comfort, peace, joy, and genuine love.

 

Romantic love is a wonderful thing. God blesses the love of a husband and wife with children. To love a child is one of the greatest blessings of this world. At the art museum in Phoenix we ran into a woman who adopted a child, her only child, at the age of 50. On the way to the museum we were talking about how children bless us by taking away our self-centeredness. This woman with her adopted girl from Korea seemed to be a young mother because she was filled with such delight and wonder at this little creature now given to her. The little girl was shunned and pointed at in Korea for being half-American. She was just 19 months old. Now she was being touched and complimented. After a long conversation, she smiled and blew kisses.

 

This is what God does to us. As sinners we deserve nothing more than condemnation, being shunned by the Almighty. But because we are justified by faith, God treats us as beloved, as the prophet Isaiah teaches us:

 

KJV Isaiah 62:3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. 4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.

 

God rejoices over us because Christ has made us part of His flock. Being loved by God bears fruit in our lives as sinners forgiven, justified by faith.