Jesus Is in Our Boat
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
How many boats in the Bible can you think of? Peter's boat. Jonah's ship. Paul's ship. Noah's ark.
What was the same about these four boats? They all ran into bad weather.
This is why Luther's baptism prayer is spot on:
Almighty and eternal God, according to Your strict judgment You condemned the unbelieving world through the flood, yet according to Your great mercy You preserved believing Noah and his family, eight souls in all … Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood, and a lavish washing away of sin … Grant that this child be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers and serving Your name at all times with a fervent spirit and a joyful hope, so that, with all believers in Your promise, he would be declared worthy of eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Each of us has been brought into the holy ark of the Church through Jesus' eternal word, and we pray that we would be kept safe and secure there. Why?
Because like the most famous boats in the Bible, we also run into bad weather.
Weather is a good way to think of our lives. Everyone thinks that our weather is the most interesting or most unpredictable, and sometimes it even is. (We get annoyed when the national media covers the weather on the coasts like the moon landing, but our bad weather isn't mentioned. We may even crave a polar vortex to get some attention.)
But like the sea rocking the boat, our fickle nature tends to panic, often in many directions at the same time. This panic is heard in the words of the disciples on the boat: “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”
It's worthy mentioning that just before this boat trip two different unnamed men had professed interest in following Jesus, but didn't. These disciples did; they followed Jesus onto the boat. They trusted Him. When the storm got going, they went to Jesus. They went to the right place, but their prayer asked for too much and too little.
They prayed to Jesus thinking two things: first, that physical death was the worst possible fate, and second, that if they died, they would go to hell. So they were wrong on both counts. Dying once is not the worst possible outcome; unbelief that leads to eternal death is. And Jesus came to save them from their unbelief, to save them from hell by suffering hell and death Himself. They struggled to trust these truths and they panicked. They knew that Jesus had the power to save them, but they doubted that He loved them. In love Jesus rebuked them: “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
When bad weather rocks our boats, we panic, too. Cancer, rude kids, dying parents, smaller churches—we panic. We blame. Sometimes God, sometimes each other. Repent and trust in Jesus. He's in the boat with us. It may seem as though He's asleep, that He's not listening. But He knows. Indeed where does this bad weather, even polar vortexes, come from? Jesus is the Lord of heaven and earth. He knows. He sends it.
He does this because He knows your weak faith, but He knows you because He gave you faith. He loves faith that smoldering like a wick, which He loves you.
When He allows storms into our lives, don't panic. Marvel with Jesus at the faith of the centurion, earlier in Matthew 8. He faced stormy weather, a dying servant, and he didn't panic. By God's grace, he trusted in the powerful Word of God. He expected good from Him, even in bad weather.
There are lots of boats in the Bible, some of them even go on water. But for us, little dingys, little rafts, who are bailing water, we know that He with us all the way, because through Baptism He has brought us into the holy ark of the Church, into faith, life, and salvation, now and forever.
In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Art: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee
Jan Brueghel the Elder, c. 1596
Oil on copper, 27 x 35 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid