Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany, AD 2022

Matthew 8:23-27

Last week, we heard about the great faith of the leper and the centurion. Both turned to Jesus for help and knew that despite circumstances He could deliver on their request. A simple prayer, a request to Jesus was sufficient, for they know he has the authority to do whatever He wills to do. Today’s gospel lesson with the disciples in the boat follows directly after on the same day. The disciples, though they have been with Jesus longer and seen more than the centurion and leper, do not have great faith, but little faith, when the storm arises. How can this be?

What is faith? As Hebrews says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the confidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). This means whatever is seen, whatever is going on around you, is not the ultimate thing – faith clings to a confidence beyond what is seen. The most sure faith in the faith in Jesus and his Word, because He has all authority in heaven and earth and has shown his love for you in his sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.

Faith is trust in Jesus, and you should be careful not to hear this passage outside of faith. Outside of faith, the eyes are the ruler. The eyes say, I see everything is good and fine in my life, therefore God loves me, or, I see terrible storms and problems in my life, therefore there is no God, or He doesn’t care for me. If you look at Jesus calming the storm outside of faith, you would think it means that Jesus will make your life easy. Maybe you have heard misguided teachers say such things, that Jesus is here to calm all the storms in your life. They might act like faith is some sort of substance, that you can have more or less of and if you have a certain amount Jesus will make life easier for you.

This is false! It is not faith! Faith is trust in Jesus and his Word. Jesus does not promise an easy life, free from pain and suffering and storms. Jesus promises to be with you always. He promises to give you the strength to endure. This strength He gives through His body and blood. This is why Luther says in the Small Catechism that it is faith that makes one worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper. To have faith to receive the Lord’s Supper is not say “I have achieved something, I am good enough for this.” To have faith means to have trust in Christ’s words “given and shed for you.” Although you see the elements of simple bread and wine, because you trust Christ’s Words you know that this is a life-giving food in which you receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Even a little faith is sufficient, for the very purpose for which Jesus gave you His Supper is to strengthen your faith in Him. Even the smallest faith which says, “All I know is Jesus gives this to me and promises me forgiveness and life” is sufficient to receive Christ’s benefits. You see in the gospel lesson that the disciples had “little faith.” They call out to Jesus in the storm, “Save us Lord, we are perishing.” Their emotions and all their thoughts are focused on what their eyes see. They see a storm, wind and waves. They see the water beginning to swamp the boat. They see Jesus is asleep. They don’t think “Jesus said we would go to the other side, so in spite of this storm I know we will make it.” They don’t think “Jesus is with us, so in spite of this storm, will be persevere.” That would be a strong faith in Jesus. They have little faith – but not no faith. They fear, but they do know that Jesus is the answer. They know where to go. They raise Jesus and call out to him to save them.

So when Jesus wakes from his sleep, he says, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Literally, the second part is one word, we could say “little-faiths.” At the time, the disciples are little-faiths. They know who to trust, but they still become overwhelmed by fear in the circumstance. All their emotions are overruled by the frightening situation. But who is more powerful, the storm, or the One who is sleeping in their boat? This is not just a theoretical question, but a question which Jesus answers immediately. He rebukes the wind and the sea and there is great calm. The disciples marvel at Jesus and see that He truly is the Master of all things. For this man who sleeps in the boat with them is the Son of God and created all things in heaven and earth.

They marvel at Jesus, that even the wind and the sea obey him. Their emotions are no longer on the circumstance but are turned toward Jesus and His great works. In a few seconds the disciples have gone from being afraid for their lives to marveling in amazement at the one who was just sleeping. Imagine if in your circumstance, the One who has authority over the wind and the waves was there with you. If when you fall into fear of trouble at work, of covid, or especially that your sins are overwhelming you, you had the master of all these things right there with you.

I tell you that this is already the case. The creator of the wind and the sea, who rules all things on heaven and earth promises “I will be with you always.” In baptism, you have been united to Him and filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Lord’s Supper, you partake of His true body and blood. He unites himself again and again with you to dwell with you and strengthen you.

Your very creator who dwells with you has declared his love toward you by dying for your sins. See in the cross He does not wish to condemn you or that you should fall into fear, but to save and strengthen you. He paid His own blood so that you could be forgiven. When you are overwhelmed by the moment and all your attention is turned to the storm, He is there to bring you to remember Him. The immediate circumstance, whether it be troubles at work or home, a disease, or your many sins, are not greater than He who is with you. Even when you only have a little faith like the disciples and cry out “Lord, save me, I am perishing!” he will answer in His way, with His comfort, by turning your focus on Him.

This can happen because He has given you new life in His Word and baptism. Your sinful flesh still needs to be put down, so you can know who the master is. Put your trust in Christ and you will not be put to shame. For when your trust is in Christ, though the wind and the sea may roar, you can be confident in the greater one who is with you. You are being made like Jesus, who sleeps that sleep of confidence that the Lord gives to His beloved. Not sleeping like Jonah, who merely sought to escape his troubles, but as a child of God who knows He is cared for.

Temptations to sin will come. Difficulties will come, even and especially for faith in Christ. Christ is greater. He has given you His church by the Holy Spirit to strengthen you with His Word and Sacraments and the consolation of other Christians. There is no promise of an end to the storm in this life. For certain storms, you may never see the end, though they will end. What will not end is Jesus. As you see him by faith in this life, knowing He is always there and in control for your good, so you will see him more clearly, by sight, face-to-face, in the life to come. For the hope of the life to come is not first of all the end of the storm, but the complete realization by all your senses of what you now know in your heart – Jesus is here, and He will be with those who trust in Him even to eternity. Amen.






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