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Amid the storms of life

Matthew 8:23-27

Pastor David Ernst

Fifth Sunday of Epiphany
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Feb 3, 2019 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

Good question. In our gospel for today, we have evidence of two things about Jesus Christ.

First, He was a true man. He was sleeping in the boat on the sea.

Second, He was true God. “Entonces, rising, he rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Only God has power over the winds and the waves. In our reading of the Old Testament (Jonah 1: 1-17), who had control over the storm at sea? Jehovah. Look, Jehovah has control over natural forces, Jesus also had control over natural forces. Jesus is equal to Jehovah, the Word of God against the Jehovah's Witnesses who were on the streets this week.

The Savior had to be a true man to be tempted in all ways of us and to understand us in all our needs. He had to be true God to fulfill the Father's will and endure the punishment of our sins in our places.

We can also learn something from the disciples of Jesus. The storm was a test for them. Jesus, because He slept, withdrew from the presence of the disciples. It is clearer in the Greek that the storm did not happen by chance, but to test the actions of the disciples apart from the presence of Jesus. And they did not pass the test.

They sought Jesus for their salvation. This was good But not in trust, firm in faith, but in panic. "Lord, save us, we perish."

Men have the fear of death for several reasons. Physical death separates us from our loved ones, from our work, from all the good things in this life. Furthermore, none of us has direct experience with what is beyond physical death. The Scriptures tell us something about the life that is to come, but it does not answer all of our questions. Nowadays, sometimes in the surgery bed, the heart stops for a few minutes, and when the doctors restore it, some people say they saw heaven, their deceased loved ones and more. But, there is no evidence that these experiences are not illusions. We should not trust them.

Some people declare that there is no life after physical death. This life is everything, then darkness. However, they seek immortality in one way or another. In many children, great works of art or in building empires that do not fall. But, there is no security in achieving these things.

Deeper than any other fear is knowledge in the hearts of all of us who are sinners and deserve eternal death. All fear death, then, in anticipation of the hell.

It is not clear in what way the disciples feared death, but they did not have the confidence we should have before the possibility of death because of the hope that is ours because of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Lord rebuked them, "Why do you fear, men of little faith?"

The Christian life is not so easy. We live in a stormy life, with many trials and difficulties. Many times we will be at the point of dying. We should prepare. But, the good news for us is the Lord does not reject men of little faith, but cares for and protects us.

Look at the parallels in the story of Jonah. Who slept during the storm in this story? Jonah But, in this case, the storm was his fault. Jonah was a prophet, but not a good example of a prophet. God sent him to preach to the city of Nineveh to give people the opportunity to repent of their sins before God destroyed the city. Jonah did not want to do i and tried to flee from the presence of God. He looked for a boat in the city of Jaffa, which still exists today, for Tarsís, a city of antiquity in Spain that is close to where Cadíz is today.

But, Jonah discovered that it is not possible to escape God's judgment. When he slept, the crew of the boat, all unbelievers, prayed to their gods. Finally the captain woke Jonah up, saying, "Pray to your God, please!" When they cast lots, the doom fell on Jonah. Then they said to him: "Tell us now why this evil has come to us."

Then, Jonah said to them, "Cast me into the sea, and the sea shall be still; for I know that for my sake this great tempest has come upon you. " But, those men worked to turn the ship to the ground; but they could not, because the sea was overflowing the boat, and was raging over them. Then they cried out to the Lord, and said, "We pray, O Lord, we pray you, do not let us perish for the life of this man, nor put on us the innocent blood: for you, O Lord, have done as you have willed. And they took Jonah, and cast him into the sea; and the sea quieted from its fury.

But God did not forget Jonah and sent a great fish to swallow up Jonah: and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. And then the fish vomited Jonah on the beach in front of Ninivé. But, Jonah did not learn anything. When he preached the message of salvation to the people of Nineveh, they all repented, even the king. And Jonah was angry, because he wanted the destruction of Ninivé. But God does not want anyone's destruction and dealt with Jonah in another way.

Jonah was not a good example of a prophet. He did not want to respond to God's call, he did not want the salvation of his hearers. But, God did not want the destruction of Jonah either, and taught him of His grace. God rescued Jonah from the storm of the sea, as Jesus rescued his disciples.

And when we are not good examples of disciples of Jesus, Jesus does not reject us, but protects us and teaches us of his grace. In baptism, we always have the hope of eternal life, not to continue in our sins, but to return to the presence of Jesus between struggles and storms. In this we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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