In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
But after seeing [Jesus] walking upon the sea, the disciples were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost.” But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “MAN UP!”
OK, maybe not exactly in those terms, but that's the point. Jesus' command here (He uses one word Θαρσεῖτε), it's often rendered “be courageous” or “have courage”. And courage, at least in the way the people then understood it, was an essential trait of a man. Be courageous. Man up, guys!
And how does the 'man' Peter respond?
And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if You are You (if it is really you, Lord), then command me...”
Well, the Lord did just command you, Peter, / twice actually. But Peter is like a child here. And this is nothing against children, it's just the way it is, that kids need specific commands. In other words, Peter wasn't satisfied with Jesus' previous commands. / Right or wrong? Did Peter do the appropriate thing by asking for another command?
On the one, hand, yes. What confidence Peter had in Jesus' words! For one thing, with a name like Peter (Greek Petros, which means: / rock), / I don't know about you, but that right there would make me think twice about doing anything risky near water, let alone getting out and walking on it; a bit of divine humor here, I suppose. Nonetheless, the simple fact that Peter trusted the Lord's Word so much that He believed Jesus could give a simple command and that would allow him to do the otherwise impossible, to walk on water, / that's an incredible amount of trust.
So was Peter right in asking for another command, a specific command like this? In this sense, based upon faith, then yes, it was fine.
But see what happened.
Jesus said to [Peter], “Come.” And after going down from the boat, Peter walked upon the water and went toward Jesus. [(and that's probably about the same direction I'd be walking if I were him)]. But seeing the violent wind, [Peter] was frightened, and beginning to sink he cried out saying, “Lord, save me.” And immediately, after reaching out [His] hand, Jesus took him up and said to him, “Little-faithed one, into what did you doubt (in other words, what did you think was going to be the result of your doubting)?” And after they went up into the boat, the wind ceased.
Lord, command me. It's a faithful plea, a recognition and trust that our Lord's Words have power. Not only that, but it shows that we need commanding. You need commanding, just like Peter needed it.
Unfortunately, and this is where Peter had it wrong: / he asked for the Lord's command on His own terms. Peter wanted to define the boundaries of Jesus' Word, for He not only said, “Command me,” but “Command me to come toward you upon the water.” In other words, command me to come out of the boat, where you told us to be in the first place. Recall, that before this whole incident took place, when Jesus sent the disciples out onto the sea, Matthew tells us that Jesus “compelled the disciples to enter into the boat.”
So where did Peter go wrong? What would cause our Lord to call him a “little-faithed one”? It was not that He asked that Jesus' Word would have Its way with him, but the problem is that Peter wanted Jesus to command Him outside the boat. And what's so wrong about this? Jesus is teaching us here, and the way Matthew recounts the story for us (and Matthew was there, remember), we are given a deeper understanding not only of faith, this story is not only about a generic faith or trust or confidence, this story is about a specific faith, Christian faith, baptismal faith, faith in the promises and commands of a specific One, the One into whom we are baptized, this story describes faith in Jesus. And that Faith, true faith, has a proper place, a proper setting.
I'll read for you now part of what is called Luther's Flood Prayer. This has been a traditional part of each baptismal rite in the Lutheran Church since the Reformation. It reads:
We pray through the same Christ, Thy boundless mercy, that You would graciously behold little Johnny and bless HIM/HER with true faith in the Spirit so that by means of this saving flood all that has been born in HIM/HER from Adam and which HE/SHE HIMSELF/HERSELF has added thereto may be drowned in HIM/HER and engulfed, and that HE/SHE may be separated from the number of the unbelieving, saved dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom, serve Your Name at all times fervent in spirit and joyful in hope, so that with all believers HE/SHE may be worthy to attain eternal life, according to Your promise, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Dry and secure in the holy ark of Christendom.” Scripture (and Luther recognized this when he wrote this prayer), that Scripture uses the imagery of a boat to describe the one, holy Church of Jesus.
And Peter wanted to get out of the boat. His intentions were good, no doubt about that, / but there are a lot of people in hell who had many “good intentions”. Good intentions won't save you. Trying to survive outside of the boat when the world is the way it is, so evil, governed by the evil one, full of temptations. Out there, you aren't going to last, you don't have the strength, you will fail at spiritually making it on your own in this world. And even at the very least you put yourself in grave danger of losing your faith altogether and being dragged under by fear in something other than God. You begin to fear the creation (the figurative winds and waves of life), and you begin to sink.
“But what's that have to do with me, pastor, I'm here every Sunday, or at least most Sundays. I participate, I receive the gifts, I'm forgiven, I'm safe, I'm in the boat.”
Yes, that's right. You are the faithful, you are aboard, you are safe and secure in the ark. You are, / but there are those that are seeking salvation outside of the Church, outside of the preaching and Sacramental fellowship. And you know them. They are your friends, even your family.
Pray for them. Encourage them by continuing to come, and keeping them informed about what your church is up to. One of the dangers of living in a culture like ours, where so many are not Christians (sure, they may profess to be Christians, but do they do Christian things, even the most fundamental Christian thing, like gather together with other Christians to receive Christ.), anyhow, one of the biggest dangers we face is becoming numb to the fact that if your friend or family member, even your enemy, if they continue to live outside of the boat, when our Lord comes again, they will be swept away with all the other unbelievers who are “out there”.
That is the harsh reality of sin, eternal death. We sinners need protection, security, and Christ has established a place for that: the one, holy, apostolic Church.
So, yes, be thankful that you are here, that you are safe. Jesus put you here, His word did this to you. In baptism, Jesus compelled you to enter the boat, more than that He Himself took you up and is even now holding you here. Here in this place, where His own Word, the Scripture, is taught in Its truth and purity and where the Sacraments are administered according to His own commands.
This is good news for you. You are in just this sort of Church. Not because we are faithful, but because our Lord has remained faithful to us, here.
This is the good news, the thanksgiving, that you have the opportunity to speak to your friend. Be a true friend and care for his/her soul.
It doesn't take a whole lot of words, just a simple invitation, a simple prayer. But, as you know, it does take a whole lot of courage. It takes real man to do this, to man up. (Of course, you ladies are included here too, it just fit Jesus' word at the beginning of the sermon to say it like that.) So, let's all be men. Have courage. Receive courage. Receive the courage of THE MAN, Jesus, the faithful one. Have no fear. Peter feared, he had weak faith. Repent, and get over yourself and man up. Go and talk to your friend or family member. Sometimes that all it takes.
You've come this morning into this building that resembles an ark, you've come that the Word of Christ would dwell in you richly / so that your cup might overflow the rest of the week as you proclaim, with courage, that Jesus is Lord, and that you know where to find Him.
Christ is making your soul alive today through preaching and Sacrament so that you may be believe more confidently in Him. What else was St Paul talking about when He wrote, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
You are saved. Go ahead, man up and confess it. What's there to lose? Nothing—you are already saved, you are safe and secure. Dare to bring others also into the boat with you, with us, with our Lord Jesus, where we, like the disciples, bow down at His feet, worshiping Him, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”
You need strengthened again for these things. So do I. Let's eat.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.