September 6, 2020

"Following Jesus: Stormy Seas"

Scripture Reading: Matthew 8:18-27

Our reading today begins in the town of Capernaum on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus has more or less adopted this place as his hometown and while he there it says in Matthew 8:16 that “he cast out spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.” All of these things are signs of the Kingdom of God breaking into this world’s time and space. Where Christ is King and where his truth and grace shine, the evil demons depart and sickness and suffering go away. Miracles are not so much an “extra-ordinary” thing as they are a sign of the way things are supposed to be. Sin, suffering, disease, demonic powers – these were never intended to be part of the Creator’s design for the world. They have come about because we rebelled against our Creator. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior who comes to make things right. Jesus not only comes to save lost human souls, Jesus comes to be the Redeemer of all things.

Questions:

When Jesus says it is time to go, where does he want to go? How will he get there?
Who are Mr. Eager Beaver and Mr. Family First? What do they want to do? How does Jesus respond to them?

Jesus doesn’t sound very nice when he speaks to the two people who say they want to follow him. However, this is not about being nice. Following Jesus is not easy. “Home and Family” comes second to our allegiance to Jesus and the Kingdom of God. His proclamation of the Kingdom seems to run up against all the nearest and dearest idols that we have in this world. Some people see a harshness in Jesus’ words as he seems to have a low view of home and family relationships. In Mark 3:31-34 Jesus’ mother and brothers come to him at Capernaum to see him and take charge over him. Jesus says, “Who are my mother and my brothers? And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Does Jesus have a low view of family? No, but he does have a low view of anything that becomes an idol. Kent Hughes writes, “Many Christians and non-Christians alike have made the family everything. Every moment of every day, every involvement, every commitment, every engagement is measured and judged by the question, “How will this benefit my family?” While this is generally commendable, it can degenerate into familial narcissism.”

Questions:

Do you see “familial narcissism” in your life?
Do you think the two persons who say they will follow Jesus got into the boat with him?

Matthew 8:23-24 continues our reading saying, “And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.” The reality is we live in a stormy world. Over the years people have seen a picture of the Church in what we read in our text. The Church, they say, is like a small, vulnerable boat being tossed on the waves of the sea. The metaphor seems to work. In many places in this world the people of God are subjected to powers that oppress them. Nothing arouses the rage of the Enemy as much as the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Questions:

What does Jesus call the disciples when they wake him up? Is “little faith” still good faith? How does he calm the storm?
What is the question that finishes our reading for today? What is the answer?

The Conclusion:

Following Jesus is not an easy road to travel. Whoever says being a Christian makes life easier and the way forward one of continuous success does not know the gospel of Jesus Christ. To be a follower of Jesus leads you to the cross before it leads to the empty tomb and exaltation. The easy way through life is to concentrate on your career, all-inclusive vacations, material gain, and of course, family first. The more difficult way leads to self-denial, sacrifice, and Kingdom first. Jesus calls, but will you respond?

When we consider the world in which we live we can easily feel sorry for ourselves. The pandemic has brought us into a realm of fear that is in danger of making us too afraid to move. We refuse to “get into the boat” that leads to the Kingdom of God, so to speak. Too many of us are waiting for a cruise ship but Jesus is calling us into a boat! The Story of Redemption calls us to follow him into the realm of his Kingdom. It’s time to step up and go to school, go to church, engage in Christian ministry beyond our four walls. It’s time to stop looking for the cruise ship of security and comfort Our reading today ends with a question, but the answer is implied. We are following Jesus who is the revelation of God and he proclaims New Life in the Kingdom of God. Amen.