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Jesus won’t let go

What are you afraid of? There are so many phobias out there, it is too hard to count. What do you think is the number 1 fear in the world right now? Death? We might think that because of everything that is happening. But death doesn’t really scratch the surface of what you are afraid of. Death didn’t make the top 10 in one list I looked up. No, the top fear that is common to everyone is life. People fear pain more than death. What fills you with fear are the dreadful

possibilities of life, not death. (Helmut Thielicke) Fear always refers to something definite. You are afraid not to wear a mask because of the complications the virus can cause you or someone you love. You are afraid of political complications in view of the current climate. You are afraid of growing immorality and godlessness. You are afraid of what may happen to the church because of the demographic represented in the leadership and the pew. You are afraid of the future for your children and grandchildren. You are afraid of what may happen this year in school. You are afraid of what other people may think or say about you. You are

afraid of missing out or being rejected. You are afraid of being found out for who you really are. We all fear life way more than we fear death. When left unchecked these fears can destroy you inside and they can destroy the relationships around you. Jesus assures the disciples and us today, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he backs up his words with action. Jesus won’t let you go. You are a child of God that has a Savior who loves you, was willing to die for you on the cross, and who took away the punishment from sin. He won’t let you go. We begin the text from Matthew immediately after last week’s Gospel, The Feeding of the 5000. Matthew begins vs. 22 with “Immediately.” The 5000 who had been miraculously fed drew the conclusion, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14). Although they were right, they were also wrong. Their dreams of a political messiah prompted them to make plans to force Jesus to become another king of this world. As this groundswell of support for the movement to make him a bread king gathered momentum, Jesus took swift and decisive action to thwart it. 22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed

the crowd. Jesus separated the disciples from the crowd to the idea of an earthly kingdom didn’t infect their egos. He separated the crowd from each other so they were unable to make plans and act upon their misguided desires to make Jesus merely another earthly leader. Then he separates himself from the temptation to take the easy way out. 23 After he had

dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Like the Satan’s desert temptation to obtain the kingdoms of the world through a simple action of bowing down to the Devil, Jesus could have received rulership without suffering. He was well on the path towards gathering the populous support without the cross, but he knew it was not part of God’s plan. The plan to save the world and taking back his heavenly throne was through death on a cross. So he separated himself from the temptations of the crowd and was alone with the Father in prayer. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Although being a far way off, Jesus also recognized the difficulty of the disciples who were caught in a storm on their boat ride across the sea. 25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. This happened between 3am and 6am. If Jesus dismissed them after a full day’s preaching, it would have been about 6 pm when the disciples set off. They have been rowing for 9-12 hours. They must have been exhausted from battling the storm, beating back against wind and wave, tossing bucket after bucket of water overboard, sopping from head to toe with little sleep to help them through the difficult task. Jesus strolled on the water.

26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. The dark of night, frustration in the storm, exhaustion in boating, and superstition augmented their vision to think they saw a ghost. They were afraid, not of death but of what they experienced while alive. Fear is only amplified when your energy is low. Nighttime is not only the time of darkness but it is the time of exhaustion. This is when your fears get the best of you. This is when you need the Savior most. Jesus recognized the dire need of the disciples. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Immediately. The second time Matthew uses this word. Jesus didn’t wait for their fear to take hold. He spoke. There is much in all three of those phrases but we will focus on one. It is I. This is almost a direct quote of how God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush. I AM. I am the God of faithful love. The opposite of fear is love. There is nothing like hearing “I love you.” in a critical, fearful moment. It is something that brings hope and certainty. It is God’s declaration to you.

It was at the center of Jesus commands to his disciples in the boat which brought about the power to accomplish what he decreed. Courage swept in and fear went away at Jesus’ statement of “I AM.” Thus Peter responded.