Matthew 14: 22-33

LISTEN TO GOD AND WALK ON WATER

Written exams and tests are generally run like a competition. The teacher at school or the lecturer at university or your employer sets the work before you, and you know that at the end of it there will be a small prize or a pat on the back to someone who has done well or come first. Then as a result the teacher divides students into groups of either fast or slow learners, or bright and not so bright, or sharks and dolphins all according to their ability. All the students in the class know why they are in a particular group like the dolphin group or the sharks.

Many people hate exams and tests. They don’t do well at them and often feel depressed because of their low score or achievement. They get stressed as soon as they hear of a coming exam or test. They feel that somehow it isn’t fair no matter how much work they put in they will always only just pass or for some just fail. For some people exams and tests reinforce in them that they are low achievers and failures. Exams and tests can provide a disturbing storm in some people’s life or at least a sinking feeling.

Modern teaching theory has finally realised through research that people have different learning styles. Some people do well by simply reading a book and answering questions about what they have read. For these people, they would probably benefit from exams and tests. It’s their style. Other people need to explore, and discover information to learn. Again, others need to use their hands to construct or speak it out aloud to retain information and learn.

Field trips instead of the classroom environment are a great benefit to some students.  Teachers who understand this are wise and respond accordingly. They find other ways, other means of assessment besides the written exams and test to find out what the student has learnt. Teachers need to know what their students have learnt so that they can adjust their teaching methods to help each student to achieve their best or come to understand a certain point. As a result both teacher and students can experience personal achievement and satisfaction with themselves. They are the winners. Notice though, how the focus has changed away from the performing student to the performing teacher who is responsible in providing the results.

That was an introduction to simply say that God is very much like a wise teacher and we are his students. God’s purpose for all of us is to make us useful disciples, to be witnesses of his goodness in our life, and to draw us into the kingdom of heaven where we will love God and one another. It sounds like more than one purpose, but in essence they are all the same. We all have something to learn from God, some more than others. Since he knows each one of us by name he knows how to get through to us. He knows what we need and how we learn. In the end we will praise and worship God.

What lesson did the disciples learn while they were in a storm on Lake Galilee? Were they on an educational field trip?
One evening the disciples were far away from Jesus their Lord. They were in a boat crossing Lake Galilee. They’ve had a busy day helping Jesus feeding the 5000. It was another miracle. Jesus used 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5000 men and not counting the women and children. I wonder what went through the disciples’ minds as they crossed the lake. Did they reflect over the miracle that Jesus performed?

The disciples had been with Jesus for quite awhile now. They had seen Jesus perform many miracles. Jesus healed the sick, he made the blind to see, raised the dead to life, fed the hungry, and taught his disciples many things. Then Jesus asked his disciples to feed the hungry crowd of 5000 and more. No doubt, Jesus expected them to put into practice what they had learnt from him. Could they do it? In the end Jesus took charge and produced the necessary miracle. Just as well we can rely on Jesus.

When we look at the disciples we can see ourselves. We usually have two perspectives of ourselves. Firstly, we look upon ourselves as an individual disciple of Jesus, and secondly, as a congregation of disciples belonging to Jesus Christ. Like the disciples, we have heard the Word of God many times; attended Bible studies; heard personal testimonies of how God has worked wonders in their life; sung words of praise to God; and fed on the body and blood of Jesus Christ. All of this for our eternal blessing, and to become blessing bearers like Christ.

Like the disciples, what have we, what have you learnt from Jesus? Perhaps we have been taking the Word of God for granted, not really listening or believing in the miracles of Jesus or in Jesus himself as the Son of God. This is evident in our own lives and in the life of our congregation. Some of us may feel that things are generally going fine. We let other people and organisations feed the hungry and work miracles for the needy in our community. But Jesus is calling us to work miracles in people’s lives and to draw them into a loving relationship with Jesus. Can we do it? Are we doing it? Where is our faith that Jesus has called us?

Now, look at what is happening to the disciples on the lake of Galilee where Jesus had left them. They are in the middle of a storm. The storm has beaten them. They no longer have control over their boat or their life. Both seem to be tossed about by waves of destruction. Peter who is in the boat can’t wait to get out of this misery.

It is here in the midst of the storm that Peter and the other disciples come to a better understanding of Jesus and who he is. It is here that their hardness of heart is broken for them. All of their past experiences with Jesus and his teaching are challenged in the storm of their life. Now, they themselves need a miracle. They need Jesus.

So far, it had been relatively easy going with Jesus where he worked the miracles and changed people’s lives. They were on the outside looking in. But now, they need a miracle themselves. They needed a personal experience of salvation to help bring the reality of Jesus Christ home to them. The previous indirect methods had been less effective for them. At least the seeds were planted in their hearts ready for growth.

Because of our human nature, the way we are, we are difficult to teach. At times, it is only when we have a crisis or a storm in our life that we realise what we have been missing. We finally come to our senses and wonder how we have missed the earlier signs. Those practical experiences help us to consolidate what we have seen and heard about Jesus Christ. Some people learn it all by simply hearing the Word of God.

Back at the boat, the terrified Peter calls out to Jesus to be with him to be comforted by him. While Peter can see and hear the voice of Jesus, while he has a focus on Jesus, Peter can walk on water towards him. But as soon as Peter is distracted by the voice of the storm he begins to sink.

Like Peter, we are so often distracted by the voice and terrors of our own storm in life. At times we feel we are sinking, about to loose everything about us.

The good news is that Jesus is in the midst of the storm, not that he is the storm but he is there for you. No matter how big or small your problems are Jesus is there for you. Peter called out to Jesus to save him from sinking. Immediately, Jesus took his hand and lifted him up. Help is only a call away. The response is immediate. When you see a storm or experience a personal crisis in life be reassured that help, that Jesus is close at hand. So close that help is immediate. Like children on a field trip away from their safe classroom environment, there is more help available through parent helpers than before.

While Peter listened to Jesus he could walk on water, and walk away from the terrors of his life. The voice of Jesus, the Word of God empowered Peter to take control of his life. The Word of God can create a miracle in your life to still the storm, to enable you to walk on water. Peter, like many people before him had now personally experienced salvation at the hand of Jesus. “Truly you are the Son of God,” confessed Peter.

Our own life and the life of this congregation can be like Jesus Christ. That is, a life of performing miracles as Jesus has asked us to do, a life where we can help and change the lives of other people who are in need. When we truly listen to the Word of God, Jesus can empower us to walk on troubled waters with him.

Amen.

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