Fourth Sunday after Epiphany – Matthew 8:23-27

Calm seas. Then a storm. Broken words: Lord, save, we die. We are perishing is polite. Then a word from Jesus that sounds like an insult, but is actually not an insult: Why are you afraid, O you of little faith. The word is actually one word in Greek: little faithers. Though their faith is weak, there is faith present. That is not an insult but the way things are.

Let’s consider that question: Why are you afraid? The “Doomsday Clock” moved thirty seconds toward doomsday this past week, the closest the clock has been to the end of the world in a long time. Say what you will about the state of our country, let alone the world, people are scared. There is uncertainty in the economy. There is uncertainty in foreign relations. There is uncertainty that our congregation, or any congregation in Momence, will be here into the next decade.

Where is Jesus in the midst of the uncertainty? He’s in the back of boat sleeping. It’s a good time to sleep. Jesus has preached an extended sermon and healed many people. The guy just wants to get a little rest. We all know what it’s like to sleep through a thunderstorm. Rain, hail, thunder, and lightning sound like doomsday outside. Yet we sleep soundly in our beds, oblivious to what’s happening. You wake up the next morning, discover twigs and limbs down in your yard, and can’t believe there was a thunderstorm. Even the tornado siren didn’t wake you up.

Your life is a dumpster fire, so to speak, and Jesus is fast asleep. You think He can’t, or won’t, hear your prayers. You see no visible evidence of Him caring for you. You’ve stuck with Him through it all and He’s snoring when you need Him most. Your prayers now take the shape of the disciples in the boat: one word imperatives. Lord, help, I die. Lord, help, my job. Lord, help, no friends. Lord, help, marriage. Lord, help, children.

Why are you afraid, O you of little faith? Jesus may seem asleep, but He hears you. He helps you. Do you not believe it? Or is your faith weak? Weak faith does not mean no faith. Weak faith means an opportunity to strengthen it, especially in times of trial. As we prayed in today’s collect, He knows that we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright. When we are weak, Jesus is strong. He stands up in the hour of need to hear your prayer. Though we are many times of little faith, there stands Jesus to strengthen us. He is listening. He will take care of your need in His way and according to His will.

Jesus’ question is followed by another question after He calms the storm: What sort of man is this? That’s the Epiphany question. What sort of man is this Who can sleep through a devastating storm, yet remain asleep until His disciples wake Him? What sort of man is this Who rebukes the winds and the sea? What sort of man is this Who brings great calm? This man is no ordinary man. He is also God incarnate.

The same voice that brought the heavens and the earth into existence is able to calm physical distress by opening His mouth and speaking to it. Winds and sea must hearken to His voice. How much more, then, is this man able to hear you and speak to your need?

Yet Jesus does not speak to each of us individually as if we are having a polite conversation. He speaks to us using earthly stuff. Jesus speaks His Word proclaimed from lectern and pulpit using pastors’ mouths to bring the peace and tranquility of forgiveness of sins. We daily sin much. God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ is more than enough to cover our multitude of sins.

Our problem is that we don’t actually believe it. We think there’s a catch, a trap, something along the way that doesn’t truly deliver what Jesus gives us. We spend more time looking for the exception rather than rejoicing in the norm. The norm for our Savior is to remember our sins no more. He has borne every last one of them in His body for our sake. He bleeds and dies for your sin. There is no sin that can cling to you. There is no sin that accuses you. The accuser, Satan, has nothing to say about it except empty bluster. Jesus has paid for them in full. No catch. No strings.

Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle that love is the fulfilling of the law. What great love the Father has shown us in His only-begotten Son! Jesus is the sort of man Who takes away sin and gives everlasting life. He calms storms. He heals lepers. He changes water into wine. He raises the dead. He speaks to your need for His aid in His Word. He delivers that aid by washing away your sin in Baptism and feeding you with His forgiveness in His Supper. That’s the sort of man Jesus is. You cry to the Lord in your trouble, and He delivers you from your distress. Believe it for His sake.

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