Not Bypassing Us
Thursday of Pentecost 10
2 August 2018
Jesus is not playing "hide and seek" with his disciples when he comes to them walking on the water in the fourth watch of the night in Mk 6:48-52. He is revealing Himself as the Lord God of the Old Testament who rescued his people through his creative power in parting the waters of the Red Sea. Jesus treads upon the sea attempting to pass by his disciples. What's this all about?

Of course, we think we have the raw power of God displayed when Jesus walks on the water. However, He's not a mere trickster. He's not a magician amazing his devotees like Houdini. In fact, He who is God of God could surely have done better miraculous wonders than this! Why merely walk on the water? Why does He not dry up the Sea of Galilee like He did the Red Sea that His people might pass over on dry ground? Why not empty the Sea of Galilee and then put it back? And why attempt to pass by the disciples? Jesus was revealing himself to his disciples as Yahweh, the God who saves his people. He isn't trying to "wow" us, He is telling us that He is Yahweh, God our Savior.

His messianic mission is to save His people from all that oppresses them. We can't help but think of the words of Job in the Old Testament, Jesus is the God "who trampled the waves of the sea... Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him" (Job 9:8, 11). In the Old Testament, God hides Himself from His people, dwelling in the temple, appearing as a pillar of fire and a pillar of cloud in the Exodus. He hides himself in, with, and under theophanies. He shares fellowship meals with His priests and with His people. He invites them on His mountain to dine with them. And in that dining He hides Himself from them to be with them.

St. John the evangelist has said of Him in the sublime prologue to his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made" (Jn 1:1-3). Jesus is none other than the God who made all things; He is the living Word, whose speech gave rise to all of creation and everything in it. He is the one of whom the Psalmist speaks when he says, "When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled.... Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen" (Ps 77:16, 19). Jesus treads the very face of the deep and yet leaves not even a footprint. He does not dry up the Sea of Galilee that the people might pass over. He passes over the sea that He might come to the people and dwell with them. He commands the wind and the waves and they stand silent before Him. He is their maker. Here He governs them. These fishermen knew the power of this water, perhaps far better than we do. It provided their livelihood. But they also knew its deadly threat. And they were experiencing that threat even now.

When the wind and the waves are against us, who shall pass by us in order to come among us? Who shall walk upon the waters commanding them to bring us rescue? Who shall ordain the waters be tamed and used, so that we might die with Him to be raised in newness of life with Him in baptism? We are baptized into Christ, because Christ is in Baptism, just as He was in the boat of the disciples.

Who comes into the boat of our church carried on the waters of life? Jesus does. Who comes into the church to turn it upside down and make it the nave in which we are saved, carried along on baptismal, death-dealing waters? Jesus does. How closely together God places this death and life together; like the ark of the Old Testament the waters bringing death carried it along to rescue the faithful few. The church lives her life on the roiling waters of baptism, threatened by death at every moment and yet assured of life in this very thing. God is trying to pass by and yet not bypassing us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Augustine of Hippo
"The ship which carries the disciples, that is, the Church, is tossed and shaken by the tempests of temptation. The contrary wind, that is, the devil her adversary, never rests, but strives to keep her from arriving at rest. But greater is 'He who is interceding for us.' (Rm 8:34). For in this tossing to and fro in which we struggle, He gives us confidence by coming to us and strengthening us. Let us not in our trouble throw ourselves out of the ship and cast ourselves into the sea. For though the ship is in trouble, still it is the ship. She alone carries the disciples and receives Christ. It is true that there is danger in the sea; however without the ship there is instant death. Therefore, stay in the ship and pray to God. For when every counsel fails, when even the rudder is broken, and the spreading of the sails is dangerous rather than useful, when all human help and strength is gone, there remains only for the sailors the earnest cry of entreaty and pouring out of prayer to God. Will He who grants to sailors to reach a haven, forsake His own Church and not bring her to rest?" 

Augustine, Homilies on Matthew, 25
Psalm 77:11-20

I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (ESV)
Lord Jesus, You have brought us into the ship of the church and place us in it by the sacrament of holy baptism. Grant that we might never defect from this sacred craft to our heavenly haven. Remain among us in the church that we might never despair as we are tossed about by the changes and chances of this life. Amen.

For Michael Denosky, who is suffering from cancer, that the Lord would grant strength and courage as he undergoes therapy

For Kim Menard as she undergoes surgery, that the Lord Jesus Christ would grant her health and healing

For police forces, that they would be kept safe as they carry out with integrity their duty to serve and protect
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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