Take Heart: It Is I
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
No Rest For The Weary
“No rest for the weary,” it’s a familiar phrase. It had been a long day for the disciples. They had returned from days of visiting towns and villages telling people about Jesus. The day began with Jesus had taken them to a place for some rest.
Those plans changed when a large crowd gathered to hear Jesus teach. Toward the end of the day, Jesus said to the disciples, “Give them something to eat.” Jesus, as we know, provided a miracle so that five loaves of bread and two fish could feed the large crowd.
It was then the disciples who did the work of distributing the food. They were also responsible for gathering the leftovers. The day was not the quiet restful day they had been planning. Like so often happens with the followers of Jesus, the needs of others comes first.
After the long day, Jesus had “his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side.” After a long day, it would be hard work rowing across the Sea of Galilee. Was Jesus angry with them? Why couldn’t they just stay with him? Questions, questions, and more questions.
After sending the crowd and the disciples away, Jesus went by himself to pray. I’m sure he prayed for the crowd that they had heard and believed the good news that he had brought them. I’m sure he prayed for his disciples that they might know that he was the promised messiah and that their faith might be strong. I’m sure he pray for strength to continue his journey to the cross.
On The Sea
The sea was rough that night. They were rowing against the wind and making very little headway. Why had Jesus left them alone to struggle in this way? Did he know the danger they would face? Where is a miracle for us?
Then Jesus came toward them, walking on the sea, but they did not recognize him. “When they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified.” They were afraid of the unknown.
Where was Jesus in their time of need? Certainly this was a greater need than being hungry, but they thought Jesus was no where to be found. Jesus said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” He got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.””
This story reminds me of a Sunday evening when the disciples were gathered in a room with the door locked because they were afraid. Where was Jesus? The last they had seen him was when his body was placed in a tomb. Then Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.”
So It Is With Us
So it is with us. It’s been a long week, a long year, a long life. Christians are not immune from difficult and hard lives. Christians are not free from sorrows and heartaches. For some of us it’s sickness, for others its financial burdens, for others its family concerns, and then there are a host of other worries.
In fact, as Christians, we are asked not only to take care of our own needs but also to care for the needs of others. Saint Paul wrote, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2 When do we get to rest? When do we get to feel safe and secure?
It’s that way with the church too. Congregations are not immune from difficult times. The church has battled against false doctrines. Our culture questions the Word of God on topics like abortion and marriage. It would be so nice if the church could be at rest without worrying about membership numbers and budgets and politics.
After a long day, it seems like Jesus just keeps telling us as Christians to get into the boat. We are in the sea and the wind is blowing and we just keep rowing and rowing without seeming to get anywhere. We wonder about Jesus, does he care for us.
We row and row exerting all of our energy trying to get ourselves out of the situations in which we find ourselves. At our lowest point, we aren’t really sure what to think about Jesus. Our hearts, like the disciples, question why Jesus seems to help others but not us.
We ask questions like, “why Lord have you left me here alone in this situation?” “Why haven’t You intervened?” “Are you even here with me? Are You listening to my cries for mercy? Do you even care about what I’m going through?”
Because we do not see Jesus fixing everything in our life, making it all good and perfect, our faith questions, “who is this Jesus?” Even people of faith, who have been baptized and taught the Good News about Jesus can break the first commandment. We do not fear, love, and trust in Jesus above all things and in all circumstances.
Jesus says to you, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus does not leave you alone to deal with the storms of your life by ourselves. Jesus does not want you to live in fear. He wants you to “take heart.” Jesus tells us, “I did not come into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved.”
He wants your heart to be filled with faith in him, regardless of what situations you find yourself. Jesus wants his church to know that he is in the boat with all who believe. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church, the body of Christ.
The disciples were afraid and we share that fear. They did not trust that the Lord Jesus would see them through the storm just as we often fail to trust in him who came into the world for us.
Jesus fed the 5000, he calmed the storm, and he healed the sick. He is the creator of all things and there is nothing that is not subject to his power. Jesus is the redeemer of all things. He came to earth to redeem you, he came to live for you and die for you.
Jesus came with the promise that through the gift of faith in him there is nothing that can defeat you. He has paid for your sins so that your conscience can be free from guilt and your body free from everlasting death.
Saint Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8
Your sins are forgiven and you have the promise of eternal life. There is no greater gift that you can receive. “Take heart” Jesus says to you, right here and right now! “It is I!” he says, “Do not be afraid!”
Yes, in spite of your circumstances, in spite of the stormy sea raging all around you, He says, “I am with you always even to the very end of the age.” Jesus comes to you not to bring judgment and death, but forgiveness and life. He comes for you, not against you. He promises that in your weakness he is your strength.
How do you know this for sure? You have His Word on it. Just as he made a promise to Noah and his family, he has made a promise to you. He promised that in baptism, with his word and the water, you are given the gift of faith and forgiveness. In his supper, with his word, bread and wine, you receive his very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sin and the strengthening of your faith.
Saint Paul wrote, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” When Paul prayed that his “thorn in the flesh” be taken away, the Lord answered his prayer with these words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Jesus says to you, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is not a ghost, not a figment of your imagination. He did not come to terrify you. Jesus came to take away your fear; he came to give you peace.
Do not fear, Jesus sees your needs. Not only does he see your needs he knows how best to care for you. He knows better than you do, he knows better than the philosophers of the world do.
Jesus promises that the wind and the waves of your troubled life will cease. He will end them when the time is right. Until then he is with you. In him is gladness amidst all sadness because he is your Redeemer.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria