Holy Gospel Mark 6:45–56 Immediately [Jesus] made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. And after He had taken leave of them, He went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and He was alone on the land. And He saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but 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. But immediately He spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized Him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard He was. And wherever He came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored Him that they might touch even the fringe of His garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Many years ago, my devotion for the morning was this same text. I recall it very vividly; it was entitled: “Ich bin’s.” Yes, it was our LCMS Taegliche Andachten. That is German for daily devotions and the title was “I am.” It was taken from this verse, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” That is, “It is I.” That is the same words what Moses asked for from the Burning Bush episode namely, “Whom shall I say sent me?” And God answered, “I am.” It the same words Jesus used when He was arrested. The soldiers said they were seeking Jesus of Nazareth and He answered, “I am” and the text goes on to say they fell to the ground.
“I am” that is in Hebrew “Yahweh” which was how the Jews called God. The Jews were actually afraid to use that Name. They took His Name so seriously in the 2nd Commandment that they would never use His Name at all, lest at some point they would speak that Holy Name in vain! To guard against even reading the Name aloud from the Scriptures, they would substitute another name. When a group of Jewish scholars updated the Hebrew text they combined that substituted name with the real name and therefore Yahweh became Jehovah which is not really a name at all.
Nevertheless, going back to our text, the apostles being in danger at sea and being frightened when they thought they saw a ghost only needed to hear one thing and that was “I am!”
From their Jewish teachings, they would know, I am — He who created this world. I am He who called order into the chaos of this earth which was void and without form. I am He who created life. I am He who parted the Red Sea and gave manna from heaven and caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down.
And now speaking from their own experience, Jesus could say to them, “I am He who turned the water into wine. I am He healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. I am He who fed the 5000 with a small amount of food.” “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
And this text comes down to you and to me. This Hymn says it so well: The Lord hath helped me hitherto By His surpassing favor; His mercies every morn were new, His kindness did not waver. God hitherto hath been my Guide, Hath pleasures hitherto supplied And hitherto hath helped me. Or how about this one? Through many dangers, toils and snares… we have already come. T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far… and Grace will lead us home.
Who here cannot identify with these hymns? Who here hasn’t been through some dangerous, if not rough moments and has overcome them? Speaking for myself, I have lost track with the number of time that I have escaped bad situations and the only answer was divine intervention.
I have had 3 if not 4 serious operations that were a matter of life and death and I stand before you here very much alive. In the army, even in peace time, I was in two situations where I was almost killed. Back home also a few episodes. And then there were the countless times when an angel prevented things which I never realized were dangers. The angel took care of them before they even happened!
You could also tell of those situations and you also did not know the number of times when things were avoided because some angel intervened.
And yes, there were times when bad things have happened. We have all experienced death of loved ones, we have all had our share of cuts and bruises. We have all faced problems that at the time were overwhelming. St James says this: “Count it all as joy my friends, when you meet the various trials, for they will build you up in your faith.”
In those moments, in those difficulties, in that sufferings, in that grief, in that storm in the sea of our life, Jesus comes and He says, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
There were also times in the life of the Church when it seemed as though Satan had the last word. In the 1st three centuries, Christians were severely persecuted. Before the Reformation, it seemed again that Satan had won when the very Gospel was not proclaimed but a works righteousness. In our own Synod’s history at the very beginning when our forefathers even considered leaving America and going back to Germany, the Church pulled together and started to grow by leaps and bounds. In my day in the Late 60’s and 70’s, it seemed as though our Synod was going to go the way of all modern Protestantism, but we pulled together and were stronger for it.
In reading the history of this congregation there were also turbulent times. In the 1960s there were some issues over the sale of some land having to do with the school. Some members were lost. And here last August there was also a problem.
Jesus said if we had faith even as small as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. It doesn’t take a doctorate in theology to apply it here to our situation. If we have faith, this church can be on the move again and be both an exciting place to worship and fellowship, but also an active force within the community.
If you feel this church is in a storm like a ship that is about to sink, then listen again to Jesus who says- “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” “Lo, I am with you always.” “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Amen!
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