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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC)                   Sermon # 1245

February 28, 2016                                                  Luke 8:22-25

Dr. Ed Pettus                                                           Luke 9:10-17

 

“Jesus, The Miracle Maker”

 

  • Miracles Abound

 

What is it that makes something a miracle? Is it that it goes beyond natural means, a supernatural event? Is it simply that it is God who has done it? Maybe we use the term miracle or miraculous more than we should. Sometimes we say it in joking when someone does something we might not expect and we joke about it being miraculous. Like when someone who has not worked a day in his life for 30 years and then gets a job. It's a miracle! Other times we might talk about medical means that someone might be healed when the odds were stacked against them. The obvious miracles are those that happen beyond belief. Someone is healed through prayer or the laying on of hands or both. But we also might consider it miraculous when God gives the ability to heal through medicine or proper nutrition or exercise. Is it no less a miracle when something harmful is cured no matter the means?

 

Today we examine two miracles from Jesus. When we look at many, if not all, of the miracles and what occurs, it is a move from disorder to order, impossible to possible, creation undone to re-creation, or the in the case of our first story today, chaos to calm.

 

  • From Chaos to Calm

 

 22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them,“Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23 and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24 And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25 He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (ESV)

 

A storm arose – chaos on the water. If you've ever been on the water in a storm, you might know something of what the disciples experienced. (Share ocean storm story.) The disciples are afraid for their lives. They have no control over the situation. There is not much we can do against the force of nature, especially on the sea. We can hold on, ride it out, but so often we are simply at the mercy of the storm. We watch the news about snow coming and we might rush to the store for milk and bread. We might take in the plants, but there is nothing we can do to stop the storm. Certainly the meteorologists will keep an eye on it for us. They make it sound like they have some control, but we know they do not. The disciples have perhaps done all they know to do and they have no hope of surviving. They wake Jesus and shout, “Master, master, we are perishing!” “Perishing” is the word used in the ESV. I like it better than simply “drowning.” It captures a larger context of perishing in a spiritual sense, perishing in our sin, perishing in our lack of faith. Drowning might not even be the main issue in this story. Perishing is the more significant issue.

Jesus does wake up and he rebukes the wind and the waves. The wind dies down, and the waters calm. Biblically, water is often a metaphor for chaos. Chaos might be defined as anything that seeks to prevent us from trusting in God. Pharaohs (governments), golden calves(idols), raging storms, sin, death, cancer, violence, terrorism, war, any and all are chaotic forces that seek to separate us from the wholeness of being in God. When the waves pounce on the boat, the chaos of possible death threatens, but Jesus is not disturbed in the least for he knows that chaos has already been conquered. Chaos has no power against us.

Jesus quickly calms the sea and turns to the disciples with a question. “Where is your faith?” Jesus cuts them to the core of their fears and their faith, or lack of faith. Jesus’ question changes the focus of the story from the calming of a storm to the lack of a calming faith within the disciples.

There was chaos on the water but there is also chaos in the disciples. We know chaos in our sin. Jesus is the one who brings that chaos back to order through forgiveness.

We get caught up in the storms of life or the storms of sin and sometimes we might forget the one who works a miracle in us to bring order in our lives. Jesus is the miracle maker who makes and works miracles for us on a daily basis.

What I want us to see is what Jesus said in the story and what the disciples said he did. Look at the two words used to describe what Jesus did. Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waters. The disciples respond by saying that Jesus commands even the winds and the water – and they obey him! The miracle is Jesus speaking to the storm. He rebukes and commands. What the disciples notice is that the wind obeys. Obedience to God's word, to God's command, even creation itself knows that obedience is the proper response to God. Unfortunately, what makes humankind unique in all of God's creation is the ability to disobey. Creation will always say yes, but we will sometimes say no.

Jesus commands and our miraculous response is obedience! When we are obedient, our chaos becomes calm.

 

  • One Big Picnic

 

 10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

 

 

The second story today also involves Jesus speaking. There are four important words in the story. He took the loaves and the fish and he gave thanks (blessing), broke it and gave it to them to pass around. The main verb, the verb of miracle, I believe, is giving thanks. This miracle is reminiscent of the Lord's supper, the same verbs of take, thank, break, and give.

This is a story about scarcity. The disorder is that there is not enough food to feed the crowd. What an amazing juxtaposition between the scarcity of food and the Lord of abundance. We tend to live in the world of perceived scarcity, always thinking there is not enough. So we live as if we need to get more. It is the curse of the consumer society. It is rarely enough for us to simply be satisfied with enough. We desire and plan for more than enough. We do so in ways that refuses to trust in Jesus to provide. I don't think we need to go into the details of this story, but let us see how the word of Jesus produces abundance, the miracle of abundance.

It is significant that Jesus gave thanks. He probably gave thanks for what they had and for what they were about to receive. It is a mentality of possibility in God's provision. It is believing that God works miracles to provide for what we need. Simply being cared for is a miracle of God. Receiving our daily bread is a miracle. It is why we give thanks at every meal. It is why we have a blessing before we dig in. The miracles are not just in the amazing spectacles of calming storms or feeding 5000 people, but in the everyday miracles of forgiving sin and providing lunch. Miracles happen in obedience and trust. Miracles compel us to give thanks.

 

 

  • Jesus, The Miracle Maker

 

Jesus Christ is the miracle maker. We see it when he speaks his word of power in the midst of a rocking boat or an empty table. The miracles are in the acts or words of re-creation. The chaos of a storm or the lack of food in the presence of the Lord of abundance is an opportunity for renewing the created order. Miracle is knowing that nothing is impossible with God.

 

Remember Mary's story and the words of the angel…

 

 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:36-38 ESV)

Our miracle is believing God's words, being obedient and in giving thanks that he will feed us.

When I think about how Jesus speaks in making miracles it reminds me of Paul when he writes...

  17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  (Romans 4:17 ESV)

 

Jesus, the miracle maker, calls into existence the things that do not exist. Calm waters did not exist until Jesus spoke them into existence. Enough food to satisfy did not exist until Jesus called it into existence. He called for obedience in the wind and for thanksgiving in the abundance of daily bread and fish.

From our two miracle stories today we see connections to obedience and to thanksgiving. These are vital characteristics of living the Christian life. These are marks of discipleship. They may even set the stage for the miracles of God!

Think of some of the things for which we need a miracle. One might think that our nation needs a miracle. What if deeper obedience and thanksgiving could bring about national revival? Maybe the church needs to become more obedient to the words of the Bible and give thanks to God. Jesus is the one who can speak a word to produce miracles, but there is power in our words as well. The power to encourage, to pray, to proclaim, or to make something happen. There is power in obedience and thanks, power in worship and prayer, power in Bible reading and service. All it takes is the faith of a tiny seed...For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:20. In the kingdom of God where nothing is impossible, so it is also with those who follow him!

There are lots of miracle stories in the Bible and there are lots of miracle stories that continue to happen today. They continue because God still speaks. God is at work bringing order to chaos and abundance to scarcity. Trust in that and give thanks! Amen.