Matthew 14:22-33 & Romans 10:5-17 (NIV)
Over these weeks, in the common lectionary, we come across a number of Jesus’ miracles through Matthew’s gospel. We are also lucky to hear in these weeks through Romans – much of Paul’s attempt to get us to understand our call to the faith that Jesus professed and acted on.
One of the ways to read these passages is by seeing them as the two essential elements for evangelism – or more literally – spreading the good news.
In Matthew 14, we know the story well – Jesus meeting the disciples on the Sea of Galilee – as his defies the laws of nature and science. But even more amazing, he allows his disciple Peter to experience the same gifting (even if it is only temporary).
Interestingly, Peter is raised out of the water by Jesus, before they get in the boat. That is, Peter probably had his two encounters in walking on water.
Firstly, when he kept his eyes on Jesus and secondly, when he held onto Jesus.
But this is a story of action – commanding, telling, praying, going, dismissing, climbing, sinking, calling, worshipping and reaching out and catching. It is Jesus reaching out to us, and catching us that leads to our worship of him. There is a great universality of message in this story. It is the action of Jesus (as well as his teaching) that eventually leads Simon, son of Jonah, to become Peter – the rock on which Christ will build his church (Chapter 16:17-19).
An incredible transformation when you think about his actions in Chapter 14 – at the feeding of the 5000 in disbelief of Christ’s abilities and his own God-given gifts. Peter, like you and like me, will falter – think of his denial of Jesus in Chapter 26 and his desertion of Jesus and fleeing into the night. But Peter is redeemed enough to know that Christ is the God of Second Chances. His flame, I believe, is lit that night by Jesus and Jesus’ actions on the Sea of Galilee.
We come forward two decades to the time when Paul is putting together his letter to the Romans. We hear about Paul’s actions in Luke’s book – The Acts – but here Paul is at pains to give his readers on understanding of the characteristics of a Christ follower.
Yes, again like in the gospel reading, action words are important. The one who calls upon the name of the lord, the one who trusts in him, the one who is sent forth.
Think of these words also in the actions of Peter getting out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee.
Here in this short passage, as well as doing words, there is much repetition of certain ‘being’ words. Faith is written three times – ‘By your Faith’, ‘A Word of Faith’ and ‘Faith Comes’.
The Heart is mentioned four times – always in reference to one’s inner being and ‘belief’ or ‘believe’ is mentioned five times – as an identifier of a follower as well as an action.
Further, words like ‘righteousness’, ‘saved’, ‘trusting’ and ‘justified’ also speak of the ‘being’ of the Christ follower.
So what do we do with that?
Even if we didn’t read beyond verse 14, Paul makes the point in Ephesians 4 when he almost repeats the words of Romans 10, verse 5-7 (about Jesus ascending and descending) before saying in verse 11 ‘It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers’. These people all proclaim the good news in some way.
In our reading Paul is at pains to now move us from human ‘beings’ into Christians who combine the being and the doing. But in particular, by telling others the good news in ‘words’ that they hear proclaimed. He says boldly, ‘Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the words of Christ.’ (verse 17).
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a comedy game show on the ABC called Hard Quiz.
The host, Tom Gleeson, asks questions from the contestant’s area of speciality, but often throws in personal quips about each contestant, their views, body shape, age, clothing, etc.
A young man on the show, was able to mention the name of Jesus twice in the time he was on the show. His special subject was the American TV show ‘Friends’. When Gleeson asked if he had any of his own friends – he said something like ‘It’s just me and Jesus sometimes.’ The interchange brought him some derision from Gleeson, but it also gave him the opportunity to have people hear the name of Jesus but not as a profanity.
In the second interchange – as the contestant backed off the stage after losing the play-off – Gleeson said ‘unlike Jesus you won’t be returning in three days. A clever line, maybe, but one that may create some conversations for the young man and maybe get one or two of the 100 000 viewers thinking.
Let’s all take the opportunities to do the work of the evangelist when they appear, and be reminded that we can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, as he reaches out to catch you too.