Don’t confuse calm with peace

Matthew 14:22–33

It’s easier to talk about the Jesus who walks on water than the Jesus who made the disciples get in the boat before the winds and waves pulled their boat from land and soaked the disciples to their bones. It’s easier to talk about the Jesus who didn’t have to take baths as a kid if He didn’t want to than it is to wrestle with the God who clearly has control of the waves since He made them stop, but let this thing go until the 4th watch of the night.

The wind was against them. Which is an understatement sort of like when someone asks you “how’s it going?” and you say “OK”. The wind was against them in the kind of way that took control of their boat from them. The wind was against them in the kind of way that the water doesn’t splash them. It beats them. These fishermen spent enough time on the water to know that if they go under in the dark in a storm like that, they’ll die. They’re surrounded by death right now. And it’s washing over them just to make clear the point.

It’s great that Jesus walked on water in a storm, but if you ignore the reality that He also made the disciples go out into what just might have killed them, you’ll miss the point. Both were done out of mercy. It’s easy to find the Jesus who walks on water then calms the storm, then squint so you don’t realize the He just might be saving the disciples from Himself. In the middle of the night, surrounded by death, the deeper truth is that Jesus rescued the disciples from the misconception that calm is the same as peace.

When Christianity confuses calm for peace, it offers neither. But still, so often, we want to describe our faith as a calmed storm, not a present Lord. We gravitate towards pictures of sunsets on the beach, scenic mountains, and quiet plains. Calm. They’re beautiful. The problem with the scenic using landscapes to symbolize your faith as a calm feeling isn’t just that those moments are few and far between. The pictures of calm are nicer, but don’t help anyone in the middle of a storm. It’s easier to stand on shore and appreciate the miracle of Jesus walking on water than it is to sing hymns while trying to keep the boat from overturning in the waves. But when Christianity is an unshakable calm feeling, the only place people can’t admit to struggling is the church, the one place God built as a refuge for them.

We imagine that a thriving faith is the kind that can walk on water and not sink, but I wonder how many of the people who’d criticize St. Peter for the doubt that sunk him into the sea also took swimming lessons. “When Peter saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”” When Christianity confuses calm for peace, anyone who gets caught struggling in it must be measured by their struggle and not their God. So we’d count Peter as weak, not rescued.

“O ye of little faith, why did you doubt?” O ye of little faith, why would you think that would stop God from working? O ye of little faith, doubt all you want. It won’t stop God from pulling you out of the water. The disciples were anything but calm. Peter doubted. God still saved. All of this is given to you so you’ll stop measuring the storm, stop measuring the calm, stop measuring your faith, and start looking to your God. “Lord, save me” might not be the cry of someone who can walk on water without a care, but it’s the faith that turns toward the God who rescues us. It’s not that doubt is good. It’s that God is so good He won’t wait until we have everything figured out to draw near and save.

Even as He does it, the disciples wrestling with the storm they know is death to them. Jesus walks right over death while they struggle with it and they figure He’s a ghost because they think the only thing that can walk on death is from evil. But God promises. Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid. Because the best place to find God is in the middle of the storm, walking over death. The best place to find God is on the cross, then rising from the dead. This isn’t just a Christianity that endures the storm. It’s one that thrives in spite of the storm.

Because some storms, God sends, others, the devil, the prince of the air. You’ll never sort it out in the middle. The only difference is Jesus uses His to drive you closer to Himself, the devil uses his to pull you farther. God tests to strengthen faith. The devil tempts to destroy it. So stop questioning where it came from and instead look to the God who draws near to save regardless. Always.

In reality Christianity is not Christians copying Jesus to walk on water. It’s Jesus pulling up sinking sinners. Even though we doubt, Christ pulls us out of the water. Even though we lose focus on God in the storm, He doesn’t lose focus on us. He reaches down into death and pulls us back out. He dies upon the cross for you and rises from the dead, taking you with Him. And if Christ can pull you out of the grave, go ahead and let your calm be damaged. Set aside the idea that calm is the same as peace. Peace is knowing God draws near to save those who struggle. Those who sin. Those who doubt. Those who sink. Peace is knowing Jesus joins you in the storm to pull you out of death. Peace can exist in the storm because Jesus will be in it too. That means we can even find peace when we sink into death. God will only pull us back out to life.

When Christianity confuses calm for peace, it offers neither. Because I wish I could promise you that if you just believe enough, you’ll walk on water and nothing bad will ever happen, but you won’t. I can’t. But worse, you’ll never have peace in the storms that do come, no matter who sends them, because you’ll only measure God’s presence by whether or not the wind’s blowing, not whether or not He’s there with you to pull you out of the water. Forget calm. Know the peace that surpasses understanding. Know the Jesus who draws near to save.

Jesus gives peace that doesn’t need calm, just a promise from the God who saves sinners. You don’t have to be afraid of the water. You don’t have to be afraid of the prince of the air and the storm. Maybe the waves beat you too, but they cannot hurt you. You see, you have already been stung by water. You have already been drowned once. In baptism, the old Adam inside us was stung, and he was drowned, so that just as Christ would die and rise, we would die and rise with Him. Just as Christ has risen above death and the grave, we too will rise. In our baptism, just as Christ walks above the waters, we will be brought with Him, over any wave, through any storm.

Christianity is the promise of peace given in Jesus. He is with us, in our baptisms, until that last hour at the very end of the night when Jesus returns to his boat. On that glorious last hour, when Christ returns to us as Judge, the wind will cease, because satan, the prince of the air, is once and for all defeated. On that day all our troubles will end, all our pain will vanish, and we will live with our Lord and Savior forever in peace. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Don’t confuse calm with peace

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