In downtown Chicago, in the Willis Tower (or, as it was formerly known: The Sears Tower) is something called: “The Ledge.” Now, “The Ledge” is the name of a glass box measuring about 7 feet high, 4 ½ feet long, and 6 feet wide. Its ceiling, floor, and three walls
Maybe there’s one more thing you would like to know about “The Ledge.” It’s attached to the outside wall on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower. That’s right. If you wish to look out for 50 miles and across four states you must step into this glass box that stands 1,353 feet over Wacker Drive in downtown Chicago. And yes, in case you were wondering, the floor beneath your feet is made entirely of glass; you can see everything below you.
Can you do it? Would you zip up 103 stories and walk into a little box made entirely out of glass and stand 1,353 feet over the ground? Would you place your entire weight into this box, lean against its walls, and (maybe even) take a hop in it? It might be difficult. You know gravity still pulls on you even if you step into something outside the Tower. Your senses tell you to stand on firm ground. Everything you see tells you not to enter the box. In order to step onto “The Ledge,” you must trust the assurance of the engineers.
So often we trust what is seen— even if it means trusting our senses and thinking instead of the promises of Jesus. That is why Jesus gives you word of confidence this morning: Take Courage! Jesus is with you! Do not be afraid.
He does more than just say these words; powerful miracles trumpet his message. Just last week, you watched Jesus take five loaves of bread and two fish— really a meal best suited for a mother and child— and [he takes them and] he feeds over 5,000 people with these little scraps! The disciples run around, panic over dinner preparations, but Jesus not only feeds this crowd, but gives them more than enough to eat! That miracle demonstrates a crystal-clear truth: Your Jesus uses his power as God to provide for you.
Your Jesus— not you! Jesus provides for you, either (1) by using miracles to give you what you need for life or (2) by using your abilities and your talents and your friends to fill your life with blessings. He does this so that you and I, like the disciples, no longer scramble around, fretting about the things you need! He does this so that you may place your complete trust in him and in his Word and in his power.
So, how is your trust? Did you leave worship last week and all your fears floated away? Did you live worry-free? …anxiety-free? …stress-free? At each meal, did you, like Jesus, give thanks to God for the food you have? Did you look at your [grand]child and recognize your financial limitations, but then found comfort in God’s unlimited power to provide a secure future? Did you sit in the waiting room and place your health squarely in Jesus’ hands? At very instant stress appeared, did you immediately run to Jesus? If you are like me, it’s a lesson slowly learned. And it’s no different for the disciples either.
As soon as the disciples finish picking up the leftover bread and fish, Jesus made the[m] get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side[…] So, these lifelong fishermen hop into a 30-foot boat, drop the sails, and take off— but, they don’t make it far. About 3 ½ miles out, the winds start picking up. These are not little gusts, but winds blasting up to 70 miles per hour. Waves heave, repeatedly lifting this little boat three, six, eight feet into the air, and drop it right into the pit of the sea. They fight this storm for hours— from dinner time to the fourth watch (which is around 3:00am).
Just when it seems that this struggle cannot get much worse, it does. Off in the darkness stands a shadowy silhouette— watching, walking, coming right to them! It has a torso, arms, head— a face! “It’s a ghost!” they said, and [they] cr[y] out in fear. What are they going to do? Is this an omen of death? Are they going to die? Can they fight this ghost and chase him away? A few of them thrust their arms into the water, feverishly paddling— but they get nowhere. Hearts pound; stomachs drop; fear paralyzes them. For twelve people who just witnessed the Son of God feed thousands, all they can manage to do in this trouble is hopelessly, desperately weep.
Have they forgotten what they just saw? Did it even enter their mind that they could immediately find rescue in a God who does miracles? It is a lesson slowly learned. It is a lesson that needs to hear the voice of Jesus say again and again: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Those words penetrate Peter’s heart. In the midst of whipping winds and heaving waves, Peter sees Jesus for who he truly is: the Son of the Almighty God. The moment Jesus says: “Come!” Peter [gets] down out of the boat, walk[s] on the water and c[o]me[s] toward Jesus. This is not a sleight-of-hand trick. Matthew, the author of these words, is not making these events up. Peter walks on waves and through winds— and he does not sink! Why? Because Jesus has the power to keep him afloat.
Peter sees trouble. He hears howling wind. He sees terrifying waves. Our brains would sense danger; water can claim life. Yet, Jesus made a promise: “Come! Come, you will be safe. Come, I will keep you from drowning. Come, it is I—Jesus.” Faith grasps the promises of Jesus and considers them true even when our minds do not see how.
But when [Peter] saw the wind… and waves taller than himself… and the billions of gallons of water… he was afraid. For just a moment, he took his faith off the promise of Jesus and placed it onto his human thinking. His brain says: “Human beings sink in water”. His mind screams: “This cannot be! People drown! Not even Jesus can keep you safe!” And he begin[s] to sink.
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” What answer could Peter give? What could he say?
What could you or I possibly say? Yes, you probably did not attempt walking on a lake last week, but you still carry the promises of God. Did you trust them even when it felt difficult to take God at his Word? Jesus himself says: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18). Yet, your eyes see new threats from North Korea. Your mind compares American military against Korean missiles. Maybe you doubt that Jesus has authority in this missile crisis—because your eyes see the missiles, but do not see the deliverance.
Your God promises: The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer (1 Peter 3:12). Yet, your son still battles cancer. You see the tumors spreading. Your mind recalls the years of praying. You feel that God is not listening to you; you doubt that his ears are open to someone like you— and if he’s not listening, then it’s up to you to care for the future of your child.
Your God says: Call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you (Psalm 50:15). Yet, you’re still behind on bills. You’re still in rehab. Your spouse still died relatively young. Your family still argues. You’re still not happy. You feel as though God is not present. You do not see him helping you. You do not hear improvements. Your mind wonders what is truly real: (1) does God really love you or (2) is he lying to you?
So often, the troubles we see overwhelm any trust in God’s promises. So, the answer behind: “Why did you doubt [my Word]?” “Because I trusted myself more than I could trust you, Jesus. I reasoned what you are and are not capable of handling. I concluded that you have limitations, Jesus. Therefore, I could not trust you. I consider you untrustworthy, an exaggerator, a liar.” If that is what our doubt says about him, then Jesus would have every reason to let us wallow in our problems.
Yet, he does not. Instead, your God keeps his Word. The moment Adam and Eve ran away from him, God saved them immediately. In fact, he made a promise: You will have a Savior (Genesis 3:15). Century after century God repeated this promise—and believers who lived before Jesus trusted those words. Faith is sure of what we hope for--even when we do not yet see its fulfillment (Hebrews 11:1).
You see God keep his Word. You watched a Savior whose life is filled with perfect trust in his Father. You grasp his dying breath: It is finished (John 19:30). With those few words Jesus declares you forgiven. Every single time you doubted God’s ability to keep his Word, Jesus wipes clear. Like he did Peter, Jesus saves you from drowning in hell forever because you (and I) dared to doubt his unbreakable Word.
My friends, let Jesus’ words sink in. Let them enter your ears, flow through your mind, and penetrate your heart. “Take courage!” Jesus says to you. Just look at the verb. This present tense verb tells you the action keeps happening. To the disciples: “Take courage now!” …in the storm …as you row to the other side …after you reach the other side … next week as you travel throughout cities. The month after, the year after, the decade later— Take courage! Have no fear. This is not a suggestion; it is a command: Take courage! This is why: “It is I.”
This “I” is none other than the Son of God. This is the One through whom heaven and earth is knit together. This is the One who takes bread and fish in his hands, and with no effort, provides a feast! This is the One who has the authority to stand on choppy water and walk through waves! This is the One who has inscribed his promises on the pages of Scripture so that you may read them, grasp them, and live trusting in them. This is the One who has bound himself to his promises— telling you that it is impossible for him to lie (Numbers 23:19). This is the One who fills your heart with confidence and courage as you step out into the world. You may not always see the answer to every trouble. You may wonder how God will rescue you when it seems every option is gone. Yet, you lay aside your feelings and your thinking—and instead trust the unbreakable, always-kept-for-you-Word of God.
I’m not sure if I would zip up 103 stories and walk into a little box made entirely out of glass and stand 1,353 feet over the ground. I probably would not place my entire weight into this box, lean against its walls, and (maybe even) take a hop in it. Everything you see tells you not to enter the box.
Yet, you are able to run to the Word in every trouble. Why? Because in the Word Jesus reveals his power, his control, his authority, his victory. On the cross he demonstrates his infinite love for you. In a final glimpse, you watch him enter into a heaven that he prepares for you. Focus on Jesus’ unseen, but perfectly-reliable promises. Take Courage! Jesus is with you! Do not be afraid.