Who Can This Be?
In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Matthew 8:27: And the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord. If only the disciples, who were in the boat with Jesus, would be able to attend our service today and hear the readings and engage in the parts of today’s worship. Then maybe, just maybe they would not have asked such a seemingly mindless question about Jesus, “Who can this be?” If they could have been here they would have known what the psalmist says in the words we chanted earlier: “They cry out to Yahweh in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still… They see the works of Yahweh, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea.”
If we were there and if we knew then what we know now, we certainly would not have asked that same question. Why, the Bible is full of proofs that it is God, the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth who is the Ruler of all things; He is the one who holds all things in His hands.
And yet, so many people in our world today do not know God or believe in Jesus. So many people choose simply to deny the one thing that will give them salvation, forgiveness, and peace of mind. So many people are still asking, in one way or another, “Who can this be?”
At sporting events either at school or watching on TV, people can become so easily and so totally vocal (and a bit ridiculous). Folks can get extremely riled up at those events, and often do not worry about being seen or heard. To be sure, I am not advocating screaming, yelling, or jumping up and down in the Divine Service, but where is that energy when it comes to the Divine Service? Where is that enthusiasm when it comes to God delivering to us His holy Body and Blood? Where is the unbridled joy when it comes to God speaking His forgiveness to us in the Absolution, and giving us His Holy Spirit through Holy Baptism?
At the very least we can certainly add our Amen, loud and strong, to the prayers and the Communion Table dismissal; and, even if we don’t have the best of voices, we can sing and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Isn’t His love and forgiveness worthy of our best effort? Isn’t the liturgy, which is nothing less than Scripture set to a certain order – isn’t that worthy of our very best effort? Are not God’s good and holy and perfect gifts worthy of our wholehearted participation and response? Of course they are.
In our text for this morning the disciples had all kinds of incentive to cry out to Jesus. They were in a storm, the waves were battering the boat, and they all thought they were going to drown and die. It was easy for them to call upon Jesus for help; they had no choice, and their faith meant a lot to them at that particular moment. And when Jesus calmed the storm and saved those who were in the boat, they were absolutely amazed at what He could do, and said, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
What kinds of incentive do you need in order to cry out to God and His Son Jesus Christ? Do you just cry out to Him when you have no other choice? Do you pray only when things are not going well and you need instant help? Do you just keep Jesus at arm’s length until you absolutely need Him? Does Jesus mean something to you only during this hour of worship on Sunday morning and the rest of the week no one would know that you have saving faith in Him? Do you even know what to say to someone who might ask you, “Who is this man?”
The church and her pastors are often criticized for requiring the catechumens – both young and old – to memorize portions of Scripture and the Catechism. Yet I know of no better answer to the question, “Who is Jesus” than the Second Article of the Creed and its meaning which is based squarely on Scripture. When asked, “Who is Jesus?” each and every one of us should know and be able to respond this way: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord; who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness; just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true!”
Is Jesus just someone we come together on Sundays to talk about? I certainly hope not! In fact, if anyone has or gets that impression, they certainly didn’t get it from this place! The people of God hear in no uncertain terms each and every week that Jesus is not just another good man, not just some great teacher, not some good-deed-doer that gives people a good feeling all over.
No! Here in the church is where God delivers the full benefit of His saving work in Jesus Christ through the means and ways He has determined. We don’t need to look any further than this pulpit, this font, and this altar for God’s saving gifts to us. Through the spoken and preached Word, through water and the Word, and through wine and bread and body and blood and Word God continuously delivers to us the full benefits and blessings of what Christ has accomplished for us on the cross.
We have no reason to walk around “feeling” forgiven; in fact, that would be something less than God intends. We believe we are forgiven; we KNOW we are forgiven. We receive forgiveness because God has said so in His Word and tells us again and again through the mouth of His pastors. That is specifically what happens in the Absolution, whether it is the general Absolution spoken earlier in the liturgy or whether it is spoken at the altar, one-on-one, Pastor to penitent, in private confession and absolution.
We KNOW and believe we are forgiven, and we hear it from the Scripture readings and through the sermon. We believe and KNOW we are forgiven; we receive forgiveness in Holy Baptism which gives forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.
We believe and KNOW we are forgiven; we receive forgiveness when we come to the rail to receive Christ’s real and physical body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine for the forgiveness of our sins. It is as our confession states: “These words, ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ show us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.”
So, dear people of God, come regularly to the foot of the cross and exercise your Christian freedom and great privilege to confess and be absolved. Come regularly to the body and blood of Jesus for forgiveness and strength. Daily remember your baptism in which God placed His name on you, called you His own, and gave you forgiveness and His Holy Spirit. Be in attendance at the Divine Service where you gather with those of the same faith and confession to strengthen each other with each other.
Why? Because we are sinners in desperate need of a Savior and the forgiveness He delivers. We have a desperate need for our Lord Jesus constantly to deliver to us the benefits of His life, suffering, and death, things which He needed to endure for us and for our salvation. Come to the church, which is the “mouthhouse” of God’s forgiveness. Earnestly desire His gifts and receive them by God-given faith. Not one day goes by without your need for God and His more than ample certainty through His gifts to us.
Who can this be that even the winds and the sea obey Him? He is the Lord to whom we cry out… in [our] trouble, and He brings [us] out of [our] distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still… They see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea.
He is the Lord, the only Son of God, the only Savior of all mankind, your Savior, redeemer, comforter, healer, and deliverer.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.