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Evan Earwicker: For Lunch, or for Life?, Matthew 14:1-20:34

March 14, 2024

Audio Recording

Jesus fed thousands and walked on water to teach us about reliance and trust, rebuking those who would misuse his miracles for personal gain. He invites his followers to embrace a life of selflessness and service, symbolized by taking up our crosses to follow him.

Westside Church Podcast
Westside Church Podcast
Evan Earwicker: For Lunch, or for Life?, Matthew 14:1-20:34

Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

I have a question for you. Are you a frugal person?

Yes, we have a frugal person.

Now, even if you're a big spender, you might also have a frugal mindset. Here's what I mean.

Maybe you, like me, have Midwest roots. So my grandfather was out of Minnesota. My other grandparents met and married in Iowa. And so I have these deep Midwest roots. And there's something about the Midwest mindset that whenever you spend money, if someone notices that you bought something, you have to immediately respond with the size of discount you got on that item.

Okay, so. Oh, those are nice shoes. Yeah, they paid me to take them. I would never spend a dime. And this is kind of the, even if there's no reason for it, this is how you respond to things. And you're always trying to out frugal the person next to you.

I know probably in some circles, like, everyone's trying to show off their status symbols and this car and this vacation home. But Midwest folks, they're trying to prove how little they spend and how they can still get by. I have a friend here at the church. He will go unnamed, but it's Stephen Webb. And from the Midwest, came out here, met his lovely wife, but came out of the Midwest. And he is like, next level of this. Okay? So he has introduced me to the world of points online. There are these communities that are obsessed with points. So credit card points, hotel points, airline mile points, all of this. And it is really a game to see who can get the most free stuff.

And the absurdity of some of these schemes to how to accrue points, to enter into these upper echelons of status within, like Hyatt or United Airlines, is absurd to the point where he didn't give me permission to share this, but I will.

In order to get up to the next diamond tier of this certain hotel chain, he and his friend were hiring people down in Mexico to check into hotel rooms that no one was staying in just so they can log those as part of their.

This is the Midwest mind, folks. It makes no sense. But this is where they live. This is how they operate.

And I appreciate this. I appreciate the frugality, and it speaks to this desire. I think that's in all of us, right? Because we live in a consumerist society. And if you're expecting me to come here, and this is terrible, we got to fight back against the consumer mindset. Like it or not, that's where we live, right? This is a consumer driven economy, a consumer driven society. And so we have a mindset that looks at every opportunity as, what can I get out of it? And what is dangerous, though, is when that leaks into relationships, right? Where now I'm a consumer of this relationship. What can I get from you at the least cost to me?

And maybe very much like that, it's very dangerous when we approach faith and we say, how can I get the most out of this with the least given to Jesus?

What's fascinating is we're going to see it today as Jesus walks around in the gospel of Matthew and he's healing people and he's feeding people, and there's this miraculous provision. 5000 people are fed in the wilderness. And then a few chapters later, 4000 more are fed. And Jesus starts to get this reputation as the bread guy.

He's the one that feeds us. And this is really appealing for the crowd.

And the disciples are watching this dynamic as Jesus is proving more and more just how convenient he is for needy people.

And they're thinking, man, a guy like this could go places because all these crowds are coming to him. And they're realizing that not only can he heal their diseases, but also when they get hungry and they're hungry a lot, he's got an answer for that, too. And so what it starts to create is this consumer dynamic between the crowd and Jesus.

And what we see in the mind of the disciples as they're watching this play out is we can leverage this kind of consumer attraction to Jesus into power.

We can leverage what Jesus can provide in a way that will get Jesus to lead this revolution that we're hoping for, and that Jesus will become the messiah when he leverages the ability to sway the crowds with what he can give them.

And Jesus forcefully responds to that. That is not my kingdom and I am not that king.

And every day since, we would do well in church places to remind ourselves that that is not the dynamic that Jesus came to set up in his church where we come and we say, what can we get from Jesus at the lowest cost to us so that we might increase our success or our status or that we will avoid circumstances that look like suffering or trouble or discomfort.

Instead, Jesus invites us not to approach him and say, where's my bread?

But to follow him. To follow him.

And what it looks like to follow him is different than what it looks like to approach him asking for something.

And maybe we start here, maybe we start with a need and we come to Jesus, and out of the goodness and the graciousness of the heart of God for humanity. Jesus meets needs much like he did over and over again in the gospels. But if we follow him long enough, we will get to a point where the goal of the interaction is not for us to get our lunch, but the goal is that he would say, will you follow me now when it stops being so much fun?

Will you follow me where I'm going? Because where I'm going looks like Jerusalem and a betrayal and a cross and a tomb.

But here's the coolest thing. If we can say yes to that, if we can say yes to that, Jesus knows that the tomb is not the end.

Because also in that invitation is the invitation to experience resurrection.

And those crowds, they got those few moments of free bread, wow, wasn't that good? Wasn't that amazing? But then they couldn't follow him anymore. They missed out on the greatest miracle. Bread's impressive. Resurrection is something on a whole different level.

And the church that Jesus is building, the church that Jesus is building is not the church of cheap bread, is not the church of the prosperity. Preachers that say, if you do this, God's going to do that. You'll have a perfect life, you'll be healthy and wealthy and nothing will ever go wrong.

That's the free bread church. What the church that Jesus is building is the resurrection church that doesn't shy away when we look at taking up our cross and following Jesus wherever he goes.

I kind of skipped through my intro into the main stuff.

I think I just woke up. First service, this daylight savings thing, I didn't have any coffee yet.

Both services energy is focusing right here. So this is good. You guys get it? All right. Now Jesus feeds 5000 and then he immediately withdraws into the mountains to pray. And he sends his disciples out on the lake.

And they're out on the lake as they had been many times before.

And Matthew chapter 14 says that the winds kick up again. A storm hits again. If you were here a few weeks ago, we talked through the storm. And in that storm, if you remember, Jesus was in the boat. He was sleeping in the boat during the storm. And so when the storm hit, the disciples knew what to do. They cried out to him, Jesus, wake up. Don't you care that we're going to drown? Well, this is different because Jesus is not with them in the boat. So the storm hits the lake and the disciples are fighting against the winds and the waves and their fishing boat out on the middle of the lake. And we find that at three in the morning, Jesus comes out to them, walking on the water. Walking on the water.

And the disciples, of course, have no idea what they're seeing when they see this man coming out of the waves. They think it's a ghost.

But Jesus says to them in Matthew 1427, don't be afraid. Take courage. I am here.

I am here.

What's so cool about the language he uses that doesn't come across in the translation? This might be in your footnote in your Bible, but when he says, I am here, it could be translated this way. The I am of Exodus, chapter three is here.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is now present in the middle of your storm. You're not going to die because God has come close to you.

And what I love about the plight of the disciples in this storm, more than the last storm in this storm, is they don't know that Jesus is close.

And this feels like my storms a lot.

The storms where, you know, like God is with me, it's going to be okay. This is hard, but we're going to make it through because I know Jesus is in my boat. That's wonderful. But how about those storms when it feels like Jesus is a thousand miles away, and then at some point he sent you out here alone and he's nowhere to be found, and you don't know how it's going to end, and you have no one to call out to because you are certain that God is far away. Man, that's how storms often feel in my life, and it's in those where we are not aware of the closeness of God. But unbeknownst to us, in the middle of the darkest night, Jesus has been making his way to us the whole time.

You don't get from the top of the mountain down to the surface of the lake quickly. That takes some time.

That takes some time. That takes Jesus noticing that a storm was coming and immediately setting out to rescue the ones he loved.

So that in the darkest moment, at three in the morning, as the waves threaten to swamp the boat, they don't know that God is close.

They have no idea that Jesus has been planning a rescue.

This is the heart of the gospel, that when we were far from him, we thought, certainly God is far from us.

That in the darkest night of the fiercest storm, God came close.

And this is the message that we've been experiencing as we've been walking through Matthew, chapter after chapter of Jesus, saying, hey, turn around because heaven is close to you.

It's a surprise.

You thought God was far. You thought God was ashamed of you. You thought God was mad at you.

But turn around and see, heaven has come close to you. The rescue has been in the works for longer than you were even aware.

This gives me hope today. And this is, I think, more than any other reason why I still love being in church is because I have this confidence that God is at work. Even when we get it wrong.

Even when we get it wrong. I was having this conversation with a friend this past week and we were swapping stories. We're both in ministry and we're sharing stories about the last 20 years or so in churches and church life and all the things that can go wrong.

Leaders and our own leadership decisions and all these things that just make for a roller coaster. Good days and bad days, good seasons and bad seasons. And he at one point stopped and he said, I'm surprised you're even still in it. Like, why didn't you leave?

And I thought about it and I think the reason I don't leave is maybe the reason that you're still here. For any of you who have been in church longer than about two and a half weeks, when you encounter humanity and sometimes that hurts you, and sometimes the spaces that feel like they should get it right, get it wrong.

Why we still show up in community is because somewhere deep we know this. The God's at work through his church.

And not just in church buildings, not just in sacred spaces set up for religious purposes, but in those that would consider themselves followers of Jesus.

That we, as the church of God, still have the life of the spirit at work amongst us. And we won't always get it right. Sometimes we get it terribly wrong.

I was talking about just some of the craziness of church history. I mean, we've gotten it so wrong.

About 300 years after this moment where Jesus is talking with his disciples, 300 years later, that's not a long time in the course of world history. And Constantine starts building these giant cathedrals.

And what was in the heart and mind of Jesus to be this beautiful community of relational gatherings around tables to celebrate the life of God amongst his people, became cathedrals and buildings. And if you didn't like it, the sword would kill you. That's not know. I think Jesus would turn. That's not cool, Constantine. That wasn't the idea, Constantine.

And you fast forward through church history and again and again we get it so wrong. Everything from the crusades to the spanish inquisition. But yet in between these things, we're building hospitals as Christians and we're leading Europe out of the dark ages with inventions and the printing press and pharmaceuticals. Can we celebrate pharmaceuticals anymore? I don't even know. But so much came out of christian movements of care where Christian brothers and sisters looked out on the world and they saw injustice and pain and suffering and starvation and poverty. And they said, we're going to do something about that because we are compelled by Christ in our world.

But then as soon as that happens, it feels like, oh, and now we're back into a really bad decision making by really corrupt leaders.

And so we can stand back and look at all that and we have a decision to make, like, do we stick with it? Do we stay in this thing that Jesus set up called the church? Or do we bail? And many have bailed. Many have left. But I believe this, that all throughout history, God has had a way of drawing hearts back to this person, of Jesus in the gospel, to course correct where we've gotten off the path, to be drawn back into the center of his heart and his will for hurting humanity, to announce this good news that heaven has come close and God's not mad at you.

And so as a community, and if you're new here to west side, hopefully you're hearing some of the things that make us who we are as a community, that we are desperately not here to prove how much we know or how we've got it right, but with a real desperation, we go back to Jesus, say, Jesus, lead us in the path that looks like the way of Jesus for humanity.

And we're doing this because of what happens in this next chapter.

So Jesus provides miracle bread in two different cities.

He walks on the storm, and he calms that storm for his disciples. And then they're sitting there, Jesus and his disciples in the north, in a town called Caesarea Philippi.

And jesus'tone dramatically shifts.

And if you were a disciple with him, you're noticing like, okay, we just came out of a lot of the miracle phase. And now this is something different because all of a sudden Jesus begins to talk about what they have ahead of them in their journey to Jerusalem.

And Jesus looks at his disciples and he asks them, he's like, what are people saying about me?

What is my reputation now? I've done some miracles. I've done some teaching words, gotten out. I provided some bread. So what do people think? What are they making of all this?

Who do people say that I am? Matthew 1614. Well, they replied. Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets. And then he asked them, but who do you say that I am.

Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered, you are the messiah, the son of the living God.

And Jesus replied, you are blessed, Simon son of John, because my father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Basically, Jesus is saying, I know you. You're not that smart.

Clearly, this is something divine.

No way. You figured that out on your own.

And now I say to you that you are Peter, which means rock.

And, Peter, on this rock, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell and death will not conquer it.

Jesus chooses this moment. It's a pivotal moment for the disciples, but maybe even more so for Peter. We know this because this is when Jesus changes his name from Simon to Peter.

Simon to Peter. Peter means rock, and I've always thought of it like a stone that you would hold in your hands. But if you look at the original language that Jesus is using, what it would be more accurate to imagine would be an outcropping of rocks that is attached into the side of a mountain.

A couple years back, we went for the first time to the Grand Canyon. Took our kids.

And it's one thing to see photos of the Grand Canyon, but to stand there on the edge of it at sunset and then the next morning sunrise, it is a whole different thing, right? You've been there, and the sheer scale of the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. It really is. And when I hear what Jesus is using for the words that he is using here in Matthew, what I imagine is the size of that Grand Canyon, those rocky outcroppings that didn't give in to the erosion.

I mean, so much of the land has been carved out by this river, and the erosion has taken so much. And yet there are pieces of rock still attached to the bedrock under the soil that has not been moved by all the erosion that has taken so much else out. And this is what Jesus is saying to Peter, listen, others are going to be eroded out. Others won't be able to stay in it. But, Peter, you're a rock. And because you're attached to the bedrock and the life that is in me, you're not going to be moved. And how ironic, because it's Peter.

And if you know the story in just a few chapters, we're going to see as Peter is the one who most dramatically denies Christ and abandons him in his hour of need and says, I don't even know that guy, and walks away.

Jesus knows this. He knows Simon. And yet he still says, simon, you're a rock. You're Peter.

And I think Jesus is looking forward into the days ahead, and he's thinking, Peter, when you deny me, don't forget this wasn't what you were designed to do. You're a rock. And when you feel that guilt and shame after I'm crucified and buried, don't forget, you're Peter. You're a rock.

Don't forget that there's going to be restoration and redemption because you were designed to be attached to the life that is in me. Peter, you're a rock.

And then he says, upon this rock, I will build my church.

And all the powers of hell, literally Hades or death, will not conquer it. What is Jesus saying? He's saying, even if they kill me, what I'm starting right now in, you won't stop.

Understand that up until this point, Jesus is the rabbi, he is the teacher. They are the students. They are the apprentices, they are the disciples, they're the kids.

Everything that they will do depends on Jesus saying, we're doing this. Everywhere that go depends on Jesus saying, we're going here, we're doing this.

All that they had experienced that felt like momentum and building was because Jesus had initiated it. And now Jesus is starting to talk about how he's going to be killed. And they're thinking, we know how this ends. Kill the teacher, and we're done. We're going back to fishing. We're heading back home.

We're going to say, ah, we picked the wrong rabbi. Sorry, mom, sorry, dad.

And Jesus says, listen, I am starting something that will outlast this moment. And even if they come from you, which they're about to, death itself won't touch this hell and the grave itself won't be able to conquer this church. This gathering, the word Jesus uses is ecclesia.

It has nothing to do with buildings, has nothing to do with denominations or church movements, doesn't have anything to do with church planting.

What Jesus said he was going to start was an assembly of people who were connected as disciples in following Jesus.

Following Jesus where? Well, not only when life is good, but also when life looks like taking up your cross.

As Jesus begins to talk about what awaits them in Jerusalem, he talks about how he'll suffer, how he'll be crucified.

And Peter takes him aside, and he's no Jesus. That's not going to happen, not on my watch.

I will never let this happen to you, Lord.

And Jesus says, sit down. He actually calls him Satan. Yikes.

He says, get behind me, Satan. That is not what I'm here to do.

I'm not here to avoid suffering and the cross in order to lead a revolution against the roman empire. That is not my mission. Sit down and shut up.

He's like, I'm sorry, Lord. I'm sorry.

And then Jesus turns to all the rest of the disciples and he says this. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way. Take up your cross and follow me. And by the way, we hear that and we think in metaphorical terms, what is it to take up my cross and follow Jesus. And we think through it as a symbol, and it's an icon on a wall. Listen, as Jesus is saying this to his disciples, they are not thinking of it metaphorically.

They have seen crucifixions. They have watched criminals carry crosses. They know the pain and the shame and the humiliation involved. And so when Jesus says, we're going to Jerusalem and I'm going to be put to death, and if you want to follow me, you're going to have to take up your cross, too, they are not thinking, wow, what a beautiful metaphor. That'll sound nice in a prayer book someday.

No, they are absorbing the fact that what they thought was a ticket to the good life now looks like an invitation to follow their master to death.

And amazingly, they say yes to this. They continue to follow him.

He goes on and he says, if you try to hang on to your life, you'll lose it.

But if you give up your life for my sake, you'll save it.

Who's trying to hang on to their life? I'd say everybody, pretty much.

This isn't like Jesus is like, if you're a real evil person and you're trying to survive, well, you have no part of me. No, he's saying, like, everybody's trying to survive and everybody's going to die.

And so then the choice is this. Do you want to die having lived only for yourself and out of fear of trying to preserve the things that you might lose, only gather resources and gather people and use relationships? Or do you want to follow me into pouring your life out for the humanity that God desperately loves?

We're all going to die. The question is, at the end of each of our lives, whether that's today or 85 years from now, what will we have done in the moments leading up to that?

For the disciples, the question was, go back home.

Go back to fishing and all the other things that they were up to, or do we want to follow this crazy rabbi on a path that sounds like death.

See, you don't follow Jesus into that unless you have this real confidence that he is who he says he is. And I think the question that Jesus asked those disciples is the one he asked us today, too. Who do you say I am? Who do you say I am? I want to promise you this. In the days ahead, the years ahead, the draw of just belonging to faith communities like ours, just to belong to churches as a default, will become less and less common.

And what churches that I want to be a part of in the years and decades ahead are ones where we say, God is so gracious and merciful. He provides and he heals in such beautiful ways, and he comforts the lonely, and he wraps himself around those who feel rejected.

But he also invites disciples to follow him in, pouring out their lives and giving themselves away.

I think this is not only the narrative arc of Easter which we are in, but it's the narrative arc of everything about following Jesus.

But this is a moment for us to really wrestle with this invitation of Jesus, to follow him past the time when it's fun, past the time when it's all up and to the right, when following Jesus begins to look like taking up a cross and following him to places unknown, where there's no easy way down. Will we opt out? Or will we say, Jesus, I don't know if I have the strength, but I'm following you.

This is the invitation of Jesus.