08/13/23 – At the Feet of Deity – Rev. Linda Philabaun


August 13, 2023
11th Sunday after Pentecost
Ps. 46:9-11, Mt. 14:22—33
Rev. Dr. Linda Philabaun

When we are in the presence of deity, we can never be sure about what is going to happen. God is most often in the business of doing the unexpected and the unusual. Just when you think you have him figured out, he surprises you and take things in a direction that stuns and amazes you. Sometimes you walk away, scratching your head and asking, “What just happen?” And at other times you are brought to your knees in awe and worship because of the lesson you just learned at the feet of deity.

This is exactly what happened to the disciples after Jesus fed the 5,000 and then decided to take an early morning stroll on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. They learned a very valuable lesson at the feet of deity, at the feet of the Son of God. I found that feeding 5,000 doesn’t even compare to what it takes to feed all the athletes involved in the Olympic Games. Here’s a sample of the supplies needed to feed all those medal-hungry athletes.

A half a million pounds of meat and poultry
50,000 gallons of milk
275 tons of fresh fruit
110,000 loaves of bread (enough to make more than a million sandwiches; and one million tomatoes.

Now this grocery bill may seem incredible, yet it pales in comparison to the wedding feast planned for Christ and His bride The first lesson is to learn the importance of solitude. Jesus had just performed one of his greatest miracles, the feeding of the 5,000. This is the only miracle, besides the resurrection, that is recorded in all four gospels. All told, the number that was fed must have been close to 20,000! The 5,000 were men, but the rest were women and children, too. John 6:16 provides a valuable insight: because of this miracle “they were about to come and take him by force and make him King.” What an opportunity! What a decision. The time was right. He is their man. He is the Messiah, God’s Son. God said so himself in Mt. 3:17. “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” What an opportunity to bring in the kingdom and avoid the cross.

What will he do? What would you do?

Well, right away He made his disciples go away and on ahead. Made is a strong word, meaning to compel or urge. I suspect the disciples were caught up in the moment and the excitement of the crowd. He sent the crowd away, too. Now what was He going to do? Vs. 23 tell us “He went up on the mountain to pray.” The crowd wanted to make him King. He wanted to talk to his father. Satan was again tempting him to take the east and popular route to the kingdom. But Jesus was determined to see the face of His Father and a place of prayer.

“He went up…by himself to pray” and “He was alone there.” Prayer is best done where you will not be distracted or disturbed and where you can give your full attention to talking and listening to your Heavenly Father. All of us face times of opportunity and crisis. Crucial and important decisions have to be made. What will you do?

Jesus teaches us to find a place of solitude, a place of prayer, and a place of privacy. Jesus had to recover his perspective on things and so do we. I think we can learn something from Peter as well. The scriptures tell us that the disciples were to go on ahead of Jesus until he was free from the crowds. He would then join them, but after he had spent some time alone in prayer. However, his prayer time went on longer than the disciples expected. So, they decide not to wait any longer and started across the lake on their own. Thus, another reason for them to learn at the feet of deity.

We find the disciples in the middle of the sea a long way from shore. The waves are tossing the boat. The disciples were in serious trouble and they knew it. In the midst of the storm, the Savior suddenly appears. Following Roman time, it was the fourth watch, somewhere between 3 and 6 am. For a brief moment the disciples all into an error that afflicts so many of us. They failed to see Jesus for who he really was. The text says they were troubled, fearful, and screaming. Can we blame them? They needed to get their focus. They needed to get a grip. Jesus was not a ghost or a phantom. Nor is he some fictional creation or ancient fable. No! He is God in the flesh who walks on the land or the waves of the sea with equal ease.

When Jesus had finished his time of prayer, He came back in the singleness of heart intent only on God’s will having been made new in God’s power. He was again the Master of men and circumstances: our story shows him in the 4th watch ruling the storm.

Seeing their fear, Jesus speaks to them: “Be of good cheer! Take courage. It is I.” (In Greek it is ego eimi) I am! Do not be afraid.” Stop being afraid. I hear echoes of Exodus 3:14 lingering in the background of these words when God said to Moses, “I Am who I Am.” He does not explain where he has been, why he is there, or how he got there. What was important was he was there and he spoke his words of encouragement. He will do the same for you! Keep your focus on Jesus. He will be there when you need him.

The Psalmist writes: “Be still and know that I am God.” The times in which the Psalmist lived were not much different than these days. The Lord spoke to a man who was lonely and afraid in the midst of troubles. Be still and know that I am God. There are two things we should know about ourselves. The tensions produced by modern life are increasing, and each of us has a breaking point. It means, that unless we learn to ease our tensions, they will break us. So today we have modern potions to help us cope: aspirin, alcohol, hobbies, and holidays all seen in advertising layouts in all forms of media. How are we to know God amid all the noise and clatter of our chaotic world? Most of us are not endowed with iron-clad nerves. And today, more and more people know less about God. Mountains are shaken, waters roar and are troubled, nations rage, and kingdoms are moved. The result is that we are shaken and troubled, and we also rage and move. For our Psalmist, amid the tumult

of nature he not only affirmed his faith; he rested in unagitated calm. When nations raged, he heard above the noise the quiet voice of God. It was good to be confident, but in order to be confident it was necessary to be still. Even for David, God was his psychotherapist! Just “Be still and know that I am God.”

Peter knows this voice—the voice he has come to trust. In fact, something came over Peter, he felt empowered some how by the Lord’s presence, and Peter acted with courage and asks the Lord to “Command me to come to you on the water.” I get tickled with Peter’s characteristic impulsiveness. He always leaps before he looks. That is still better wisdom than those who look for so long that they never leap. Jesus, as he always does, honors Peter’s faith. He commands him to “come.”

Then Peter does what no normal human being has ever done before or since. He walked on water. That took some moksie! That took courage! What faith! But it was only for a moment. All of sudden, and we don’t know why, he took his eyes off Jesus. Suddenly the storm had his attention more than the Savior. Fear took hold of his heart, his eyes were on the storm, and he began to sink; Jesus is so near yet the idea of dying is beginning to overtake Peter as he begins to go down.

Then Peter turns to his only hope, our only hope. He turned to Jesus and cried out, “Lord Save Me.” Peter must have been close to Jesus because it says Jesus simply reached out his hand and caught him. Still, a valuable lesson was in the offering as Jesus kindly chided him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Why? He forgot two very important lessons that are the essence of salvation: Keep your focus on Jesus, and keep your faith in Him. Only he can keep you from sinking into the stormy waves of sin and trouble that can destroy you. Peter had to learn the lesson of trust. One should never misplace trust in Him. In Him the impossible tasks can be done, and the impossible challenges met and overcome. Sir Galahad’s strength was “as the strength of ten, “because his heart was pure.” That purity of motive, as much as in us lies, is the beginning of faith’s power. The power will always continue as long as our eyes are fixed on Christ. Take time to be still, to recharge your batteries, to tap into the power that God offers as you sit at his feet and learn the lessons he has to teach. Be still and be in awe of what He can do. Jesus said “Take heart, it is I.

Do not be afraid.”

Thirdly, we should learn from the disciples what our response to Jesus should be. When one is in the presence of deity, the supernatural, the unexpected is to be expected. And yet an important question presents itself: “What will be our response? These disciples teach us two important lessons:

  1. Only Jesus is worthy of worship. Jesus steps into the boat and the storm stops. But the stilling of the water is not the end of the story. It is the disciple’s response. “Who is this who can walk on water? Calm the sea? Feed 20,000 people? He must be God, for only God is worthy of our worship. The disciples’ response is entirely appropriate. They came, fell down, and worshipped Him.
  2. Only Jesus is worthy of our confession. The disciples spoke as they worshipped, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Exactly what they meant by this at this time we can’t be sure. But the gospels are quite clear and honest in their depiction of the disciples. They understood in degrees; theirs was a growing understanding of who Jesus was that would reach full fruition only after the Resurrection. Still, even now they knew this one is different than anyone we have ever known. He has a relationship with God like no other. He must be God’s Son. Only later would they realize the full impact of their confession, but already they were heading in the right direction.


In conclusion, I recall an old hymn that I sang in a couple of little country churches in Indiana. I’m sure at some time in your life along the way, you may have sung it, too. It’s called “I Serve a Risen Savior” written by Alfred Ackley in 1933. He Lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart.






© Rev. Dr. Linda Philabaun, 2023, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church | 1420 W. Moss Ave. | Peoria, Illinois 61606
WestminsterPeoria.org | 309.673.8501