Will Christ's Church perish in the tempest?

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“And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” Matthew 8:23-27 (Cf. Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)

It had been a busy day! Jesus had healed the centurion’s servant, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, healed the sick and cast out devils in some among the multitudes who came to Him, and He had taught about the cost of discipleship to those who spoke of following Him.

He and His disciples then entered into one of the fishing boats and began to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a tempest arose. Though the wind and the water were likely calm when they set off, a violent wind storm arose on the sea and the boat in they were making the crossing was being swamped by the waves so that these seasoned fishermen — experienced with storms on the sea — realized they were in peril of dying in the storm. All the while, we read that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the back of the boat!

And what if the disciples’ fears had come to pass and the boat sank (along with the other boats mentioned in Mark’s Gospel) and they all perished? If you think about it, that boat carried a very precious cargo. It carried Jesus, the Savior of the world, and His disciples, who were being trained to preach the Gospel of forgiveness and life in all the world! If that little boat had sunk, with it would have perished our only hope of salvation and the founding teachers of Christ’s Church (cf. Acts 4:12; Matt. 16:15-18).

And, in so many ways, Christ’s Church in this world — His little band of true believers — is like that boat being swamped by the waves in the windstorm on the Sea of Galilee. There are, of course, many who claim to be Christ’s disciples and true Christians but, because they reject His teaching and do not repent of their sinful ways and place their faith in Christ alone and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, they are not true Christians and are not a part of His Holy Christian Church which is made up only of true believers. They are not even in the boat with Christ and don’t experience the storm on the sea!

Like that little fishing boat on the sea of Galilee, the winds of false doctrine (cf. 1 Cor. 11:19) and the waves of persecution and suffering (cf. 2 Tim. 3:12-13) beat against the Church and cause us to fear — at least at times — that Christ’s true Church in this world will perish, that the devil’s attacks with erring doctrine and with ridicule and persecution will send the little boat and Christ’s believers to the bottom of the sea. And, all the while, it still so often appears that Christ is asleep in the boat and unconcerned.

And what does Jesus say when His disciples cry out to Him, saying, “Don’t you care that we are about to perish?” (Mark 4:38): “Why are ye so fearful, O ye of little faith?” And we do have little faith when we doubt that Christ can and will preserve His Church through the preaching of His Word and the right administration of His Sacraments.

God promises in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Cf. Rom. 1:16-17; 10:17; Tit. 3:3-7.

Jesus has promised that “the gates of hell” will “not prevail” against His Church (Matt. 16:18). And His Word assures us that He who began a good work in us will continue and complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (cf. Phil. 1:6; 2 Tim. 4:18).

Though our Lord Jesus may let us struggle for a time against the wind and the waves and suffer the attacks of the devil, the world and our own flesh against us, in His time, He will rebuke our enemies and say, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). And when He does, all who opposed us and fought against us will be silenced and stilled. And Christ’s Church, which He has redeemed with His own blood and made His own through the waters of Baptism will enjoy an eternity of peace and calm in His everlasting kingdom, for all who rejected the truth will be judged and cast out into the everlasting fires of hell and all who have placed their hope in Christ alone will be raised up to the eternal bliss of heaven! Cf. 2 Thess. 1:6-10.

Forgive us, O Lord, for our fears that we will perish in the midst of the winds of false doctrine and the boisterous waves of persecution. Grant that we not abandon ship but hold fast to You and Your cross in faith, looking forward to the eternal peace and joys of heaven You have promised to us and all who believe. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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