I AM… do not be afraid

Read John 6:16-24

Sometimes when we read scripture our eyes tend to drift to what appears to be the, “wow factor” in the story. In this text it is Jesus walking on the water. We are wowed by that which is apart from our norm, but often, there is so much more to a text than what might immediately capture our attention. Behind the, “wow” there can be something subtle but powerful. Yes, what Jesus does in this text is significant, but what he says is what really holds the key to understanding what happened. It might be easy for us to assume that the disciples were afraid because of the storm — just as they are in the story when Jesus is asleep in the boat. Notice, however, what the text says:

“A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened.”

In this case they were not afraid of the storm, they were afraid because they saw Jesus… and he was walking on the water. These guys were used to being on a boat. They had experienced storms before, but they had never seen one of their friends walk on water before and it scared them. Again, notice what the text says… or in this case, what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that Jesus calmed the storm and they stopped being afraid. It says,

“But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.

But what changed for them? They already knew it was Jesus. In fact, that is why they were scared. They were scared because Jesus was walking towards them on the water. Why all of a sudden were they not afraid?

The point of John’s gospel (identified in chapter 20) is, “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” So intermixed with the miracle stories and everything else, in John’s gospel Jesus identifies himself with, “the divine name.” In greek it is, ἐγώ εἰμι (ego eimi), or I AM. The same I AM that God uses to identify himself to Moses in the story of the burning bush, for example. Other examples from John are:

6:35 — I am the bread of life (see also 6:41)
6:51 — I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
8:12; 9:5 — I am the light of the world
10:7, 9 — I am the gate for the sheep
10:11, 14 — I am the good shepherd
11:25-26 — I am the resurrection and the life
14:6 — I am the way, and the truth, and the life
15:1, 5 — I am the true vine.

Jesus identifies himself to the disciples as I AM, and that calmed their fears and they invited him into the boat.  Something calms in us when we know that God is with us.

Whatever it is you are facing today, do not be afraid. Jesus… I AM is with you. Invite him into your boat and let him calm you in the storm.

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