Try to put yourself in the disciples’ sandals. Exhausted from a long day of feeding the multitude, your boat has taken a beating from the wind and waves. It’s about 4:00 a.m., and now a person glides toward you stepping on the water as if the lake had congealed. If common sense somehow escaped your reasoning that people tend to sink when attempting to walk on water, you might also think back to your days in the synagogue and remember that only God walks on water (Psalm 77:19; Job 9:8; Isaiah 43:16). Of course, terror would cloud your mind and judgment, causing you to think a ghost strides toward you and your friends. In this moment, what could calm you?
He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.
presence calms fears
Not wanting to torture his disciples or play a terrible Halloween-esque prank on them, Jesus immediately calmed their fears. Rather than offering them a parable, platitude, or pep-talk, he gave them his presence. Their comfort came from his nearness. That short phrase, “It is I,” comes from the two Greek words εγωεμι (ego eimi), which couldalso be translated “I am.” These two terms, though small in stature, are giant in meaning. Jesus intended to harken back to the days of the Old Testament when God comforted his people with his name, Yahweh (Exodus 3:14)—the great I Am. I Am helped Moses free the Israelites, helped Joshua conquer Canaan, helped David establish his throne, and now I Am stood on the lake offering his presence in the midst of chaos. Like the saints before us, we also have the promise of I Am to stay with us in the midst of crisis. Our peace comes from his presence.
respond in faith
In response to Jesus’s invitation to have faith in him during times of uncertainty, Peter rightly asked to participate with Jesus. Peter showed great faith by getting out of the rocking boat, only to show the power of doubt in chaos. Doubt, as James teaches us, divides us in two (James 1:6–8). On one hand, Peter had the invitation and presence of Jesus telling him that despite all odds, he could and would walk on water. On the other, the wind and waves screamed loudly at Peter, “You will die!” This interaction between Jesus and his waffling disciple reminds us that faith in the midst of trials requires an undivided focus on our savior, not our surroundings. Though waves and wind churn all around followers of Jesus, we must return to Christ’s proclamation: Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.
courage comes from presence
Like the disciples and Peter, we will all face trials and tribulations, fears and failures, doubt and despair. Use Peter’s courage to help you get out of the boat at the invitation of Jesus. And, when you step out in faith, remain steadfast in keeping your eyes on Jesus. He comforts us not by making us strong or fearless. Rather, He comforts us by giving Himself to us. Wind and waves will come, but I Am will never leave you nor forsake you.
Watch Session Two
Jesus Calms Our Storms
What trials are you or others in your life facing where you need the reminder that Jesus stands in solidarity with you, offering you his presence? How can knowing you are never alone in the midst of hardship strengthen and encourage you?
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