It is I, do not be afraid.
40 blogs of Lent, day 6
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:16-21 ESV
In John’s Gospel, this comes immediately after the feeding of the 5000, which is the only miracle of Jesus to appear in all four Gospel accounts. I have included it in the “I am” accounts because the footnote in my ESV Study Bible points out that in the original language, Greek, Jesus says ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eime, which is translated as “It is I” in English, is a form of “I am” as originally written and serves as a link from the feeding of the 5000 to Jesus saying the first of the emphatic I am statements, I am the bread of life. But that is for the next blog.
Do not be afraid, I am.
Do not be afraid, is a recurring phrase in the Bible: It was spoken by the angel giving the news to Mary that she, a virgin, would be the mother of God’s Son. To the captives returning from the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Isaiah said this:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-2
There was plenty to be scared of for Mary, about to become an unmarried mother, the exiles returning from captivity or for the disciples in a boat, in the dark, in a storm seeing someone walking on water. It would be bad enough seeing someone walking on calm water, but in a storm …
Jesus does not ask the disciples not to be afraid when the sea has calmed and everything is OK. He says it whilst the storm is still raging. Whilst the little boat they are in is being tossed about like a cork. He does not tell them not to be afraid because the sea will be calmed, he does not promise them that. All he promises is his presence; “It is ,” “I am.”
In the same way that Isaiah promised the Jews returning from Babylon that God would be with them through the waters rivers and fire, in the same way Jesus is with us in the storms of our life. We are not promised an easy life. We are not promised that everything about our lives will be fantastic. In fact it is just the opposite. Jesus promised his followers that they would be persecuted. He said:
Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. Matthew 10:17-18
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
We are not promised escape, just the opposite. The I am to the disciples reflects the I am of God revealing himself to Moses. We are not promised and escape from our problems, we are promised even more problems. But we are promised the presence of Jesus, the presence of God.
Do not be afraid, I am.