Fear Not: Jesus and the Storm

Fear Not: Jesus and the Storm

Fear Not: Jesus and the Storm.

“Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, but He called out to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! The I AM is here!'” (John 6:18-20).

After feeding the huge crowd of 5,000 hungry people, and preaching to them, Jesus decided to spend some alone time. So he retreated to a nearby mountain to pray, think, and decompress after that exhausting ministry. The disciples waited for Him and were anxious to row to the other side of the Lake. Impatient, they hopped into a boat and began rowing across. The evening was falling, they wanted to get to the other side before dark, and Jesus seemed to be taking His sweet time returning to the shore from the retreat.

The Lake, or the Sea of Galilee, is 150 feet deep and surrounded by hills. So it is often subjected to sudden severe windstorms that would cause huge waves. These storms were frightening even to the veteran fishermen, since the boats could easily be overcome in the turbulence and even capsize. The disciples found themselves in just such a storm when they were halfway across the lake, about 3 or 4 miles from shore. The waves were tremendous and frightening, and they were understandably feeling vulnerable in their boat in this storm.

What seemed to terrify the disciples even more was that they thought they saw a ghost walking on the water toward them. Between the strong winds and the mystifying apparition walking on the storm-tossed waters, they were out of their minds with fear.

It is at this dramatic point in the story that Jesus identified Himself as I AM. Jesus decided to use the divine Name that He loves to use in reference to Himself in the gospel of John. He appropriates this term when He wants to point to His co-equal status with God, the Great I AM. As He balanced Himself on the choppy waves near the boat, Jesus shouts, “Have no fear! Don’t be afraid! The I AM is here!” One translation put it, “Fear not! I AM!” He is telling his terrified audience in the boat that He is the one and only Son of God, that He has control of nature, of all creation.

The disciples finally recognized Jesus and eagerly welcomed Him into the boat with them. They of course were greatly relieved. His presence has a habit of reducing fear. But a strange thing happened once Jesus climbed into the boat. Scripture says that they instantly, immediately, arrived at their destination across the Lake! Transported? A Spirit-driven hydroplane? Time passes quickly when you’re having fun? There is no explanation, and we can accept this whimsical little trip for our enjoyment. As the children’s church chorus goes: “With Jesus in the boat, I can smile in a storm, smile in a storm, smile in a storm. With Jesus in the boat I can smile in a storm, all the way back home.”

Another Thought: Fear of Turbulence. Did you notice that Jesus didn’t calm the storm? He would shout, “Peace, be still!” in other storm stories, but not in this case. He never calmed those surging waves to ease the disciples’ fears. He instead walked to them on the water, climbed into the boat, and let the storm continue. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t calm the storms in our lives. Sometimes He allows the turbulence to continue, providing His presence instead of a solution to the problem. Sometimes He enables us to survive the storm and helps us to make the best of it. This dramatic story is an echo of Isaiah 43:1-5, a confirmation of its truth. “But now, says Yahweh, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel. Do not fear, 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; Do not fear, for I am with you.”