Take Heart, He’s With You
Read Matthew 14:22-27 (ESV)
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Think about a time when you have experienced fear recently. How do reminders of Jesus’ presence affect your fear?
What are you afraid of? We are all afraid of something. Jesus’ disciples were not exempt from fear. When we read through the Gospels, we see several different instances of the disciples being afraid. But when they were afraid, Jesus always calmed their fears the same way—by showing them who He was and reminding them of His presence.
We see an example of this in today’s passage. Jesus had just fed five thousand men plus women and children and then sent His disciples ahead of Him in a boat while He went to have some alone time to pray. But the disciples encountered a bad storm on the sea and their boat was beat around by the waves. By the 4th watch of the night, Jesus walked toward them on the sea. Commentators note that the Roman army divided the night up into 4 watches. Each watch was 3 hours each and the 4th watch of the night was from 3 AM – 6 AM. The storm was first mentioned “when evening came.” That means the disciples could have been battling the storm on the sea for around 9 hours before Jesus came to them. They had to have been worn out and exhausted.
When they saw Jesus walking toward them on water, they were terrified. They didn’t recognize Him but thought that He was a ghost. His reassurance? Don’t be afraid. It’s me! When we read on, we see Peter ask Jesus to command him to get out of the boat and walk to Him (Matthew 14:28-33). Peter got out of the boat and was able to walk on the water until he saw the wind and got scared. Once he was scared, he began to sink until Jesus grabbed ahold of him. When they got back into the boat, the wind ceased. In that moment, the disciples realized who Jesus was. They exclaimed “Truly you are the Son of God.” He could walk on a raging sea, He could stop the wind, and He told them not to be afraid because He was with them.
In Mark 4:35-41, we read a similar story. This time, though, Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, sleeping. The disciples were terrified that the wind and waves were going to capsize their boat with Jesus sleeping through it! They woke Him up and said “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v. 38). Jesus told the wind and waves to be still, and they ceased. But then He rebuked the disciples saying “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (v 40). Hadn’t they figured out that nothing was going to happen to them when Jesus was with them?
In Luke 24:36-49, we see the disciples afraid again. This time, they were hiding behind locked doors because Jesus had just been crucified and they were scared the Jews were coming for them next. Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst and stood among them. Luke said they were startled and afraid, again thinking they had seen an evil spirit or a ghost (v.37). Once again, Jesus questioned their fear and reassured them that it was Him. He even gave them the evidence they needed. He showed them His hands and feet. He let them touch Him. He showed them who He was. In verses 45-47, He reminded them that it was written that the Messiah would suffer and die but rise again on the third day. In other words, He was in their midst, He had conquered death, and He proved that He was the Messiah. Just as He had said.
Friends, I know that there is a lot to be afraid of in this life. Like the disciples, we are prone to forget that He is with us and we are easily terrified. The One that created the entire world, commanded the wind and waves to be still, walked on water, and conquered death has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). When you are afraid, open up His Word. Let it show you who He is and remind You of His presence.
Lord, I confess that like the disciples, I often forget that You are with me. Just like Peter, I look around at the wind and waves and I get terrified. When I am afraid, help me to keep my eyes on You. Remind me who You are and what You can do. Help me to feel Your presence. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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