fishing boat

When dangers and threats come upon us many of us wonder where God is in all of it.  We can feel all alone in the midst of threatening circumstances and it can instil panic and terror.   It can certainly seem in times such as these that God has abandoned us or is fully unaware of our circumstances.  We can’t perceive Christ.  We don’t see him and our heart doesn’t feel his presence.

That is certainly how the disciples (followers) of Jesus felt on that night.  They had just finished feeding five thousand people thanks to Jesus and Jesus had gone up the mountain to be alone.  The disciples decided to set off across the lake in a boat.  After some time it grew dark and cold.  The wind started whipping around.  Everything turned.  And the waves started to get rougher and rougher.  Fear and panic began to set in as their lives were in danger.  Then Jesus appears to them coming on the water.  By this time they are terrified.  “But he said to them, ‘I am (here).  Do not be afraid.’” (John 6:20).  Any Jew of that time would have picked up on what Jesus said here.  He literally says “I am”.  This “I am” is the exact same phrase from a well-known passage in Exodus 3:14 that would have certainly been familiar to the disciples.  It refers to when God is speaking with Moses and commissioning him to go on behalf of God’s people to demand that the oppressive Egyptian Pharaoh let God’s people go.  Pharaoh has enslaved the Israelites in order to build his great kingdom.  When Moses says to God, “Who shall I say has sent me?”  God replies, “Tell them ‘I am’ has sent you”.  God names himself “I am” as a reminder of his ever-present existence.  He is with his people always.  And then he proceeds to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh through his power and miracles.  They leave Egypt a free nation.

Jesus  was reminding his followers that night on the sea (and us today) of his ever-present care for us.  He is our deliverer in times of trouble and when threats close in upon us.  Even when we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” the Good Shepherd is with us despite our feelings to the contrary.  So in the stress and tiredness of impending difficulties, threats and trials Jesus says to you, “I am with you.  Turn to me.  Come to me.”  We must remember this or else we are in danger of floundering, failing and giving up if we try to carry on in our own strength.  This is why Jesus uses this threatening moment in the lives of his disciples – as a poignant reminder of who he is, God in the flesh who never abandons his people.

If you would like to learn more about Jesus and his promises to us then please join us for our Lenten course called “Christianity Explored” starting Tuesday 23rd February 7.30pm.  You may sign-up online.

by Jeff Fry, Lichfield Christian Churches (as appeared in the Lichfield Mercury)