I AM Hereby Ed de la Cour on January 16, 2017
January 15, 2017
John 6: 16 – 21
“I AM HERE”
John 6: 16 – 21 (New Living Translation)
6 That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but He called out to them, “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” 21 Then they were eager to let Him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!
If you have read the Gospel of John, you know that there are a number of places where Jesus made “I am statements.” These are statements in which Jesus declared His divinity. The source of these statements is found back in Exodus 3: 14, where God revealed Himself to Moses. “God said to Moses, ‘I am Who I am.’ This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent Me to you.” “I am” is the name of our God. By using that combination of words, God was saying He forever lives as Lord and Master over the past; He rules the past. God was saying He lives as absolute Sovereign in the present; and, at the same time, He rules and reigns over every part of the future. There is no place in all creation that escapes God’s presence and power. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am the bread of life, I am the gate for the sheep, I am the good shepherd, I am the way, the truth and the life, I am the resurrection and the life,” and so forth. In each of these statements, rooted back there in Exodus 3, Jesus claimed the name of God as His own. He declared His sufficiency to provide the salvation power of His life for “all who received Him, to those who believed on His name.”
Besides those statements, there are also several lesser-known “I am” statements in John, in which Jesus uses the same words. These are not as famous, and they certainly are less frequently quoted, but in my view they are no less significant. Here are just a couple that come to mind: In His conflict with the Pharisees in John 8, Jesus said in verse 58, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” The Pharisees correctly understood exactly what Jesus was saying, and they attempted to stone Him to death for blasphemy. In John 18:5, as the authorities converged on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, He asked them who they sought to arrest, and when they replied they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, He said, “I am He.” Verse 6 says, “When Jesus said, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” It is almost as if they were “slain in the Spirit” when God in the flesh revealed Himself to them.
The words in question are the Greek words, “Ego eimi,” which are translated, “I am.” A great controversy that has dogged the Church almost since its inception is the assertion made by skeptics in which they say Jesus never claimed He was God. Contrary to their thinking, there are many statements in Johnwhere He explicitly makes that claim, such as John 10: 30, “I am the Father are One.”
So, one day, I was having my devotions and reading in the Gospel of John and I came across the passage we’ve just read. I saw something here I had never noticed before. As I meditated on what transpired here in these verses, and checked the Greek to see if what I was understanding of the text was correct, I began to believe that God was inviting me to bring this message.
After the Feeding of the Five Thousand, the disciples made a decision to row across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. To me, it is very interesting that it looks like the disciples decided not to wait for Jesus, but to leave Him behind! It happened after the miracle of feeding that huge crowd. Jesus left the multitude behind to escape their desire to make Him king. He had gone up to a mountain to be alone with the Father. The day wore on and as Jesus had not returned to the disciples, that’s when the men made their decision to row across the lake. At first, the trip across the lake was easy enough. But very soon, and perhaps as they rounded the point, or as when they got into the main body of the lake, the wind began to pick up. By this time I think they might have repented of their decision to leave Jesus behind! While they rowed, they were not met by a furious storm, as they were in Matthew 8. This is a very different circumstance. Here we are not seeing a direct threat to their lives. They are simply rowing all through the night into this strong headwind that is pushing them backwards. Perhaps they felt the wind more because their location now provided no protection from the shore, but the happy little breeze they had known earlier quickly developed into a much stronger and steadier wind. The text indicates the wind had become a gale. Their easy afternoon row on the lake now looked as though it was about to turn into an all-nighter!
You and I face strong headwinds on most days of our lives. There are very few days when we can say life is easy. Life is not easy, not for any of us. There are the difficulties we face at work. There are relational struggles at home. Our children are forever doing inexplicable things that frustrate us. Then, there are the processes of aging, the aches and pains of everyday life. There are also the stresses of the various diseases many of us face and have to live with. I believe those winds on the Sea of Galilee are a picture of the headwinds we deal with on any given day. Most of us live our lives rowing against the wind and trying to move against the current. Everyone else is headed one way, but we are moving in the other direction. Even when we think we’ll just surrender and let the wind drive us on any direction it wants, we will soon find ourselves crashing against the rocks on the shore. And then we despair, thinking we can’t get away with anything! Life is always difficult, and life as we know it is filled with pain. Because there is no candy coating to be found anywhere in God’s Word, the Bible speaks reality to us. God’s Word gives us confidence that our God knows very well the troubles we see and the pains we experience.
If you’ve ever rowed against the wind, you know how tiring it is. You can row for a long time and make little or no headway. We read they had managed to row for three or four miles. As far as I am concerned, that would be no mean feat on a calm day. They apparently had no sail to assist them, or maybe the wind was so contrary they knew the sail was useless. So they rowed and they rowed and they rowed.
Have you ever noticed that no matter what you are trying to accomplish in life, you are moving against the wind and against the prevailing current? It seems as though you take two steps forward, and then have to take three steps back. Forward progress is frustratingly slow. On this night out there in the middle of the lake, in the middle of wind and the waves, Jesus’ disciples would be easily able to feel your pain! Rowing across the Sea of Galilee would be tiring at the best of times. The fact that John notes they rowed three or four miles shows how hard they struggled against the wind and how they must have counted every stroke! And, at this point, they are in the middle of the lake. They have reached the point of no return.
It was when they reached that point and when they were out of gas, tired, frustrated, and bone weary, that is when they looked and saw Jesus walking toward them on top of the waves. Now, that must have been a sight!
Their response to seeing Jesus just off the stern was an entirely human response: sheer terror. There are many times in life where fear is clearly not unfounded. Fear is a God-given sense when danger is afoot. But it is what Jesus said to the disciples that I had never noticed before: “Don’t be afraid. I am here.” Now the Bible is cover to cover full of encouragement leading us away from fear. Our God is a God of peace. The Bible encourages us to know and experience the peace of God. Paul says that peace is beyond our understanding, but that peace God gives will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
But simply saying, “There now, don’t be afraid,” really does very little to promote the absence of fear. Words alone are not particularly encouraging. When you’re scared, when you are frightened, hearing someone say don’t be scared and frightened really does not help all that much.
What does help is presence. If you are filled with dread, and someone takes you by the hand and walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death, you can walk without fear and in perfect peace. When someone holds onto you, you can be unafraid and not crippled by fear. If you are in the hospital and your pastor or your friend, or even someone you don’t know, comes into your room, holds your hand and prays for you – and I don’t care if you are a big, strong man – if you’re facing death, you appreciate that touch. You are grateful for the presence of another human. You are happy that someone is not afraid to hold you. It is not so much the admonition not to be afraid that blesses the disciples or that encourages you and me. Rather, it is the declaration that right now God is here, that right now Jesus is really with us, that He will never leave or forsake us. It is in God’s presence that real help and real peace is found.
Jesus said to His men, “Ego eimi. I am here.” Other translations say, “It is I.” But the Greek says, “Ego eimi. I am here.” Jesus is God with us. He says I am here for you. I am here with you. You are not alone.
Did the disciples laugh it off? Did they ignore Jesus and go on with their rowing? No! They welcomed Him onboard. They were happy. They were glad and they were ecstatic to have Jesus with them. A happy byproduct of the presence of Jesus was that “immediately they arrived at their destination!” Imagine that! The presence of Jesus in your life has all kinds of wonderful consequences.
I want to say to you that more than anything else in life what we need is the presence of Jesus. More than money, more than success, more than beauty or fame, it is the presence of Jesus we want and need when the things of life go badly. It is the recognized and manifest presence of Jesus that we appreciate more than anything else in life. When life throws one of its many curveballs at us, when that big surprise is not a happy surprise, we have come to the place where we know what allows us to experience peace is simply the real presence of Jesus. When Jesus walked alongside that boat filled with tired, worn out, and frightened disciples and He said, “I am here,” those words were music to their ears.
Fear is displaced by the presence of Jesus. God is bigger than whatever it is we fear. Whatever we are afraid of is no match for the power of our God. The promise of God today to you is that Jesus does not need to walk on water to get to you. He doesn’t have to sneak up in the dead of night to find you. God has already declared He is here with you. It’s time for us to receive what He says and take it seriously, and take it to heart. Take it seriously when the Lord speaks to us through Hebrews 13: 5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
In Matthew 28: 20 we hear Jesus speak His very last words to His disciples as He ascended, “And surely I am with you always. To the very end of the age.” Friends, Jesus is with you right now, not theoretically and not just philosophically, but really.
Over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of ministering to a number of people of varied ages and backgrounds. Every one of them is dealing with a whole array of deep personal pains and difficulties. There were people who are afraid to die, people who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, people who are suffering from deep and persistent bone pain and for whom medicine doesn’t seem able to help, as well as those who are struggling with someone who has abused them. One truth can describe every single one of them. They would dearly love to know they do not have to face this life alone. They are desperate to know God does not ignore them. They want to know that they are loved. They want to hear Jesus say to them personally, “Do not be afraid. I am here.”
When God makes promises to us, He does not forget them. He honors those promises and He honors those who place their trust in Him. In Joshua 23: 14, Joshua was speaking to all Israel when he said, “You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” My friends, Jesus has promised that He is here. He is with you. He will not leave you. He will not forsake you. Jesus says to you today, “Do not be afraid. I am here.”
As you go: Isaiah 41: 10
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Edmund C. de la Cour
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