Matthew 14.22-29 (Amplified)
Then he directed the disciples to get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent away the crowds. And after he had dismissed the multitudes, He went up into the hills by Himself to pray. When it was evening, He was still there alone. But the boat was by this time out on the sea, many furlongs from the land, beaten and tossed by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and said, It is a ghost! And they screamed out with fright. But instantly He spoke to them, saying, Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid! And Peter answered Him, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. He said, Come! So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and he came toward Jesus.
Immediately preceding this passage, Jesus had taken the five loaves of bread and two fish and miraculously fed 5,000 men, not including women and children. As I have mentioned in previous articles, Jesus often times performed miracles to illuminate a particular characteristic of Himself for the benefit of His followers. If it is true, and I believe that it is, that you cannot worship God to a greater capacity than your concept of God, then it is the purpose of God to reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek Him.
What was Jesus’ purpose in this wonderful miracle of provision? In it, He was demonstrating that He was indeed, Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. Everything that we need; spiritually, emotionally and materially, to live the Christian life, is found in Christ. However, it must be noted that these provisions do not come apart from the faithful responsibility of the follower. After the provision was made, the people still had the responsibility to accept, grab hold of and eat of what was made available. This is also true of the Christian life. Though Jesus is our Provider and has made provision for all our needs, we have the God given responsibility to act in faith and obedience in order to benefit from the blessing.
After teaching His disciples this lesson of provision, He sent them away to the other side of the lake. It was as they were traveling by sea that another need arose, for they were enduring heavy winds and waves. In the journey of our lives, we all face times where we feel as if the winds and waves of life are pressing against us, threatening our very existence. Though I have never been at sea in the midst of a storm, I can imagine the sense of fear and hopelessness that could arise as the sea bounces you around with no end in sight. In the storms of our lives, it is easy to begin losing our spiritual sense of direction and stability and feel as if there is no hope or end to the trial. It is important for us to remember that Jesus comes in the midst of the storm!
Today, Jesus is saying to you, the very same words He said to His disciples at sea: “Take courage! I AM! Stop being afraid!” To take courage is to do the right thing (the righteous thing) when all natural circumstances and/or people tell you to compromise. In the depths of a financial struggle, the natural mind attempts to convince you that tithing is unpractical and foolish. The courageous man or woman sees beyond the waves (the circumstances) and sees Jesus walking to them on water. Our courageousness is not based on ourselves, but on the character of Jesus Christ. The words to Joshua are just as true for us today: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9). Just as Christ promised Joshua that He would never leave him or forsake him (1.5), Jesus will never leave you in the midst of the storm without the provision. However, as noted above, this provision comes with obedience. These promises to Joshua came with the command: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (1.8).
Jesus also brought hope and comfort to his disciples by reminding them that He is “I AM!” Unfortunately, all of the major translations, apart from the Amplified, fail to translate this key phrase correctly. Jesus was not merely stating Pastor Ty C. Gulstrom that he (the son of Joseph and Mary) was here, but rather, he was pronouncing something much greater. To any Jew of the first century, the phrase “I AM” was very well understood and sacred. Of all of the names given to God in the scriptures, it is the name, Yahweh, that is most sacred. Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word for “I AM,” so any reference to this terminology was equivalent to God himself in the Jewish mind. Thus, any “man” making reference to himself as “I AM” would be both blasphemous and worthy of death by stoning as in accordance to the law given in Leviticus 24.16. Consider Jesus’ interaction with religious leaders in John 8. In describing the relationship between Himself and Abraham, Jesus makes the comment, “Before Abraham was born, I AM! At this, they picked up stones to stone him...”(John 8.58-59).
Jesus’ usage of the “I AM” description says far more than He is God. We must look at it in its historical/ biblical context to gain an understanding of how a first century hearer might interpret this name. In Exodus 3, Moses encounters Yahweh Himself at the burning bush and receives his commission to deliver the Hebrew people from the grips of Pharaoh. Moses, feeling unworthy and unqualified of this mission, asks God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” And then 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.’” The phrase, I AM WHO I AM, could also be translated, I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE. God was promising Moses that whatever his need was, He would be the provider and answerer of that need. No matter what situation Moses or the Israelites found themselves in, God promises that He will meet them at the pinnacle of their need and bring provision, comfort and a way of escape. This is the very reason that the disciples on the boat, and all followers of Christ today, can take great comfort and courage. Jesus promises to come close in the depths of the “storms of life” and provide whatever we need at that moment. Can man have any greater reassurance? The very God who delivered Moses and the Israelites from the bondage of Pharaoh; the very God who saved His disciples at sea; this is the very God who walks to you and with you during the struggles of life and whispers in your ear, “Take courage, I AM!”
It is because of this reassurance that we can “stop being afraid,” as Jesus commanded his disciples. Moses was afraid of facing Pharaoh; the disciples were afraid for their lives in the storm. Yet, after they encountered the great I AM, they had sufficient reason to “take courage” and “stop being afraid.” The Bible states both that “God is love,” (1 Jn. 4.8) and “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn. 4.18). As we respond to God in the essence of His perfect love, fear has no place in the disciple. Fear only remains if we do not encounter God in a meaningful way! The question must be asked, “What is my response to life’s trials? Do I seek the One who has promised to meet the need, or do I get mesmerized by the waves and winds and look to a natural way of survival?
Peter well understood the three phrase proclamation that we have been studying. Peter alone was able to overcome his fear and take courage as he received the presence of the Lord and knew that nothing could happen to him that God did not allow. We must understand that often times, Jesus will not steady the boat in the storm, but rather, he may ask you to leave the boat and walk on water. The real test is, will we stay in the security of the natural (the boats of our lives) or will we respond to Christ’s call to “come!” Peter put himself in a place to see a miracle. There was no natural principle for Peter to lean on as he left the “security” of the boat. He needed a miracle and because he was responding to the character and calling of Christ, the miracle; the provision; the answer, was given.
Most Christians today rarely see signs, wonders or miracles in their lives. Why is this so? It centers around a statement that was made near the beginning of this article: “You cannot worship God to a greater capacity than your concept of God.” Like Moses and Peter, we must encounter Christ in our daily lives so that He can impress upon us His very nature. Faith can only germinate and grow out of the bedrock of divine revelation. Revelation is a byproduct of intimacy with the Lord and if we lack intimacy with Jesus Christ, we lack the revelatory faith needed to trust Christ at His word. If we fail to encounter God, then by default we are left to encounter the false securities, ideas and philosophies that are offered by this world. This is one of the main reasons that we see the church struggling with issues such as divorce, homosexuality, and abortion, among others. To truly heed the command of scripture to, “not conform any longer to the pattern of this, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12.2), we must meet intimately with the Transformer, Jesus Christ. If we reject this command, then we passively allow the culture to dictate and indoctrinate our minds and wills. What is the result? Carnal Christianity! A Christianity that professes to have the truth but fails to demonstrate the truth in their lives.
Though much has been said about Peter’s temporary lack of faith and focus and subsequent sinking, most of the critics are still in the boat and never see true signs and wonders in their lives. They are the ones who are willing to ridicule and mock the very ones who have put their lives and reputations in the hands of the Lord as they battle the enemy. They are the ones who are desperately and fearfully working to bail the water out of their sinking boats and all-the-while, Jesus is calling them to walk on water.
The Lord has asked this ministry to put itself in the need of the supernatural. What the Lord has called us to do, we cannot do without the miraculous provision of I AM (Jesus Christ). Thank you for your partnership and support. Thank you for your financial faithfulness to the Lord and this ministry.
© 2004 World Ministries International