Subject: Redeemer Downtown Devotional: Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - February 12, 2012
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - February 12, 2012
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
John 6:16-24 (ESV)
The crowds had identified Jesus as the promised “Prophet” (6:14). Like Moses, he would host a multitude of people in a Passover meal and, in a mighty act of deliverance, lead them through turbulent seas as if walking on dry land.
After the miracle of feeding, the disciples found themselves crossing to Capernaum in violent waters, and they were understandably afraid. Jesus comes to them, walking across the raging waters as if on dry ground, and he calms the disciples by revealing His identity, saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Jesus’ words of self-identification, “It is I,” can also be translated, “I am.” And while this sounds grammatically awkward, it is theologically very profound. Several times in John, Jesus begins a statement with “I am” and then identifies Himself in various ways: as the bread of life (6:35), as the light of the world (8:12), as one who preexisted Abraham (8:58 - “before Abraham was, I am”). While Jesus’ assertion that He is the source of nourishment (“bread of life”) and illumination (“light of the world”) is striking, his decision to calm the disciples’ fear with the simple phrase, “I am,” is downright astonishing.
In Exodus, Moses is called by God to stand before Pharaoh on behalf of Israel. Imagine being a shepherd who is asked to lead God’s people and make demands on their behalf before the ruler of the most powerful kingdom on earth! In a moment of fear and trepidation, Moses asks God how he to answer those who question his right to lead Israel. God emboldens Moses by telling him to say that the One who appointed Moses to leadership is “I am who I am.” I am the one who eternally exists. There is no time when I will say that I “once was” or “one day will be.” “I am.” These are words that calm the fears of Moses and tumultuous hearts of the disciples. The God who led Israel out of Egypt is the same God who walked across raging waters to be with his disciples. In stormy seas, do you find calm in the One who outlives the storm? Do you find hope in the One who will ever be? Do you trust that He can master the storm and walk across violent seas as if on dry land?
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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