Well, obviously they didn’t initially recognize that it was Jesus coming towards them on the water. So what was going on in their minds that made them confuse Jesus for a ghost? They had so given into the spirit of fear that they began to succumb to ancient Canaanite superstition of seeing a ghost as an omen of impending doom. This was likely coupled with the fact that Canaanite tradition also saw the sea as the place of scary monsters, demons and the Devil. This is why the Old Testament uses the imagery of the sea monster Leviathan to represent the Devil. Yet, the very thing that caused them to be afraid was the very thing that should have strengthened their faith. They were so afraid that they forgot that in the Old Testament, the only One that “trods” or walks upon the water is Yahweh, the LORD God Himself. And here He is walking on the water, coming their way. Now, please don’t miss this! Jesus will bring you through the next storm by revealing to you that…
HE WALKS ON WHAT YOU FEAR
You see, right in the midst of your storm, He is trying to reveal to you that He is stronger than what you fear! It’s kind of like in the story of Joshua leading the children of Israel’s conquest of the land of Canaan. And when, by the LORD’s help, he defeated several of the evil Canaanite kings that were hiding in a cave. He had them brought out and then called his captains to come place their feet on the necks of these kings. Then after they had done so, he says to them in Joshua 10:25,
The war was not over. They had several other battles to fight. Yet, right in the middle of their storm, according to this ancient war-time practice that communicated complete subjugation, Joshua was trying to reveal to his army that God is stronger than what they fear, in order to inspire their faith and courage. You see, the stuff you’re afraid of in your storm is the stuff that God walks on! Demons tremble at the mighty name of Jesus! Let God arise and His enemies be scattered! And here He is, coming your way, right in the middle of your storm!
Now just think of how absurd it sounded to the disciples, and how absurd it sounds to us, to hear Jesus say, while the storm is still ragging all around, “Be of good cheer!” Yet He is literally telling them to break out into praise and start rejoicing right in the middle of their storm! Really Jesus? How can I start celebrating, if you haven’t stopped the storm yet? Here’s why He can say that, because of what He said right after “Be of good cheer”…“It is I.” You see, in the original Greek language, Jesus just literally said “I am.” He is the great “I am”, Yahweh, whose Self-revelation was given to Moses and the children of Israel, when He delivered them out of the Egyptian stronghold with a mighty hand. He says to you do not be afraid. As a matter of fact, start rejoicing, because the great “I am” is here, who literally walks on what you fear and He’s coming your way to deliver you!
My friends, this is Good News! You can start rejoicing, right now, in the middle of your storm at the sight of His awesome presence and majestic power, even before the storm stops! Your God is greater than what you fear! This is why Jesus could say in John 16:33,
Because He has overcome, you have overcome! Because He has overcome, you can have peace and be of good cheer, even in your storm.
So now, catch this scene in your mind for a moment. Here’s Jesus and His disciples, who now recognize Him, in the middle of a ragging storm.
Notice in the story so far, the storm hasn’t been stopped. Jesus hasn’t stopped it. And maybe it’s because, from the disciples perspective, as their eyes can now see Him and they are in the presence of their mighty Savior, the storm just doesn’t matter. Could it be that they were finally learning what Jesus wants us to learn today. And it’s that Jesus takes you through the next seemingly unstoppable storm by seeing your struggle and drawing close, and then walking on what you fear.
So, how do we know? How do we know for sure that Jesus will do this for us in the midst of our storm? Because Jesus saw our struggle with sin and drew near to us by coming to earth and taking on human flesh. Then He took all the stuff we fear and conquered it by going to the cross on our behalf. He said, “Is that the thing you’re so afraid of? Let Me get that and walk all over it.” Then after what you fear crushed out His life on the cross, He got up from the grave, victorious over it; crushing it under His feet! And now He looks at you with incomprehensible love and grace in His eyes and says, “See, it’s gone. I dealt with it. It is finished. Now will you trust Me?”
CJ Cousins, Speaker/Author
Follower of Jesus, Husband, Father and Associate Pastor for Younger Generations at Vienna SDA Church.