Matt 14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid." NASU
The context of this verse is very familiar. Jesus had sent his disciples away, to the other side of the lake, while He went up the mountainside to pray by Himself. During the voyage, the boat and its occupants were being battered by the wind and the waves. All of a sudden, they see a figure on the water, walking towards them. The biblical account says that they were terrified, believing that they were seeing a ghost. Then Jesus shares the comforting words. “It is I.”
It is interesting how many times the bible records Jesus talking to His followers about their fear. It occurs at least eight times in the book of Matthew. It seems that it is an important topic. We could tend to believe that His followers were rather easily frightened because Jesus spoke about it so often, but I don’t think that is the case. After all, it took tremendous courage just to follow Jesus at this time. For many, it meant leaving their homes, families and businesses, without any knowledge of what might happen. It meant being despised by many of their kinsmen and ridiculed by the Romans.
No, I think that the twelve and all of Jesus’ other disciples were just ordinary people, like you and I. We all experience fear at times. Some commentators say that this event showed lack of faith on the part of the disciples but that is incorrect. If you read the account closely, only Peter is rebuked for lack of faith and that came after he had demonstrated great faith by walking on the water to meet Jesus. Once he got out there, he lost the courage he started out with.
I think we can understand the fear of these men considering their circumstance. After all, Jesus had not said anything about meeting them out in the middle of the lake! It was a pretty natural reaction to a very supernatural event. What is important to see here, is the response of Jesus to their fear. Instead of rebuking the disciples, Jesus encourages them. How does He do that? He does it in two different ways.
First, He encourages them with His words. “Take courage,” might also be translated, “be bold,” or “have confidence.” He is telling them to replace their fear with courage, boldness or confidence. That is nice but it brings up a question. Why should they do that? The storm is raging and they see a strange figure walking toward them on the water. What would give them any reason to replace their fear with boldness or courage?
The answer to that is in the second way Jesus encourages them. It is a point I want you to pay close attention to, because it will make a huge difference in how you approach fear in your life. You see, the second way that Jesus encourages His disciples is with His presence! He assures these men that He is the one who is there with them. “It is I.” What an amazing statement! Jesus is letting them and consequently us know that as long as He is present, there is no need to fear. In His presence, fear can always be replaced with confidence, courage and boldness.
You might be thinking, “yes, but what about when I don’t feel His presence?” Then you must again go back to His words. This is what He says, Matt 28:20 “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV) We base our courage on what He says, not what we feel.
Heb 13:5-6 He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," so that we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?" (NASU)
If you are “in Christ,” you do not need to approach life with fear. Jesus is always present in your circumstance. Let Him speak His words of encouragement to you and replace your fear with confidence and boldness in Him. His power, proven in this instance by His ability to walk on water, knows no bounds. He is able to deliver you from any circumstance, any situation. Trust in Him!