Our lives can be chaotic sometimes. turbulent even. overwhelming occasionally. Some days it feels like everything is all out of sorts or like we can't get our bearings straight. Some days it seems all we can see is everything negative in our surroundings or everything good we're sure is elsewhere. We fill our hours with crying, moping, complaining, sighing, wishing, panicking, and despairing - and then go to bed hoping tomorrow might look better. We spin our wheels, beat our heads against a wall, push water uphill with a rake, and rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Things seem hopeless. useless. pointless.
This is likely how the disciples felt in Matthew 14. Jesus had just finished teaching, and had sent them in a boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while he went up to pray. The disciples set out but apparently didn't get very far, before their boat was "battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary." In fact, they were likely pushing and straining - trying to get somewhere - for hours, because "in the fourth watch of the night (at about 3 in the morning) [Jesus] came to them, walking on the sea."
What's fascinating to me is not that Jesus met them, walking on the sea, but that his first words weren't a pronouncement of "peace, be still" to the storm. Instead, they were directed at the disciples: "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Now, while this could certainly be comforting, we need to be careful not to gloss over what appears to be really happening in the passage. The phrase "it is I" is a bit of a paraphrase. When we read this in the original Greek, we find the phrase actually reads: "Take courage. I am. Do not be afraid."
This is the only place in Matthew we find the divine pronouncement of I AM from the mouth of Jesus. And, as such, we need to ensure that we recognize the gravity of the situation. While the storm is eventually calmed, the message of primary importance appears to be that the disciples (and, thus, we as readers) recognize that Jesus is indeed the great I AM.
See, when we come to the point where we begin to trust that Jesus is who He says he is, our perspective changes. We change. The storm that surrounds us loses its power. We start to recognize, much like Peter, that what matters is our nearness to Jesus. If Jesus is indeed the Word made flesh, God incarnate, Immanuel, my most pressing concern isn't removing myself from the storm, but being moved toward Jesus in the storm. And, much like Peter, as I fix my eyes upon my Savior, pressing in upon Him, I find the authority of my storm no longer has control over me.
If you find yourself this Advent season feeling hopeless, crying out for change, feeling like you're pushing against the oars but getting nowhere. If you can't see a way out or a light through, take courage. The I AM is coming. And he's calling you to be near him.
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