The first visitor is in denial. He glances at the sky and looks uncomfortable. ‘Not a bad day out there,’ he declares. Nothing could be further from the truth. But he is terrified of the storm and won’t talk about it.
The second visitor is deluded. He looks confidently at the horizon. ‘I don’t think that storm is very strong, and I am sure it will miss us.’ You would like to share his optimism, but you know he is wrong.
The third visitor is neither deluded nor in denial. He knows that the fierce storm is heading your way, but reassures you, ‘don’t worry, I’ll be with you in the storm.’ This visitor would need to be someone exceptional if his words are going to bring any comfort. Who is it that tells us not to be afraid of the storm?
God treads on the waves of the sea
The scene is foreboding. The disciples are in a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, it is dark, a strong wind is blowing, the waters are growing rough and Jesus is not with them. Then they see something that is really frightening. Jesus approaches them walking on the water. Matthew tells us that they thought it was a ghost (14:16). What is their great worry at that moment? I am sure that they thought they were just about to die. But Jesus comforts them. ‘It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
Jesus is doing something that the Scriptures said God does. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8). The waters saw you, O God . . . Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters (Psalm 77:16 and 19). But not only does Jesus do what God does, he speaks as God speaks. The words translated ‘it is I’ can also be translated ‘I am.’ Does that ring a bell? Remember what God said to Moses at the burning bush. ‘I am who I am … I am has sent you’ (Exodus 3:14).
Jesus tells us not to be afraid
It is because Jesus is none other than God the Son that his words bring us comfort. He is the one who controls the storm. Indeed he rules over every storm that we face. His plans cannot be thwarted. Nothing can separate us from his love. He has dealt with our sin, conquered death and will not leave us as orphans in the world.
Before we go on I want to acknowledge that there are such things as anxiety disorders and burnout. People suffering in such a way need our sympathy and understand. They need a gentle touch. Remember that Jesus says that he will not break a bruised reed or snuff out a smouldering wick. But most of our worries come from having a wrong perspective in life and a lack of trust in God. So what worries you? We need to preach the truth to our worries!
When I worry that my nose is too big I am not acknowledging that my loving heavenly Father knit me together in my mother’s womb. If I believe that he has the hairs of my head counted then it is only vanity that is concerned that my bald patch may be growing. My concern about what people think about me reveals a fear of people rather than a reverent desire to please God. When I remember that Jesus declared ‘it is finished’ (as he died for my sin) then I need never fear that I am not forgiven.
Last Sunday I met a man in Bandon who knows Hazel Oakley. He remembers her as a young woman who had just been diagnosed with the Multiple Sclerosis that has left her in a wheelchair all these years. He said that when she was diagnosed Hazel declared with great faith that ‘if God intends Hazel Oakley to have Multiple Sclerosis then Multiple Sclerosis must be the best thing for Hazel Oakley.’ As she faced the storm she sought not to be afraid. She remembered who Christ is and the purposes for her life are for good.
Do you remember that house by the sea?
The first visitor walked into you house seeing the storm and not wanting to think about it. Like so many people in our world that visitor is denying the reality. They cannot face the fact that we are fragile and mortal.
The second visitor is deluded. He sees the storm but won’t accept that it is coming our way. So many people live in this world marked by suffering and death and are deluded with the notion that no harm will ever come their way.
The third visitor is Jesus. He enables us to face the realities of life, and yet he brings us true comfort. He is in control in every storm. He loves us and is with us. He is working all things for the good of making us more like him. He will bring us through that final storm and lead us to our heavenly home.