It’s Jesus. And he says immediately, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Key words here, “It is I.” Ego eimi in Greek. He’s not just saying, “Hey, guys, it’s me.” What he says immediately calls to mind the divine name Yahweh, the name God used for himself when he appeared to Moses at the burning bush, I AM. Ego eimi in Greek is, literally, “I am.” “Take courage. I am…the LORD. Don’t be afraid.”
That’s not a ghost. It’s God. It’s Jesus.
Blessed Peter, reckless, impulsive, foot-in-mouth, but bold Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” One word propels him out of the boat and into the water, “Come.” This isn’t just any word, but a Word from the Word made flesh, the Word of God from God himself. And Peter finds himself walking on water.
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” He doubted. He was going so well, listening to Jesus, focused on Jesus, but then looked away, saw (!) the wind (you can’t see wind, the effects/results of it, but you can’t actually see the wind), saw the waves, the whitecaps, the trouble he was in, Jesus no longer at the center, Peter in the middle of it all, and one thought comes to mind: What am I thinking/doing? All Peter can see is the trouble that he is in, wondering what am I going to do to get out of this?
About to go under, Peter suddenly remembers how he came to be out there walking on the water, who it was that enabled him to do it – Jesus. The antidote for doubt and fear isn’t faith (bigger, better, stronger faith) – it’s involved, it’s there, but don’t go looking inside yourself for faith to measure its quality, quantity, consistency, reliability. The antidote for doubt and fear is Jesus, the object/content of faith. Peter remembers Jesus and cries out, “Lord, save me!”
There’s so much in those words, “Lord, save me.” Remember when Jesus called Peter to be his disciple – he’d fished all night, caught nothing, Jesus tells him to put out into deep water and let down the nets, a catch so huge the boat nearly sank. Peter fell at Jesus knees said, “Go away from me, Lord: I am a sinful man!”
You and I can cry out, and we do, Lord, save me. Save me from whatever madness/craziness this coronavirus thing has unleashed on our world. Save me from the stress of work and family, from my cranky boss and my crabby computer, from relationships gone wrong, from finances gone foul. But you and I need more than rescue from the storm du jour, whatever crisis is current in our lives. You and I must cry out, “Lord, save me.” Save me from my sins – impatience, pride, recklessness, doubt, and countless more, all of which make me thoroughly wretched, just one of which condemns me to eternity without you.
Jesus offers more than just a hand, he gave up his life in order to give us forgiveness and life forever with him! He took it back again with power and glory on Easter morning to assure us these gifts are ours by grace!
For the current crisis, Jesus offers a hand, pulls Peter out of the water. He also offers a rebuke, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Have you felt the sting of rebuke? Could this be said to you/me, “You of little faith, why do you doubt?” Unfortunately, yes. As the storms of life sweep over us, faith takes a beating. We can be overwhelmed by a sea of doubt and despair.
Faith falters. I doubt. I panic. I see the wind and the waves. And they are huge. I don’t know what to do. And then the voice, God himself says to you, Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” I AM. Remember, ego eimi in Greek? I AM. Not just I’m here with you/for you. I AM the Lord. When you and I leggo my eggo/ego (“ego” is “I” in Greek), when we stop focusing/fretting on self, then faith fixes on ego eimi, I AM. On Jesus.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand