17 April 2010

John 6:16-21

"But he said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.'" (v.20)


Fear is a natural emotion and although the particular contexts which provoke our most fearful reactions will vary from person to person, there are perhaps some common themes. These might include darkness, danger and a feeling of being out of control.

The disciples of Jesus were out in a storm, far from the shore, and in the darkness of night they experienced all of these conditions. They were out of control and feared for their lives and then Jesus appeared to them "walking on the lake". Initially they seemed not to recognise him and his appearance produced in the disciples an even greater sense of terror. Once he spoke however, the scene changed and they were eager to welcome him into the boat.

The words of Jesus here are interesting. The NRSV footnote suggests the alternative translation as being "It is I am", which brings to mind the conversation between Moses and God when Moses asked for God's name and God replied "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). This is a powerful connection, but it may be more than John intends and so the main text of the NRSV contains only the simple self declaration "It is I".

What is clear is the fact that Jesus appears to the disciples in their time of darkness, of danger and of feeling out of control, and that this is enough to calm their fears and to bring them safely to the shore.

When we are in darkness and danger or feel out of control, this reading can bring us strength and encouragement. Jesus is not far away even when, in the middle of the storm, we find it hard to recognise him. We are invited to remember that he also says to us "It is I", to welcome him into our boat and to remember that we do not face the storms alone. The words of Jesus spoken to his frightened friends are also for us. "Do not be afraid."

To Ponder

How can we learn to recognise the presence of Jesus with us even when our lives are full of storms?

Bring into your thoughts and prayers some of storms that you are currently experiencing and repeat to yourself Jesus' words: "It is I; do not be afraid".

Bible notes author

The Revd Chris Blake

Chris Blake is a Methodist minister and principal of Cliff College in Derbyshire. His background is as a biochemist, and he has previously served in Barking and Dagenham as an industrial chaplain, in Dorset in the Wimborne Circuit and as chair of the Cornwall Methodist District.