We’re told there are two responses to fear—fight or flight. But Jesus tells His followers a third response—Don’t be afraid! He tells them this more than once—even the night He was betrayed and arrested (John 14:1, 27).
Jesus says this to His disciples in the midst of a storm. Many of these men were experienced fisherman who spent long hours on their boats and this sea. They knew the dangers of sudden squalls on the Sea of Galilee.
But fear came upon them for a different reason—they saw Jesus walking on the surface of the sea. In other gospel accounts we’re told they thought Jesus was a spirit—a ghost. This wasn’t the first time Jesus told them not to be afraid while out on the sea in a storm.
Previously, He was with the disciples when a strong storm sent waves breaking over and filling their boat. But Jesus slept through it all until they woke Him because they feared for their lives (Mark 4:35-41). He calmed the storm and they were amazed. But this miracle was different. It was intended to prepare them for the future.
When evening came, his disciples went to the sea. They got into a boat and started to cross the sea to the city of Capernaum. By this time it was dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. A strong wind started to blow and stir up the sea.
After they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they became terrified. Jesus told them, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!” So they were willing to help Jesus into the boat. Immediately, the boat reached the shore where they were going. [vss 16-21]
On the next day the people were still on the other side of the sea. They noticed that only one boat was there and that Jesus had not stepped into that boat with his disciples. The disciples had gone away without him.
Other boats from Tiberias arrived near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord gave thanks. When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into these boats and went to the city of Capernaum to look for Jesus. [vss 22-24]
(John 6:16-24 GW)
It’s me. Don’t be afraid!
Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions
What do Jesus’ disciples do when evening comes?
Where were the disciples headed in the boat and what happens while they’re on the sea?
Who do the disciples see walking on the water and what is their reaction to this?
Who else looks for Jesus and the disciples and when do they arrive where the Lord and the disciples are?
When Jesus calmed the storm that threatened to sink their boat, Jesus was with them and they were amazed at Him and His power over the storm. But in this situation, the disciples are on their own in the boat until they see Jesus walking on the water.
This is the fifth miraculous sign of Jesus in John’s gospel. It directly follows the fourth great miracle where 5,000 people were fed and illustrates two important assurances and truths. The power Jesus had over nature—His omnipotence—and His faithful presence in the disciples’ lives—His omnipresence.
Jesus reassures them—”It’s me. Don’t be afraid!“ He’s preparing them for the time after His resurrection from the dead when they need to walk by faith rather than sight. That is, is spiritual presence instead of His physical presence.
His power over the storm and their immediate arrival at their destination (Capernaum), reinforces the Lord’s power over the physical world—creation— because He is the Creator. These are assurances for the present and the future—while He leads them as their rabbi and after His resurrection from the dead as their Lord.
While the disciples are learning to trust Jesus in preparation for walking by faith, the crowd of seekers are focused on themselves. This becomes more clear as the story continues to unfold in Chapter 6.
Taking it to heart...
Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions
What does Jesus say to the disciples in the boat and how do His words seem surprising to them in these circumstances?
What do the crowd of people seem to be focused on and how does it seem to be in contrast to the disciples and Jesus?
Imagine yourself in the boat when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water—Do you understand their reaction?
When life circumstances seem threatening or challenging—Do you have the assurance of the Lord’s presence and power with you?
Meditate On This— It may seem trite, but in the midst of the fears and storms of life Jesus assures us of His presence and power to help us through or overcome them. We need to be confident He is all-powerful and ever-present regardless of our emotions or circumstances.
Prayer Focus— Daily prayer, praise, and worship, along with reading and meditating on God’s Word, are important for preparing us to move forward in faith when facing overwhelming and threatening situations in life. These disciplines are valuable for developing assurance of the Lord’s presence and power in our life.