Take Courage! It is I
Key Verse 6:49,50
“But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’”
It was impossible to ignore what happened on that day. When people thought about what had just happened, it was incredible. It was incredible how so many people, more than 5000 had eaten. When they thought about it, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that a miracle had taken place right before their eyes. All these people had come to see this Jesus whom the whole world was talking about. 5000 men had come along with their families. So they must have numbered around 10,000 people. Who were these people? They were the most pathetic of people, the poor, the infirm, the rejects of society whom no one wanted. But Jesus wanted them. And when the day was almost over, Jesus also fed them all with 5 loaves and 2 fish.
Jesus had compassion on them. He taught them the word of God so that faith may grow in their hearts. But when the day was waning, Jesus saw that they had been there the whole day and had not eaten. So he fed them. He fed them to show them the great love of God for them. He fed them so that they might be assured that God is with them, that he cares for them. He fed them so that they might realize that God is the provider of all their needs. He fed them so that they would see God and his kingdom are right there with them. Jesus wanted them to see that there are things in their lives that are far more important than eating and being comfortable. He wanted to see the spiritual world, and that their lives should be far more meaningful than simply securing food for themselves. People only see this world so they cannot think of anything but the things of this world. They think this world is everything, so they work hard to secure a place for themselves in this world. But Jesus showed them another world, a world they should seek with all their hearts. For that they needed faith. After the miracle they should have put their faith in Jesus. But they didn’t. They saw Jesus as an opportunity to make their lives better, and they wanted to crown him king by force. That would have started a revolution and the Romans would have quickly crushed them all. It wouldn’t work, because Jesus didn’t come to a king. He came to deliver them from sin. He came to restore faith in their hearts.
But that’s not all. While Jesus did the miracle of the bread to reveal the glory of God to the people, that they might put their faith in him, how about the disciples? What did Jesus want them to learn? Surely they were still learning. Some people think that as long as they put their faith in Jesus, there is nothing more to learn. But that’s a mistake. Such people become spiritual couch potatoes. But Jesus performed this miracle and the disciples needed to learn something from it. At least they would learn a lot more than the crowd did. At the least Jesus expected them to learn that faith is ever the victory in all situations of life. That they could overcome the world and everything in the world if they only put their faith in God. Jesus wanted them to learn that God does great and glorious and impossible things through those who have faith. They needed to have gathered from this event that faith is everything— the key to every locked door— the passage through every storm or hardship or difficulty— faith, the guide in our daily lives. Jesus also wanted them to see who he is, the Creator, the Savior of mankind, the Lord who loves them and would help them in their life journey. That’s what they should have see through the miracle.
For this reason the next passage we are looking at here comes in. Seeing the miracle and participating in it was great. But it was not enough to see and to witness. It was time now to seriously consider what they saw, to think about it, to meditate on it. To take time to digest the event, to discuss it, to come to conclusions and lessons of faith, personally and with one another. The word of God we read or study is good, if we take the time to consider what we read and what we study. That is the process of learning in Christian life. We learn something, and then we meditate — properly— on it, and we let it settle into our hearts. That’s when it is most effective. So also with these disciples. It was great to witness the great work Jesus did. But Jesus also wanted to take time out to consider the word of God they had heard and the work of God they had witnessed.
If the disciples were to remain behind, the crowds would not have allowed them the necessary time to rest and to have some quiet time. So Jesus, the good shepherd, intervened so that the opportunity might not pass them by. So here’s what he did for them according to verse 45. “Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.” “He made them get into the boat and go.” They certainly did not want to do so without him, leaving him the work of dispersing this excited crowd. But Jesus made them go, and good shepherd as he was, remained behind to disperse the crowds as his disciples made their getaway. So he dismissed the crowds himself and according to verse 46, Jesus “went up on a mountainside to pray”. This alone requires much time to meditate on, because there is wisdom in what Jesus now did. But let’s not get into this now. Briefly then, Jesus went to pray. He may have prayed for the crowds. They needed to understand the love of God who sent his son not to become the king who would give them food, but the king who would die on the cross for their sins. Jesus also prayed for his disciples. They needed to grow in their faith in him.
Look at verses 47,48a and let’s read them. “When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them.” Now the disciples had been alone in the boat, and well along their way. And let’s think about something here! Look at how Satan— the great deceiver of people’s hearts— gave them no opportunity to meditate on the meaning of the loaves. At the time when they were supposed to meditate on the word of God, and consider the work that was done through Jesus, Satan deceived them that they should strain at the oars, and to fight with the wind. Satan, the master deceiver kept them busy fighting with the wind for more than nine hours. For nine hours, they were doing nothing but struggling with the wind, until they were exhausted. And even after nine hours of intense struggle with the wind, they were no where close to their destination.
Why were the disciples struggling so hard with the strong winds? Probably they thought that it was more urgent to deal with this problem, than to think on the meaning of the miracle of the loaves. And that’s not so strange! It is the way most people think. It is the deception of Satan. And it’s the cause of ruin for all the people of the world. It’s what it means when the Bible tells us that Satan keeps people prisoners— prisoners of his many wily deceptions. Almost everything in this life of ours, when we take God out, when we do not consider the Lord— everything becomes a deception. Because while it looks as if we need to do something for our problems, for our sufferings, for our situations, for our lives, when we only see this world without God, then naturally we expend all our energies on solving or dealing with the problems. It’s a deception. It’s a deception because we are deceived to think that that’s our only option— our only salvation— our only way to deal with things— after all, it’s the natural normal thing to do. When the whole time we do not consider God, we do not see what God is doing, what God wants us to do, what God would teach us, what blessing the Lord would give us, what doors are open on the other side of the world for us to go through— in our situation, in our trouble, in our suffering.
whom Satan keeps people deceived, in his prisons of deception, they believe that the most important things in life are to solve their imminent problem— and he makes them think that solving the problems in the only way they know how to solve the problem— is far more important at this time than thinking about God and turning our souls to God for solutions. And the greatest deception of all is that life itself is an endless course of obstacles and hurdles from which there is no reprieve. And Satan makes sure that life becomes for us a never ending problem, pushing us to struggle against our problems above all else. In this way, most people find themselves doing nothing in life except fighting the wind! Not just fighting the wind, but getting nowhere! In the end, they wear out from the struggling against the wind, and find themselves just getting along, drifting along wherever life may take them. And that takes the joy of out of life. Even for Christians who find themselves deceived by Satan, and struggling day after day, they cannot understand what on earth Jesus means when he tells us he has given us life to the full, and what on earth does it mean to be joyful. How can anyone be joyful when they are struggling day after day with the wind, and getting nowhere! Finally they find themselves enjoying the small things in life, and calling it God’s blessings, while the whole time the Lord has in mind for us victory rather than defeat— truth rather than deception— salvation to live the Christian life in the fullness God had promised.
So. what can overcome the endless struggle against the wind? What is the secret to beat the wind? What is the secret to overcome the deception of the master deceiver and stand tall as a human being and a Christian promised victory rather than endless defeat? What could possibly convince a person that their life was never meant to be reduced to such a petty level of fighting wind? What could open a person’s eyes to see that fighting wind is futile— it does not work? Faith! And that is not a cliché at all! Some Christians and non Christians have heard this term so often that it has lost its meaning to them completely. Faith is not a cliché. Faith is the secret to beating the winds. No one can outsmart the devil. Therefore, no one can beat the wind with any human means you might have or employ. There is no way of fighting the winds and win.
And so Jesus always— always— taught his disciples faith— and the power of faith. Faith is the power to beat the wind— and there is no other. And faith will not come unless one— unless you and I— realize that we must stop fighting the wind and surrender ourselves and our situation to God. After that— we must not help God fight the wind, not even a little help— or even if it seems to be taking time— not even if it looks as if nothing has changed— Not! And do we know where that kind of faith comes from? It comes from the word of God. And some people do not trust that the word of God builds faith. Some Christians who are so oppressed by their problems cannot imagine anymore where faith comes from. Faith does not come from inside of us. It’s the gift of God, by his grace. And it comes from the word of God. So we must trust it. We must study it. We must meditate on it. We must always— always— go to the word of God and let it build up our faith until there is no doubt left in our hearts that faith is what we need— not oars or strength to fight the wind. What can overcome the deception of the devil? Only faith— the faith that comes from our standing on the word of God, our assurance that we need only trust God.
It was what Jesus wanted his disciples to do. If they had given themselves to consider the miracle of the loaves, they would have understood that faith is the victory. Faith would have been born in their hearts. And with faith, they would have realized that the wind is nothing but Satan’s deception and attempt to hinder them from fulfilling what Jesus had given them to do.
But they were very busy fighting with the wind. What should they have done? Well, even if they were spiritually young, they should have realized the deception, the effort of Satan to keep them busy fighting the wind rather than thinking of Jesus. They could have prayed and asked God to calm the storm as he had done before. But they couldn’t even think on a spiritual level because they were too busy fighting the winds. They may have thought like most people think that it’s stupid to talk about faith at a time like this. “What do you mean, have faith? What are you talking about? You want us to solve the problem of these strong winds with faith?” Yes! That is how the Bible men and women fought their own winds. And they were people just like the disciples, flesh and blood and weaknesses, and life issues, and mistakes and all. Faith is the only thing we have to fight the wind— now why is that so hard to comprehend and to accept?
Look at these poor disciples. They were fighting the wind not an hour or two but for until the third watch of the night— 3 AM. They fought until they were exhausted. They fought the wind until they could no longer fight anymore. They were like children who needed to learn the lesson time and again until they got it right. Jesus was standing there at the shore hoping that at some moment, they might realize the futility of such struggle and then turn their hearts to him in faith. But it did not happen. Look at verse 48. So, what did Jesus do then? “About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake.” He was there to help them. But surprisingly it’s not the way they saw it. They did not perceive that the Lord was on his way to help them.
Read verses 49,50a. “But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.” He was there to help them— to be with them. But they saw him as a ghost and were terrified. It’s really mind boggling that they thought Jesus was a ghost. It does not make sense that instead of recognizing the majestic Lord Jesus, they saw a terrifying ghost. Why? When we look at what Jesus told them, we realize that they were terrified because their hearts were hardened. Their hearts were not filled with faith. They had not taken the time to understand the meaning of the miracle of the loaves. So, even Jesus terrified them. Read verse 52. “For they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” Its what the Bible tells us their problem was. They had not understood. They should have not wasted time fighting the wind, but resting in Jesus— resting in faith. When their hearts were not in faith, they were hardened— hardened by what comes into our hearts when we do not stand on— live by— faith.
What an odd picture. A bunch of macho men all crying out at once in fear and terror. But when their hearts were not prepared with the word of God, faith could not take hold of the situation. When their hearts were not in faith, everything seemed scary. Without faith, even Jesus seemed like a ghost ready to get them. The deception of Satan was not that they fight the wind all night— and get nowhere— but the greater deception was to fill them with fear until they could no longer recognize their own Lord. They should have guarded their hearts with faith. Faith is a great guard against all the wiles of the devil— the deceptions— fears that he gives about all the things in our lives. Some are deceived that they are worthless— others that they are too worthy— others that they are stuck where they are— and others, that they have been suckered— and others that they cannot get anywhere in life— and others that they can rise to the top— others that it they try harder things would get better. Deceptions come in every form when we do not guard our hearts with faith. There is a major deception that God does not care for me— that I am not good enough— that I am too hurt by those who betrayed me. There is a deception that I must understand before I can have faith. Another deception is that God is unfair. Without faith, no one can understand God. And without faith no one can understand or see what God is doing. Without faith we cannot comprehend God’s plan for my life. And even if we do, we cannot see what he is doing around me, and where I fit in that plan. Without faith, every hardship is a punishment, every sorrow is a proof of God’s indifference, every pain is something I deserve or do not deserve. Without faith, everything in life, looks scary and terrible.
How did Jesus help these terrified disciples? Read verse 50b,51a. “Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down.” Jesus should have been offended that his handsome appearance was mistaken for that of a ghost— wouldn’t you? But Jesus understood their situation. They had witnessed a glorious miracle of the loaves. After that, when they should have considered the meaning of the loaves, Satan deceived them to struggle with the wind instead of preparing their hearts in faith. Jesus loved them. He went out to them. When he went out to them, they shrank back in terror. He never gave up. So what did he do now? Jesus did nothing more than what he had been doing to help them from the beginning. Jesus simply gave them a word of life— he encouraged them “Take courage,” in other words, have faith. It was always faith that Jesus taught them, because it is faith that will bring them out of their fear this time. Jesus also said, “It is I.” There are no more powerful words to bring the heart than these Words of Life, “It is I.” Wherever we are, in whatever situation we might be, whatever journey we are called to take, the words “It is I” are the strength and comfort of our hearts. Take courage, it is I. Don’t be afraid. It’s Him, Jesus, the lover of our souls, our refuge and shelter, our protector and friend. have faith It is I, don’t be afraid of anything. We must receive these words and believe them until faith grows to maturity in our hearts.