Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. – Mark 6:45-56
A particularly poignant song lyric is found in Phillips, Craig, and Dean’s Favorite Song of All.
He loves to hear the angels as they sing
“Holy, holy is the Lamb”
(Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb)
Heaven’s sing in harmony
Lift up praises to the great “I Am”
But He lifts His hands for silence
When the weakest saved by grace begins to sing
And a million angels listen as a newborn soul sings
“I have been redeemed”
The image of the Great “I Am” receiving honor and yet calling for silence to hear the weakest saved by grace begin to sing touches my heart deeply. That God whose name YHWH means “I Am” would care to listen to weak and lowly people sing his praise is a stunning thought.
But that’s just what God does. Once he hid Moses in the cleft of the rock so he could pass by and reveal a glimpse of the backside of his glory, now hides himself in human form. Behold the glimpse of his glory. He strides upon the sea. He walks on water. And on this occasion he doesn’t even have to raise his hand for silence. It seems he simply wills the storm to cease once he joins the disciples in the boat.
Jesus’ presence ushers in peace. But what of those times when even with Jesus’ presence there is turmoil, strife, storm, and trauma? Jesus’ command rings out: “Take courage.” He goes on to say, “It is I,” in our translations. But in the Greek it is ἐγώ εἰμι, which is literally translated, “I am.” The Great I Am comes to the disciples, clothed in humility but making it clear who he is – by action and by word.
Jesus’ presence ushers in courage. If we take that seriously, we will not look for quick fixes to our personal troubles, our church’s challenges, or our nation’s woes. We will look beyond the momentary urgencies that call out to us. We will remember Jesus’ promise: “In this world you will have trouble. But rejoice! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Courage would not be displayed by foolish irreverence in the presence of God. It would not be shown by an unwise rush into the teeth of the enemy. Courage is not shown in bravado, intimidation, or self-righteousness. Courage is shown in following Jesus wherever he leads. Courage is shown in gentle words of correction and humble confessions of faith. That’s the courage of God’s word and power, righteousness, and reckoning.
Courage is more often shown in restraint than in confrontation. I’m not sure Peter was being courageous when he asked Jesus to call him out of the boat onto the water (Matthew 14:22-33). Courage was showing up the next day and the day after, and learning more and more along the way. Courage is long-haul faithfulness. Courage is forgiving a sister or brother who sins against you. Courage is loving your enemies. Courage is facing each day with the awareness of God’s call and claim on your life. And the better we know Jesus, the more courageous we will be.