“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Jesus says this in that magnificent passage where he comes to the disciples early in the morning hours as they are sailing in their boat to the other side of the great lake. They are being buffeted by the waves and wind. They see him striding confidently on the water’s surface and they are gripped with fear thinking that it is a ghost that they are seeing. He quickly reassures them with these words. “It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
If the disciples, and especially, Peter, did not recognize who Jesus was, even though they had been walking with him, eating with him, living as closely as they did to him every day for months and even years, are we not sometimes struck with fear when we realize who he really is, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God? Does fear not freeze in our bones sometimes when we realize the awesome power of his love and the challenge it throws before us to live as he lived? This whole scene is instructive in that it shows us the sometimes mercurial qualities of our faith.
Peter and the others knew Jesus in earthly terms. They knew him as the great teacher, the miracle worker, but they did not yet really understand who he really was. Our faith is like this too. We come to it, by the grace of God, for certain, but is not full blown and perfect yet. It is shaped by our limitations as created, finite beings. We are but earthen vessels after all: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Have we not wanted to do something courageous and out of the ordinary to show our faith in Jesus? Peter is like us. His faith in Jesus was yet incomplete. It wavered and failed him after he himself began walking on the water, and he began to sink. He wanted to believe more than anything. Is that not so for us too? Peter’s faith was tested again and again. Should we be surprised if ours is? What we have to remember about Peter is that, even when his faith failed miserably, out of fear, after Jesus was arrested, it was great enough that he did not sink into despair. Still, it took the resurrection to confirm his faith. Then, he became a true champion for Christ. Why should we be any different than Peter, or Thomas for that matter.
Like Peter, God has planted the seed of faith in us. If we are made of the kind of soil that the apostles were, it will grow in the light and nourishment of God’s grace. That is our constant prayer. But the weed of fear is always present in our human lives. One of the most oft repeated statements of Jesus in the scriptures is the admonition: “Be not afraid.” God knows us and loves us, yes, even in our weakness, indeed, especially in our weakness. Jesus knows our fears personally. And the Holy Spirit is with us to quell our fears in those times that our faith is truly tested, when we are buffeted by the storms of rejection and misunderstanding and even hatred as we attempt to live the Christ life in this Vanity Fair world.
Lord, We believe; help our unbelief. Help our hearts to trust in you when we are buffeted by storms of fear. Encourage in us the faith to believe you when you say to us: “Take courage! It is I! Be not afraid.” You alone are the source of our faith, our hope, and our love. Pour your graces into us so that we may become your good and faithful disciples in our daily lives here on earth. We pray these things in your name, Jesus. Amen!
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