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“I am”

When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. Having been driven about 25 or 30 stadios (3 or 4 miles), they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they feared. But he said to them, “I am; don’t be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6: 14-21
“I am”. What does it mean “to be”? More to the point, what about this one human being who is on record as stating repeatedly (according to John’s first-century biography, “I am”? What did he mean when he said, “I am”?

One particular person in today’s world seems to be saying “I am”. Donald Trump. He is seeking the Republican nomination as Presidential Candidate in the forthcoming US elections. Not only does he see himself as a worthy US President but also many US citizens want to make him king.

This contrasts tellingly with the circumstances underlying Jesus’ use of the words “I am” as recorded in John’s biography. See bold above. Back there around AD 30 Jesus, taking only five loaves and two fishes, had fed a crowd of over 5,000 people who had come into a deserted area to see and hear him.

Like Donald Trump, Jesus had a huge following. Like Donald Trump, his followers wanted to make him king.


‘Jesus is God spelling himself out in a language that man can understand.’ (S D Gordon, writer and lecturer, d. 1936)
Unlike Donald Trump, when Jesus saw their intentions, he withdrew from the crowd and went away alone to “the” mountain. Yes, Jesus had a mountain of some great significance that needed to be dealt with. That – and not becoming world ruler - had to be faced and dealt with.

John, Jesus’ biographer, quietly records, “When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.” Like the convinced crowds they had caught sight of their long-promised Messiah. They were on a high. Capernaum was their home-base there they would make it clear that their long-promised Messiah had come. They would be with Him, ruling (and feeding) the world.

Some of these disciples were experienced Galilean fishermen. Darkness was not a problem to them. But Jesus hadn’t come to them in time for him to join their boat. That also wasn’t a problem... They knew what to do – without him.

Shakespeare’s Brutus put it well when he justified his ambition to be Caesar: There is a tide in the affairs of men/ which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;/ omitted, all the voyage of their life/ is bound in shallows and in miseries./ On such a full sea are we now afloat,/ and we must take the current when it serves,/ or lose our ventures. Brutus then participated in the murder of Julius Caesar. The disciples started – going it alone as usual.

For most of us the words “I am” have the same thrust as “I can”. But in this AD 30 instance (as with so much in our frail lives), the “I can” quickly became “I can’t”. The sea arose along with a mega-wind and they were driven out to sea.... Worst of all, they this man Jesus, the feeder of 5,000, their Messiah, walking over the sea, coming close to the boat..... “They feared.”

Yes, this was the promised Messiah who miraculously fed 5,000. But this same man was now – in the reality of the darkness, of life’s tempests, and of the inevitable beckoning deep - to be greatly feared.


‘We know how God would act if he were in our place – he has been in our place.’ (A W Tozer, pastor, 1897-1963)
Jesus says to them – yes, to them – “I am; don’t be afraid.” He had used those two words before (Ego eimi) “I am”. He would soon use them again.

No sooner had they taken him into their boat that they had arrived. That’s what he wanted. That was why he came. Not to be US President but to be taken into our storm-ridden boat. “I am; don’t be afraid.”
Richard Syvret

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