“And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 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.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,” (Mark 6:48–51, ESV)
Imagine that you are one of the disciples of Jesus. It’s been quite a day. You have listened to Jesus teaching and seen him healing all day and it’s pretty impressive, then he takes five dinner rolls and two anchovies and feeds 5,000+ people! Wow, you were not expecting that to happen. The incident amazes the crowds so much that they talk about just drafting Jesus to be the next king of Israel (John 6.15) because anyone who can feed 5000 people with the lunch of a little boy has plenty of power to kick the butts of the hated Romans right back to Rome.
Jesus insists that you and the rest of the boys jump into a boat and meet him on the other side of Galilee. Even thought night is falling, you obey and off you go, a journey of ten kilometers or so. You row…and you row…and the wind begins to rise and it’s against you. A journey that should take maybe 4 or 5 hours is into its 9th hour and you’re in the middle of the sea. You begin to worry just a little bit.
Suddenly, someone sees an object in the dark that seems to be walking on the water. No human being can walk on the water, so this can only be a ghost, and of course everyone in your culture believes that there actually are ghosts and here is one just at the worst possible moment. You are absolutely terrified and scream out along with all the rest of the disciples. What does this ghost want with you in the middle of a dark and stormy sea?
And then…the ghost speaks and you can somehow hear it clearly over the wind and waves. You do not recognize the person because it’s just too dark, but you’d recognize that voice anytime and anywhere. It’s Jesus, your rabbi speaking and he says: “Have courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid” [HCSB] That voice is all that it takes to calm your fears. You’ll be safe now because its the same voice that rebuked the storm on the sea before and the wind and waves calmed down, just as he ordered. Jesus gets into the boat and the winds cease.
Everyone is flabbergasted. Sure, you all just saw him turn a lunch into a banquet for 5,000, but what does that have to do with 12 of you in the middle of a storm-tossed boat on an inky black night?
Who is this guy?