We are faced with all kinds of fears in life: fear of financial and job security, fear of cancer, fear of having to live in a nursing home, etc.
One of the greatest fears we all have now is the fear of the Coronavirus. We need a message of comfort and assurance from God’s Word which we find in John 6:16-21 - “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 yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.”
1. The Background: The Sixth Chapter of John opens up with the story of Jesus miraculously feeding the 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish. Afterwards, Jesus sent the disciples on their way, and He went up the mountain by Himself to pray.
2. The Storm: The day wore on, and then John tells us — “when evening came, his disciples went down to the sea” (v. 16). “When evening came” – This was the time between twilight and dark. The sun had already gone down over the horizon, and just a bare glimmer of light was shining, the sky would soon be completely black. They push off from the shore and start rowing across the Sea of Galilee.” V. 17 — “it was now dark.” V. 18 “The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.”
When it says in v. 17 that it was now dark, I want you to know that it was very dark! You could not see the moon, you could not see any stars, for a storm was brewing, thick dark billowing clouds covered the sky. It must have looked like a tornado was coming. You could hear the rumbling of the thunder over and over.
V. 18 – “a strong wind was blowing!”
You could hear the shrieks of the wind howling as it blew ferociously! The sea was rough; the waves continually lifted their boat high into the air, and then would drop them down in great splash of water, which covered the disciples, waves overlapped over the sides of the boat onto the disciples laps.
V. 19 – “when they had rowed about three or four miles.”
The water was very deep. The disciples were in a boat in the middle of the sea, at night, caught up in a terrible storm. This was not a large ship like you would find on the Mediterranean Sea. This was a smaller vessel that was driven by oars and a small auxiliary sail on it that was capable of sitting all 12 disciples and during rough seas water could easily splash in on them. And surging stormy waves would toss them up and down and could overturn them all into the depths. This was scary! Their lives were in danger! They could have drowned at sea! They were panicking! Then they look up and see Jesus walking on the sea toward them – they never saw Jesus walking on the water before! It was frightful seeing this figure of a man walking toward them on the water in the darkness in the midst of the storm!
V. 19 – “and they were terrified!”
We can identify with these disciples. All Christians are disciples of Jesus. We love Jesus and follow Him, and we gather together to worship Him. We are believers. We are disciples. And like these disciples who were caught up in a terrible dark fierce storm at sea and were terrified – we too have to face our fears.
We face all kinds of fears today: a fear of cancer, a fear of losing our spouse and becoming a widow, a fear of financial insecurity, a fear of having to live in a nursing home, etc.
Right now we are all faced with a storm that scares us to death – the storm is called the Coronavirus. It is scary isn’t it?
It is deadly and highly contagious. It is has taken the lives of people all over the world. It is in practically every state. You can even not know you have it and still give it to others. It just continues to grow. It seems unstoppable!
We are all taking measures to keep it down – many bars, movie theaters, amusements parks, athletic games, concerts, parades, marathons, schools, nursing homes, churches and other organizations and events that have more than 10 people in attendance are shutting down for the time being.
Many restaurants are only open with drive through or take out services. We are practicing social distancing.
Hospitals are having trouble getting enough equipment to meet the demands to care for people.
People are stocking up on supplies at home, and you can hardly find toilet paper, hand sanitizer, facemasks or bottled water in stores.
The stock market has plummeted. We are afraid to get around people. It is all we hear on the news. Yes, we too are in a terrible storm and we are terrified!
3. Find comfort in knowing Jesus is with us: “They saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid,” vv. 19-20. I want us to see some great comforting truths here for you and me.
Jesus knows and cares that we are in a storm – Jesus was up on that mountain praying but He had not forgotten His disciples. He was not too busy with God to think about them. Jesus looked down from that hill and He could see His disciples out there at sea struggling in the storm being scared to death, flaying helplessly and hopelessly, being tossed and turned in the waves, crying out for help! Jesus didn’t ignore them, he looked at them and he cared!
Jesus comes to us! – Jesus got up and walked down that mountain and He headed toward the disciples in their distress! Soon they were able to see Jesus walking on the water coming toward them. The disciples were so busy feeling the wind and the rain beating against their faces, and not being able to see in the darkness, and being scared they would fall out of the boat when the stormy waves were tossing them around, and water was splashing in on them and pouring over the sides of the boat onto them – that at first they did not see that Jesus was coming toward them. That is why it startled them so much to suddenly see Jesus that it scared them.
You and I can get so scared with this Coronavirus with all that we are seeing, and hearing and experiencing with it – that we miss seeing that Jesus has not forgotten us that Jesus knows the storm we are going through. Jesus loves us and cares for us. He has not forgotten us. In fact, He is coming toward us to help us. He is here with us!
Jesus Spoke – Jesus said, “It is I; do not be afraid” v. 20. Jesus said, “It is I.” In the Greek, it is even simpler. Jesus said, “Ego eimi,” which means “I am.” God said to Moses in the Old Testament, I want you to leave Midian, go to Egypt, and tell Pharaoh to let my people go. Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them that God has sent me to them, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said, Tell them that “I am has sent me to you” Exodus 3:13-14.
Who is coming across the water to the disciples in their distress? Why it is the great I am! Jesus is the Lord God Omnipotent! The all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present God! This was clear in the beginning verses of the Gospel of John – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” John 1:1. During the storm that night, the disciples saw a figure come walking across the water toward them, and they may not have recognized Him for they were terrified. They may have wondered - “Who is that coming toward us?” Jesus said, “I am,” and the Jewish ears of the disciples would have heard the echo of Yahweh the God who sent Moses is here with them.
This same Jesus who is the Great I Am, God Himself, the Almighty Creator God, who is bigger and stronger than any obstacle we face in life, who is stronger than any storm we face – He is here with us in this Coronavirus storm. That is the good news! That is the answer we need more than any other answer. Jesus is present with us in this storm.
Once Jesus revealed who He was to His disciples, that He was God, and then He tells them – “Don’t be afraid” v. 20. He can say – “Don’t be afraid” because He is God, He is bigger and stronger than the storm! The fact that He is walking across those stormy billowing waves, shows that He is bigger and stronger than that storm. That storm could not beat Him down; He is walking on the waves!
Since He is bigger and stronger than this storm we are in, then we are going to keep our eyes on Jesus, we are going to pray to Him, we are going to trust in Him, we are going to reach out and hold His hand! It is so comforting to know that this Great God is with us! And we don’t have to be afraid.
Jesus helped them get through the storm - “Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going” v. 21.
Did the storm immediately end when Jesus came to them? No. Did the waves stop pounding? Did the wind stop blowing? Did the sea get all calm and still? No, no. They were still in the storm. But Jesus saw them through the storm to the other side. The Gospel of John does not say that Jesus stilled the storm. The miracle is that He got into the boat with them and through the storm brought them to shore.
That is our faith. Are we in a storm? Yes. Are we afraid? Yes. The miracle is that Jesus who is the Great I Am, the Almighty God Himself; He loves us and is with us. And as we cry out to Him and trust in Him, He holds our hand, and He sees us through the storm.