October 10, 2016 • Life for Leaders
[They] all saw [Jesus] and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
After the crowd received nourishment from Jesus (6:35-44), both literal bread and the truth of the kingdom of God, they finally departed. Meanwhile, Jesus’s disciples had taken a boat and were trying to cruise on the Sea of Galilee. But they were “straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” (6:48). Finally, Jesus, who had taken time alone for prayer, saw that his disciples were in distress, so he walked out to them on the water. When they saw him, the disciples cried out in terror because they “thought he was a ghost” (6:49). But Jesus reassured them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (6:50).
The Greek original of the phrase “It is I” literally reads, “I am” (ego eimi). The NIV’s “It is I” is a reasonable rendering of the Greek. But it misses a nuance that was also missed by the disciples of Jesus. “I am,” as you may recall, was the shorthand version of God’s own name (Exod 3:14). When Jesus calmed his disciples using this phrase, he was surely identifying himself as being present: “Hey! Don’t worry. I’m here.” But his use of the phrase “I am” suggests something much more profound than this. It hints that Jesus was far more than a man who had miraculous powers so that he might walk on the water. He was, in a phrase, “I am made flesh.”
This reading of “I am” is strengthened by Mark’s comment in the next verses. After Jesus climbed into the boat, his disciples “were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves” (6:51-52). This refers to the previous story in Mark (see the devotion from October 6 on Mark 6:39-44), where Jesus fed the crowd because he had compassion upon them. In this action Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Ezekiel 34, where the Lord himself promised to be the good shepherd who would feed his people. Jesus was that good shepherd. He was the Lord in the flesh, “I am” made human. But because the disciples did not understand the significance of the feeding of the crowd, they also missed the deeper point of Jesus’ identifying himself as “I am.” They would not realize fully who he was until after his resurrection.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
What helps you to understand Jesus?
In what ways has Jesus surprised you as he has helped you to know him more truly?
Lord Jesus, today I praise you because you are more than a human Messiah, though you certainly were the anointed one of God for Israel and the world. I praise you because you are more than a good teacher, though you alone have the words of life. I praise you because you are more than a compassionate healer, though you once healed the sick and have done so for me as well.
Today I praise you, Lord Jesus, because you are “I am,” the Lord of heaven and earth made flesh. You are indeed Immanuel, God with us. Thus, you are worthy of my praise, my worship, and my whole life given to you. All praise be to you, Jesus the Lord, I AM! Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Discipleship in Process (Mark 4:35-41; 6:45-52; 8:14-21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.