When I was a little girl, our family went to a large department store to do some shopping. I saw an intriguing display and stopped to look. After satisfying my curiosity, I looked up and realized I was all alone. My parents and my sister were nowhere in sight.
Somehow I had the presence of mind to go to the front of the store and tell someone I was lost. I remember hearing my name over the loudspeaker and a person asking my parents to come and get me. What a relief when they showed up! My panic and fear immediately disappeared.
When the fishermen-turned-disciples left Jesus to his praying and went out on their boat to cross the lake, the once friendly water turned ominous as a violent storm struck. From years of experience, they were comfortable on that lake but they also knew how dangerous it could be in a squall. They were worried and afraid and even more so when they saw what appeared to be a ghost walking on the water toward them.
As the seeming apparition got closer, they saw it was Jesus and when he said, don’t be afraid, I’m here, their fears disappeared. But Jesus wasn’t just the friendly face with the reassuring words that they weren’t alone. His presence meant much more than the sense of safety and security I felt when my parents showed up at the store. In the Greek he said, “Don’t be afraid, I AM” (Matthew 14:27). He revealed himself as God, the one who could and would save them, not only from the storm, but for eternity.
Maybe they got it and maybe they didn’t, but to the disciples (and to most people today) God seemed distant for the most part. He made “guest appearances” but lived someplace else. In the beginning Jesus was God and was with God (John 1). By becoming human, the great I AM is now with us on a more intimate level, living in the hearts of believers. He didn’t come only to bring forgiveness, grace and mercy—he came to give us himself.
This means so much more than simply having a sense of his presence. Instead of imagining he’s in the room beside us or hoping he will show up to calm the storm or wondering if he’s going to answer our prayers, we have the rock solid assurance Jesus is here and he’s real and he is. In him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). We can hold on to him because as the I AM, he is bigger than us, bigger than our fears, worries, hopes and dreams.
Sometimes life feels like being all alone in a big, frightening, unfriendly place, with strangers everywhere and danger lurking in the dark corners. But just as all it took was the friendly faces and smiles of my mom and dad to make me feel safe and out of harm’s way, all we need to know in life is that Jesus is here and he is the I AM.