But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.Matthew 14:24-27
And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.Mark 6:47-50
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.John 6:16-20
A furlong is about ⅛ of a mile. This means the disciples were about 3 and ½ miles out into the sea as this storm was raging against them. They may have had some fear of the storm but we see them struggling to row to shore with all their might. While this struggle is raging, Jesus begins to walk out to them on the stormy sea. When they see Him, they think it must be a phantom or some kind of evil spirit. They are so afraid at this point they cry out loud in fear!
One of the most important things to remember in this situation is that Jesus “constrained them” to get in the ship and go alone out on the sea (Matthew 14:22). Jesus knew what was going to happen and what He planned to do about it. In fact, we can see from our verses today that Jesus saw them toiling out on the sea while He was still on the mountain praying. The disciples were never out of His watchful eye and care!
As soon as Jesus hears their cry, He answers them with the most comforting words to a child of God – “It is I.” The fact that God is near is the reason we can lay aside all fear and worry. They had been in grave danger but had the courage to keep trying to control the ship. It is now, when they see Jesus and do not know Who He is that they become so frightened.
Consider what C.H. Spurgeon once noted:
They were at their worst now; and yet, if they had known it, they were on the verge of their best. It is noteworthy that the nearer Jesus was the greater was their fear. Want of discernment blinds the soul to its richest consolations.Spurgeon’s Expository Commentary on Matthew, Volume 1. Pg. 236.
Jesus was there to help but they didn’t realize that He knew all along what was happening, that He had been watching them through their struggles, and He was now there to save them.
Sometimes the Lord is near us and we do not realize it. Perhaps we should cry out for Him before we allow our faith to shrink away and we become fearful.
Knowing the Bible always helps but when we are in situations like this, the word of God can give us hope. Consider Job:
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.Job 9:8
Dear child of God, look to Jesus for help when you are in the storms of life. Even in the worst storms, He can walk on the water just like walking on land.
He plants His footsteps in the sea; He rides upon the storm.William Cowper from the hymn “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”