Jesus’ apostles had been waiting for Him in the boat but He had been a long time in reaching them. He told them He would meet them but He first had to dismiss a crowd that had been listening to Him teach (Matt. 14:22) and then He spent some time afterward in prayer in the mountain alone by Himself (Mark 6:45,46). But from His place of prayer, Jesus saw His disciples toiling and fighting the wind and waves and went to them in the fourth watch, walking on the water (Matt. 14:23-25; Mark 6:48).
The apostles were understandably afraid when they saw Jesus walking to them on the water in the early morning hours. They were undoubtedly tired, having battled a tempestuous sea all through the night (Matt. 1423-25; Mark 6:34, 45-48). They were so afraid, in fact, that when they saw Jesus they literally cried out or screamed in their fear because they thought they were seeing a ghostly apparition (Mark 6:49).
The Lord immediately allayed their fears and spoke to them saying “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27). The ever impetuous Peter immediately blurted out, “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me to come unto Thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28). And for just a moment, he did. He stepped out of the boat and was able to walk on the water going to Jesus. But when he began to look around at the waves and the wind, he began to be afraid all over again and began to sink. He cried out in fear to the Lord “Save me!”
On another occasion, the Lord was asleep in the hinder part of the ship while the wind and waves covered the boat. The apostles were afraid for their lives and rushed to wake Jesus, rebuking Him, saying, “Carest Thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38)? Jesus returned the rebuke by asking them, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). He rebuked the sea also and at His voice the winds bowed down in reverence. The apostles’ fear was born out of lack of faith in the Lord. If they had considered Who it was that was in the boat with them and what He was to do, then they should not have been afraid.
How easy it is in this world to be afraid. There are all sorts of threats to our well-being and they seem to be increasing daily. Muggings, terrorists, war, financial disaster, immorality affecting our families, thugs, oppression etc. Sometimes we feel as though we are all alone and we just want cry out, “Lord, don’t you care?” We often cry out “Lord, save me!” As faithful Christians, however, we should know just what and whom to fear.
The Bible says that we should not fear anything that can happen to us in this life. David said he was not afraid even of a great army that should come against him (Psalm 27:3). If we know that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble, then we “will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).
The apostle Paul, quoting the sentiments of the Psalms, writes “we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). The most that any person can do to us is to take our life. A prospect that from the human perspective is to be avoided at all costs. But Jesus said not to be afraid of them for that (Luke 12:4). Rather, He said, be afraid of Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28).
“And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (I Peter 3:13,14). As Isaiah assured Israel:
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish…For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10-13).
Paul once asked the rhetorical question: If God be for us, who can be against us (Rom. 8:31)? As long as the Lord is on board, no Euroclydon wind can ever capsize our vessel (Acts 27:14). God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7). Never charter a vessel with the name S. S. Fear or sail under Captain Terror. Our Captain commands even the winds and the sea and He treads above the white-capped waves of doubt and fear!
Eric L. Padgett