Summary: In the midst of your storm, don’t be afraid! He is here. “Lo, I am with you always,” he promised his followers (Mt. 28:20). The night before the cross he told his men, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:18)."

Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister

First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO

Fear Not!

John 6:16-21

Two storms raged that night. The Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias, was actually a fairly small, deep fresh water lake, thirteen miles long by about seven miles wide. However, it lay nestled in a bowl at the base of a series of low lying mountains. To the east the Golan Heights rose a few thousand feet above the lake. To the west, the Galilean hill country hovered nearly two thousand feet above the shore. Only thirty miles or so to the west sat the Mediterranean, a full fledged ocean. Ocean weather fronts could come ashore, blow across the Jezreel Valley of central Galilee, funnel through the passes in the surrounding hills, and come roaring out into the lake with little or no warning. Because of the surrounding terrain, the storms on the Sea of Galilee were unpredictable and treacherous.

But another storm raged—this one in the hearts of the disciples. The entire day had been an emotional roller coaster. They had witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, likely the high point of their time with Jesus. But no sooner had Jesus astounded the cheering crowds than he abruptly turned them away, refusing the opportunity to be their political star, and went by himself into the hills to pray. At sunset, they decided to go on home by boat. They presumed Jesus would walk home later. About half way across, the storm hit.

Matthew, Mark, and John all tell their own versions of the story (Cf. Matthew 14: 24-33; Mark 6:47-52). The three accounts vary in the details they record. For example, it is here in Matthew’s account that Peter attempts to walk on water. John leaves that out, possibly to keep the focus on Jesus. But they all emphasize the terror that gripped these men. Perhaps, it was the suddenness of the storm or the darkness of the hour or the worry about Jesus and his puzzling reaction to the adoring crowds that made this storm worse than others they had faced. But each account tells of the miraculous appearance of Jesus on the water. This too struck terror in their hears. It was something totally out of the ordinary and unexpected. They were afraid!

Fear is like that. Sometimes it is not just the particulars of the situation that heightens our fear; it is the condition inside us. Fear is intensified by being alone or worse yet feeling lonely. That’s why just having some one sit at your side in a hospital makes it better. Darkness doesn’t help. Anything is worse when you don’t know where you are headed or what may lurk behind the next shadow. The familiar is seldom scary for long. But change, even good change, can be terrifying because fear mostly springs from feeling out of control. You sense that you are just being carried along toward some impending doom by forces totally beyond yourself. That is the stuff of fear.

Jesus’ simple message to those terrified fisherman is the same message he has for you and me when we are caught alone in the darkness, tossed by the winds of life, or feeling helpless. He said, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Jesus climbed into the boat and suddenly all was right with the world again. Mark’s gospel makes an important connection. “{51} Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, {52} for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." They shouldn’t have been surprised that the same one who can feed five thousand plus people with a few loaves and fishes can also stay the storm. But they didn’t make the connection and neither do we! How often we claim to believe in Jesus the Savior, the crucified and risen one who can take our souls to heaven, but then we fail to understand that if he can do that he can also carry us through the tumult of next week or the uncertainty of next year.

I am here to remind you today of what Jesus said two thousand years ago. It is his word to you in the midst of what ever fears, uncertainty, storms, or doubts you are or will ever encounter. “Don’t be afraid! It’s me!”

In the midst of your storm, don’t be afraid! He is here. “Lo, I am with you always,” he promised his followers (Mt. 28:20). The night before the cross he told his men, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” (John 14:18)." David echoes this so beautifully in Psalm 139: “You hem me in--behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you “(5-12).

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