“I Am”

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Laitylodge painting

They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here!”

Mark 6:50

After the crowd received nourishment from Jesus, both literal bread and the truth of the kingdom of God, they finally departed. Meanwhile, Jesus’ disciples had taken a boat and were trying to cruise on the Sea of Galilee. But they were “struggling against the wind and waves” (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, thinking that he was a ghost” (6:49). But Jesus reassured them: " 'Don’t be afraid,' he said. ‘Take courage! I am here!' " (6:50).

The phrase “I am here” is more frequently translated as “It is I” (ESV, NRSV, KJV, NIV). The Greek original literally reads, “I am” (ego eimi). Both “I am here” and “It is I” are reasonable renderings of the Greek. But they miss 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. It’s me, Jesus.” 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 totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves” (6:52). This refers to the previous story in Mark (see the reflection on Mark 6:32-44), 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 FOR REFLECTION: What helps you to understand Jesus? In what ways has Jesus surprised you as he has helped you to know him more truly?

PRAYER: Today I praise you, Jesus, because you are more than a human Messiah, though you certainly were the anointed one of God for Israel, and for 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, 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, my whole life given to you. All praise be to you, Jesus the Lord! Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.