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Sunday, February 03, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "It Is I."

“It Is I.”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
January 6, 2019 :: Matthew 14:22-36 

It’s in the all the Bible story books.

We love to tell it to our children.

We love to make application of this story to our spiritual lives.

I can think of a bunch of songs about it. Book titles. Even memes and jokes.

Jesus walks on the water.

It’s the quintessential miracle story about Jesus.

And, just think, it actually happened.

I think sometimes that we can turn this story into a metaphor, and we can miss the fact that it was first of all history.

This isn’t just a story about somebody so wonderful they could “quote unquote walk on water.” This is a story about a time that a man really did! In fact, for a short amount of time, two men really did!

But that’s getting ahead of the story.

First, we need to get our eyes on the ball.

What is the ball in the Gospel of Matthew?

It’s the identity of Jesus, right?

Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person Who ever lived.

The key question that Matthew is always answering–through his genealogies, his stories, his reports of Jesus’ teaching, the miracles, the parables, everything–the key question is “Who is Jesus?”

And once you know, believe, and receive the answer, you are invited and compelled to follow Him. To follow Jesus.

So, Who is this Jesus?

This story at the end of Matthew 14 takes the answer to that question to a whole other level.

And the answer can be captured in a very short little sentence in verse 27.

Jesus says it. He says, “It Is I.”

That’s proper English by the way.

We tend to say, “It’s me.”

But the correct first person pronoun in a predicate nominative is “I.”

[I had an English teacher for a mom! So I had to know.]

Your English versions have it correct. “It is I.”

The Greek is “ego eimi.”

And it makes all of the difference.

Those little words are just as, if not more, important than the miracle itself!

Jesus said, “It is I.”

This story begins with the humanity of Jesus.

It’s going to progress quickly to the divinity of Jesus.

But, I think because it’s going to go there, Matthew starts by painting for us a picture of a very human Jesus.

He wants to be alone.

If you remember, last week, Jesus wanted to be alone, and it didn’t work.

He had heard some bad news, and He wanted to go to a solitary place.

But the crowds found Him.

And He was compassionate. He healed their sick and eventually fed a gigantic crowd.

But He still wants to be alone.

He wants some time alone to pray.

So He sends everybody away. The crowd and His disciples. Verse 22.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee], while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”

Don’t miss that.

In all of the excitement that is soon to come in this story, don’t miss Jesus’ need for time alone with His Father.

And if Jesus needed time alone with His Father, how much more do you and I?

“...he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”

Do you get alone with God to pray?

Now, I don’t know if Jesus was planning to walk across the Sea this whole time or if He had another plan and decided on the spur of the moment.

He definitely hadn’t told anyone what His plan was because they are sure surprised, but it’s interesting to what they had expected Him to do. How did they expect Him to meet up with them? Perhaps He would catch a later boat.

Jesus’ disciples were in the boat. Jesus was not. V.23

“When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.”

Do you get the picture?

When you cross reference with the other gospels that have this story in it, you find that the boat was about 3 to 3.5 miles from the shore.

More than from here to Kylertown on the water.

And there is a great big headwind that is rocking the boat and probably giving the disciples distress.

And it’s night time. V.25

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.”

Can you imagine?

That is as crazy as it sounds!

The fourth watch on the Roman clock was between 3 and 6am.

And Jesus walks right up to them!

Never mind that He was walking on the water, how does He walk right up to them without a GPS?

It’s a windy night on the lake, the waves are up and down and up and down.

And the wind is howling.

And the waves are up and down and up and down.

And Jesus comes walking right up them!

The Gospel of Mark says that He was going to pass them!

Who does that?

The disciples have only one answer. It’s a phantasm! V.26

“When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It's a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.”

AHHHH!!! Like something out of a horror movie.

We don’t have categories for this!

You and I are like, “Well, He just fed 20,000 people. Who do you think it is?”

But my guess is that if we were in the boat, we’d be like, “Ahhhhh! What is it?”

And this is when Jesus says what He says about His identity. V.27

“But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.’”

“It is I.”

That makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

It isn’t a ghost.

“It is I.” It is Jesus.

It isn’t a monster.

“It is I.” It is Jesus.

It isn’t something to be scared of but somebody to find your peace in.

“It is I.” It is Jesus.

And remember, the wind is howling, so I think Jesus is yelling this at the top of His lungs. “It is I!”

And that makes all of the difference.

“It is I! Ego Eimi!”

I don’t think that they would have caught this at the time. I’m not even sure that He said it in Greek at the time, because He might have been speaking Aramaic.

But Christians have caught this afterwards in Matthew’s rendition. The Greek words “Ego Eimi” can also be translated...“I Am.”

As in what God said at the burning bush?!

That He is the “I Am.”

What Jesus intimated at another time, when He claimed that “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

And they knew what He was saying then. Because they picked up stones to kill Him.

Who walks on the water?!

Who does that?

Listen to Job chapter 9, verses 4-8.

“[The Lord God’s] wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed? He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger. He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.  He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.”

Who does that?

Listen to Psalm 77.

Asaph cries out to God in verses 18 and 19. “Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.”

Who walks on the water?

On His own power?

“Ego Eimi! It is I. I am.”

That’s Who Jesus is!

I’ve got four points of application for us today.

And they all flow out of understanding Who Jesus really is, and that if He is in our lives, then it makes all of the difference.

Here’s number one.

#1. TAKE HEART.

Did you see that “It is I” was in a word sandwich?

There are two commands on either side of “It is I.”

“It is I” is in the middle.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Do you see how “It is I” changes everything?

If it’s Jesus, then we have nothing to fear.

What are you afraid of right now?

Right it down on the back of your bulletin?

What are your biggest fears right now?

I know you’ve got them. We all do.

If you don’t, you’re lying to yourself.

What are you afraid of?

It might be legitimately scary.

These guys were in a boat on the sea at night in a howling wind.

That’s scary.

What are you afraid of?

The word translated “Take courage” in the NIV is the same as in John 16:33, one of my most precious passages. Where Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. [There are scary things out there.] But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It is I.

Take courage. Don’t be afraid.

Say that to your fears this week. Say, “It is Jesus.”

“He’s right here. And He’s the Great I am. And I am His.”

Take Heart.

Now, this next part of the story is only told to us by Matthew in his gospel. The other gospel writers don’t give us these details. Matthew has the scoop.

Simon Peter shows great promise as a disciple.

He decides he wants to imitate his master. Look how he says it. V.28

“‘Lord, if it's you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’”

“If it’s you!”

“Since it’s you!”

“If you are really Jesus, and you are really walking on the water.

Then let me come out there, too.”

That’s amazing, friends!

And even more amazing, Jesus says, “Alright! Come.” v.29

“‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”

#2. STEP OUT.

If Jesus says, “It is I,” and then He says, “Come,” then what should you and I do?

We oughta come!

Faith, real faith acts out.

If you really believe in Jesus, then it will show by your actions.

You will trust Him and you will obey Him.

And you will imitate Him. And you will follow Him.

Now, I don’t think that most or any of us are supposed to walk on water.

That’d be fun. I guess.

But that’s what Jesus says come to us about most of the time.

Most of the time He says, “Come follow me” and share the gospel, forgive someone who sinned against you, serve the poor, use your gifts to minister to others.

Those things aren’t as miraculous as walking on water, but it’s the same Lord asking us to do it.

Step out.

Where do you need to step out in ministry and following Jesus because He’s saying, “Come?”

It might be as scary as walking on water to do what Jesus calls you to.

But He never asks us to go somewhere He isn’t already.

I’m nervous this week about sitting on that panel on Wednesday morning.

Answering questions, perhaps from people who disagree with me and want to express their concerns.

I’m nervous, but I’m going to step out in faith and follow Jesus.

And listen well and try to respond well and love well.

Because Jesus says, “Come.”

Of course, we all know what happens next. Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus. V.30

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’”

Whew. That was a close one!

I don’t know about you, but I totally identify with Peter.

I’d like to think I’d get out of the boat, but I’m sure that I would see the wind and waves and be afraid.

And Jesus rebukes Him–but it’s gentle.

He calls him, “oligopistoi”–“You of little faith.”

We’ve seen this phrase before in Matthew chapter 6 and chapter 8. We’ll see it again in chapter 16 and chapter 17.

This is one of Jesus’ favorite little phrases for gently rebuking those He loves.

He is saying that Peter has faith, but that he needed more of it. He needed to keep on believing.

#3. KEEP ON.

To keep on trusting.

“You’re learning! Good job getting out of the boat. The other guys didn’t do that.

But why did you stop trusting? Why did you start doubting?

Oligopistoi, why did you stop?

Remember, ‘It is I.’”

Do you need to hear that today?

Maybe you’ve gotten your eyes off of Jesus recently.

Are you looking at the wind and the waves?

Keep on looking at Jesus.

“Fix your eyes on Jesus.”

It is Him!

Don’t look inward to see if you have enough faith.

Look at Jesus and put all of your faith on Him.

And don’t stop.

That’s where we begin to sink, when we take our eyes off of Him, when we start doubting that He is enough. That He is the Great I Am. That He is “ego eimi.”

I love verse 32.

“And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. [Just like that. Just like back in chapter 8, when Jesus told the wind to settle down and settled down. V.33] Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

They didn’t know all of what they were saying, but they knew that Jesus was something special.

And they worshipped Him.

#4. WORSHIP HIM!

This Person is the most important Person Who ever lived.

He is a man (remember how needy He was at the beginning of this story), but He is not just a man. And He is not just any man.

He is the Son of God.

Keep your eye on the ball.

This is what Matthew is all about.

Who is Jesus?

“Truly [He is] the Son of God.”

Worthy of our worship.

Worthy of everything we have said and done here this morning and so much more.

The chapter ends with some more people recognizing Jesus and with Him healing some more people just like He had earlier in the chapter. V.34

“When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.”

Which sets us up for next week because some of these people who touched Him were very unclean. And that doesn’t seem to matter to Him. And that raises some questions that Jesus will answer from the heart.

But right now it’s enough to just see what those disciples saw.

They saw not just a healer. Not just a powerful man.

But the Son of God Himself, the I Am, worthy of all of our worship forever.

****

Questions for Group Discussion

1. Re-read Matthew 14:22-36.

2. Do you remember when you first heard the story of Jesus walking on the water? What details about the story jumped out to you this time?

3. What do you think Jesus meant when He said, “It is I.” (Greek: “ego eimi”) What significance did it have in the moment? What did Christians understand about it later?

4. What difference does it make that Jesus said, “It is I?” Pastor Matt suggested four applications. Which one spoke the most to you? Why?

5. How can the group pray for you as you seek to apply this passage of Scripture to your life this week?

****

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus

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