““But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I, do not be afraid.'” (ESV)
This “take heart” shout of Jesus to His frightened followers was a strong order coming from High Command. The words “take heart” in the original Greek come from the military word “to muster courage” or “to gather up courage.” What is being said here would have been spoken by a first century military commander to those under his authority. Notice what Jesus is not ordering them to do – He is not ordering them to think a happy thought or to believe in themselves or to have faith in faith. There is no courage to be found within oneself as if it was a birthright or something inherited. Neither can courage be found in some pill, elixir or motto. Courage comes when we see that we have a purpose greater than ourselves. We are inspired by a cause and that cause is the genesis of courage. When Jesus ordered His disciples to “take courage,” He was actually extending to them Himself – “It is I, do not be afraid.”
In the context of Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 14, the disciples were in a boat, all of them together but without Jesus. Anytime, we are anywhere without the sense that Jesus is near, we will always become fearful and doubtful. But read Jesus’ words again, as He says to His disciples, “Take courage,” He tells them the reason they can. It is because He is there “It is I, do not be afraid.” As I write this to you, the world seems to be in a free fall toward a global crisis. Yet Jesus is saying that we need not be afraid of the storms and tempests in which we find ourselves, He will be with us. Jesus is our Master, Savior, and Redeemer and He is able to save you and me – it is for this very purpose that He came.
There are times when I “feel” as though I am alone. Yet from this verse I, like Jacob in the Old Testament, learned “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” Our emotions order us to panic and fear and the results will always be a setback. Without God-centered thoughts we tend to embrace unrealistic, unreal, emotionally created realities. Our imaginations left unchecked can be agents of torment that frighten our souls. Once we believe God at His word then, and only then, do our apprehensions of Him fade. We can then see Jesus Christ for who He is – Savior, Redeemer, and Friend. Instead of being fearful of Him, those fears vanish and our faith increases and we are ready to do anything that He orders us to do because He is always with us.
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