St. Mark is careful, like St. Matthew, to tell us that when the even was come he was alone on the land. Both the evangelists desire to call attention to the fact that, when night came on, the disciples were alone in their boat and Jesus alone on the land. It was nightfall; and St. John informs us that "the sea was rising by reason of a great wind that blew." Then it was that the Lord left his place of prayer on the mountain, and walked upon the sea, that he might succor his disciples now distressed by the storm. It would appear that our Lord had been obliged to use a little pressure to induce his disciples to leave him: "He constrained them ( ἠνάγκασε τοὺς μαθητὰς αὑτοῦ )
And when he had sent them away ( ἀποταξάμενος )—more literally, had taken leave of them, that is, the multitude—he departed into a mountain ( εἰς τὸ ὄρος ) ; literally, into the mountain; that is, the high table-land at the foot of which the multitude had been fed. Towards the north-east of the Sea of Galilee the land rises rapidly from the shore. To pray ( προσεύξασθαι ).This is a very full word, implying the outpouring of the heart to God. Our Lord did this that he might teach us in our prayers to shun the crowd, and to pray in silence and in secret, with collected mind. There is here, too, a special example for the clergy, namely, this: that when they have preached they should go apart and pray that God would make effectual that which they have delivered; that he would himself give the increase where they have planted and watered, and renew their spiritual strength, that they may return again to their labour refreshed by communion with him.
"It is I."
How picturesque and impressive is the scene! Jesus has dismissed the multitude, and has sent his disciples away in the boat to the western shore. He himself has retired to a mountain, by prayer to calm his spirit and to strengthen himself for his ministry. Night comes on; the wind rises from the west, and the waters of the lake are lashed into a storm. By the fitful light of the moon, breaking now and again through the drifting clouds, Jesus, as he stands upon the hilltop, observes the boat tossed upon the waves. Her sails are down, and the disciples are rowing, toiling, but are making no way against the gale. Jesus descends the hill, and, in the exercise of his supernatural power, walks upon the water. The superstitious fishermen, naturally enough, take the figure approaching them for a spectre—some foreboding spirit of the deep—and they' cry aloud in terror. Then come the words, so authoritative and so gentle, "Be of good cheer: it is I be not afraid!" The hearts of the disciples and the waves of the lake alike are calmed. Amazement fills every breast, and as they approach the land, the rescued mariners adore with fresh admiration their Deliverer and Lord.
I. CHRIST 'S PEOPLE HAVE SOMETIMES TO PASS THROUGH A SEA OF TROUBLE .
1 . Circumstances without may conspire with fears within. Christians are in trouble as other men, and they sometimes dread lest they should be overwhelmed.
2 . Christians may encounter trouble in the very act of obeying Christ. Just as the twelve met the storm in fulfilling their Lord's directions to return to Gennesaret, so we may meet with trials and dangers in the path of obedience. If so, let us not count it strange.
II. CHRIST OBSERVES AND SYMPATHIZES WITH HIS PEOPLE IN THEIR TROUBLE . They may be unconscious and forgetful of this. little did the twelve, as they toiled in rowing, imagine that the eye of their Master was upon them; but it was. From the hill-top he witnessed their struggles; he, the Lord of the waves, suffered their violence; he, his disciples' Friend, allowed them to come into extremity, and did not prevent their fears. So he may, for good reasons, allow his people to experience distress. Yet he is not unmindful and not unmoved. He thinks of them, watches over them, sympathizes with them. He may seem absent, but he is not.
III. CHRIST 'S PRESENCE AND VOICE BRING COMFORT AND PEACE TO THE HEARTS OF THE TROUBLED . Faith discerns that presence, though unseen; that voice, though unheard. "'It is I!'—I, who love you; I, who died for you; I, who provide for your wants, and watch over your souls; I, who sent you on life's voyage; it is I, who am with you always, who now come to seek and save you!" When Jesus says, "Be of good cheer; be not afraid!" his are no empty words; they are words fitted to banish fear, to instil confidence, to inspire courage, to awaken hope.
IV. CHRIST 'S POWER AND GRACE BRING DELIVERANCE TO HIS TROUBLED ONES . We are indebted to him for more than sympathy. His tender kindness, his strong promises, his unfailing faithfulness, all issue in practical aid, in gracious interposition. He is the Lord of all hearts, and can assuage the tempests of the soul. He controls all circumstances, and compels all to co-operate for his people's good. "He maketh the storm a calm;" "So he bringeth them to the desired haven." Who, upon the troubled sea of time, would be without a Comforter so gracious, a Helper so mighty?
V. CHRIST 'S INTERPOSITIONS AWAKEN THE AMAZEMENT , REVERENCE , AND GRATITUDE OF HIS PEOPLE . Like the twelve, we have often too much reason, when we experience the compassionate interference of our Lord upon our behalf, to blame ourselves because our hardness of heart has made Divine deliverance seem strange to us. This is just what we ought to have looked for, to have expected with assurance. Oh for grace, that when the voice from heaven addresses us, "It is I," we may respond, "It is Thou, indeed, O Lord, whom we honor, upon whom we call, in whom we trust! It is thou, whose presence is ever dear, whose voice is ever welcome, whose heart is never cold, and whose help is never far!"
1 . An encouragement to obedience.
2 . A rebuke to fear.
3 . An assurance of Divine sympathy.
4 . A call to grateful adoration.
Jesus walking on the sea.
I. THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD ARE EXPOSED TO OPPOSITION AND DANGER IN CARRYING OUT HIS COMMANDS .
II. WITHOUT THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS PRESENCE DIFFICULTY APPEARS INSURMOUNTABLE .
III. HE IS EVER AT HAND TO BLESS THOSE WHO ARE STRIVING TO OBEY HIS WORD .
IV. WHEN HIS SERVANTS ARE READY TO RECEIVE HIM HE WILL COME TO THEIR RESCUE , AND EVERY OBSTACLE WILL BE OVERCOME .
V. SUCH TEMPTATIONS ARE INTENDED TO DISCOVER THEIR NEED OF HIM , AND TO CONFIRM THEIR FAITH IN HIM .—M.
Jesus walking on the sea: interpreted of the Church.
I. EVANGELICAL TASTES . The vessel and crew represent the Church of Christ; the sea, the variable circumstance of world-life; the voyage, the commission of the Church from her Lord; the storm, the adverse spirit of the world; the apparition, the spiritual advent of our Lord into the heart and mind of his Church; Capernaum—Christ's "own city"—the city of God, to which the Church brings all true believers.
II. SPIRITUAL LESSONS .
1 . The Church of Christ , in discharge of her great mission , must be separate from the spirit of worldliness. The crowd left upon the darkening shore was animated by the unconverted, carnal mind that cannot understand the things of God; but it must nevertheless be ministered to. This mind is full of unspiritual interpretations of the mission and person of Christ (cf. John 6:14 , John 6:15 ). But Christ himself, from whom the disciples were parted, was not yet manifested to themselves as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. He was as yet, so far as their conceptions of him were concerned, the "Christ after the flesh" of whom Paul spoke, and therefore but an element or phase of that world-spirit with which he had been associated in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. These together represent, then, the forms the world-spirit assumes, and through which it endeavors to work.
2 . The Church ' s distress arises from various causes , external and internal , but chiefly the latter.
(1) The opposition of the world-spirit , increasing as the direction of the vessel becomes more determinate, and developing bitterness, fury, and persecution. Against these the Church strives.
3 . The deliverance of the Church consists in receiving Christ "after the spirit ," in faith and communion. This advent is supernatural. It is out of the eternal calm, spiritual elevation, and moral stability of the mountain of Divine communion. Advancing to and with his people through the turmoil of world-life, he is at hand to bless according to the measure of reception accorded him, ready to reveal himself to them that look for him and cry to him, and proving himself the One who "overcometh the world." This spiritual Christ (not an apparition, though appearing to the superstitious fear and ignorance of the Church as such) is the true, substantial, and eternal Christ, who will work out an instant and complete salvation for his people, perfecting their spiritual life, and leading them to their journey's end.—M.
There are three essential elements discernible—withdrawal from man, approach to God, and return to man.
I. SEASONS OF PRIVACY AND RETIREMENT ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE SPIRITUAL WELFARE OF THOSE WHO HAVE MUCH PUBLIC LIFE AND WORK .
II. A GREAT MINISTRY MUST BE SUSTAINED BY CONSTANT , PROFOUND DEVOTIONS ,
III. THE PRAYER OF THE SAINT IS AS HELPFUL AND NECESSARY TO THE WELFARE OF OTHERS AS HIS PRACTICAL WORK .
I. DIFFICULT OF ATTAINMENT . Much publicity jarred and fretted his nature. Yet he could not be rude or unkind. The multitude must be sent home; the disciples required to be removed from the dangerous excitement of the scene "Constrained"—"sendeth the multitude away." Only Christ could do this, and at what cost! His rest must be legitimately won, and therefore no duty or kindness is neglected.
III. A NECESSITY OF HIS SPIRITUAL NATURE .
III. UTILIZED IN THE HIGHEST OCCUPATIONS ,
IV. BROKEN IN UPON BY HUMAN SYMPATHIES AND SOLICITUDES ,—M.
Christ walking on the sea.
This miracle was no unmeaning portent, but was full of spiritual significance. In Scripture the people are often spoken of under the figure of the sea and its waves ( Daniel 7:3 ; Revelation 13:1 ). Christ had just assuaged popular passion, and now he calmed the troubled sea, which was symbolic of it. Here, then, we may see a sign of the coming dominion of the spirit of Christianity over the sea of nations. We content ourselves, however, now with learning a few truths respecting our Lord and his disciples which are exemplified here.
I. WE LEARN RESPECTING OUR LORD :
1. Christ ' s disciples would send away the people who were hungry , but Christ himself sends them away when they are too well satisfied. The reason for dismissing the crowd is given in John 6:15 . They were greatly excited by a miracle, repetitions of which would ensure the provisioning of armies, and the success of a revolution. Hence Christ sent them away. "He hath filled the hungry with good things, but the rich he hath sent empty away." The prodigal is welcomed when he comes home starving and helpless. We must go to him acknowledging sin and weakness, and not confident in ourselves.
2 . Christ withdrew himself from earthly honors , whereas too often his disciples greedily seek them. Our Lord " constrained " his disciples to go away, for they were evidently loth to do so. It was for their, good. They were in danger of becoming infected (if they were not already infected) with the spirit of the people. To them it seemed that the longed-for kingship of their Lord was within reach. But for the second time he resisted the temptation—"All this will! give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me." And for them he answered in a most unexpected way the prayer, " lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
3 . C hrist left us an example of secret and earnest prayer. He was alone with God at the close of that exciting day. The quiet of eventide calls us also to secret prayer. Our Lord hereby renewed his strength, and from it he came forth to conflict and victory. " Pray to thy Father, which is in secret."
4 . Christ is often out of our sight , but we are never out of his. Lost to the sight of his disciples, he nevertheless " saw them toiling in rowing."
II. WE LEARN RESPECTING HIS DISCIPLES :
1 . We are sometimes left to toil on in darkness , without Christ ' s realized presence. He leaves us alone for a time that we may feel our need of him. Though the wind may be "contrary" to us, it is a good wind if at last it brings our Saviour near.
2 . Our extremity is his opportunity. It was about "the fourth watch of the night"—between three and six in the morning—that Jesus came; and the hours had been so long and weary since they started upon their voyage, that they must have been fast losing hope and courage. The darkest hour is just before the dawn.
3 . If our strength is insufficient to bring us to him , his strength is sufficient to bring him to us. It was so when he redeemed the world. He came to earth because we could not climb to heaven. It is so in our special occasions of necessity. He sometimes comes for our deliverance in unexpected ways—"walking on the sea."
4 . In all our troubles Jesus says , "It is I ; be not afraid. " .— A.R.
The vision on the lake.
I. THE FRAILTY OF FAITH .
1 . In loneliness. Jesus had gone away. The disciples were in the middle of the lake, amidst a stormy sea. It is a picture of a life-experience. In loneliness we sink into weakness and cowardice, having been brave in the fellowship and under the contagious influence of superiors.
2 . In the withdrawal of its Object from the field of vision. They could not see Christ. We want to see, when the whole need is that we should trust. we want to unite incompatible things; willing to trust so soon as we see a good prospect of safety; cast down with apprehension when the inner sight, kept clear, would open its vista of cheering hope. Those men were yet to learn, in the language of one of them, to " believe in the Saviour, though now we see him not."
II. TERROR AT THE SUPERNATURAL . They saw Jesus passing, and were terrified, for they thought it was a ghost. Involuntary fear in the presence of the supernatural is the symptom of our weak and dependent nature. When Jesus appeared as Jesus, he drove all fear away; when he passed into the chiaro-oscuro of perception, standing as it were in a region intermediate between earth and heaven, as here on the lake, as on the Mount of Transfiguration, terror fell upon their souls. Fear in the mind reflects the presence of God. Modified by intelligence, purified from superstition, fear passes into that reverence which is the ground-tone of religious feeling.
III. THE TERRORS OF GOD CONCEAL , HIS LOVE . Behind the tempest is his "smiling face." The voice of the Comforter and Saviour of man speaks from the dread apparition of the lake. So from out the mystic scenes of nature, the Alpine tempest and avalanche, the mountainous swelling of the Sea, and all human changes and turbulences of history, speaks a voice, clear, calm, and still, if we will but hearken, like that which greeted Elijah: "Have courage; it is I. Child of man, I love thee; rest on me and be at peace." It is when we realize that we are members of the kingdom of spirit and under the protection of its Head, that we can defy the "wild deluge of cares." It is not because God is not near to us, or that help! is not available, that we tremble and feel forlorn; it is because, like the disciples, our "minds have become dull."—J.
I. WALKING ON THE WATER .
1 . Almighty power. Every one who has glanced over the early pages of English history is familiar with the story of Canute the Dane. That king wished to reprove the fulsome flattery of his courtiers when they spoke of his power as unlimited. He ordered his chair to be set by the seaside as the tide was coming in. He peremptorily commanded the waves to withdraw, and waited a while as if for their compliance. He seemed to expect prompt obedience, and watched to see them retire; but onward, onward came the surging sea; its waves kept steadily advancing, till the monarch fled before it, and left his chair to be washed away in its waters. He then turned to his courtiers, and solemnly reminded them that that Sovereign alone was absolute whom the winds and waves obeyed—who controlled the former, and set bounds to the latter, saying, "Hitherto shall ye come, but no further." The sacred writers claim it as the peculiar prerogative of God to gather the wind in his fists and bind the waters in a garment. Job, in celebrating the attributes of the Almighty, applies to him the sublime and striking sentence, "Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea."
2 . Comparison of two similar miracles. There are two miracles of our Lord which have a close resemblance to each other, and at the same time considerable dissimilarity. One of these is that recorded in this passage, and called his "walking on the waters;" the other is distinguished by the name of his "stilling the storm" ( Mark 4:35-41 ). By comparing these together, we find that the circumstances of the disciples were much worse, and their distress much greater, at the time referred to in this passage than on the former occasion. we may glance
3 . Cause of these dangerous storms. Such sudden dangerous storms are still of frequent occurrence on that small inland lake. The best comment on all this physical commotion, and the best explanation of the nature and cause as well as scene of this miracle, may be found in Thomson's 'The Land and the Book.' There, after his notice of a storm which he had witnessed on the lake, we find the following account:—"To understand the causes of these sudden and violent tempests, we must remember the lake lies low—six hundred feet lower than the ocean; that the vast naked plateaus of Jaulan rise to a great height, spreading backward to the wilds of the Hauran and upward to snowy Hermon; that the water-courses have cut out profound ravines and wild gorges, converging to the head of this lake, and that these act like gigantic funnels to draw down the cold winds from the mountains. On the occasion referred to we suddenly pitched our tents at the shore, and remained for three days and nights exposed to this tremendous wind."
4 . The difficulty of the disciples. Their difficulty was equal to their danger. They were toiling ( βασανιζομένους , literally, tortured, baffled , tested as metals by the touchstone) in rowing, and we cannot but commend them for their conduct. They were using the proper means, and that is ever right to do; but the means did not avail. They were employing every energy; but it was to no purpose. They were putting forth all their strength; but it was utterly fruitless, and without result. The wind was still against them. Whether it was blowing a gale, as it does when it travels at the rate of sixteen miles an hour, or whether it was blowing a high gale, when it goes with the rapidity of thirty-six miles an hour, or whether it was blowing a storm, which it does when it sweeps with the speed of sixty miles an hour, or proceeding with hurricane fury at ninety miles an hour,—whatever may have been the velocity of that wild wind, it was rude and boisterous; and, what made matters worse, it was directly opposite—right ahead. There they were struggling, toiling, tugging; but all in vain. There they were working with all their might; but still their frail barque was the plaything of wind and water—tossed by the waves and the sport of the storm. They themselves were every moment expecting to find a watery grave in that tempestuous sea.
5 . Another source of distress. There was another source of distress, and one which aggravated their difficulty and added to their danger. That was the continued absence of the Master. When he had sent them away—in fact, "constrained" ( ἠνάγκασε ) them, as though reluctant to go without him—he remained alone on the land. But why leave them at all? Or why leave them so long? Or why especially leave them at such a critical juncture? Or why, at least, delay his coming in their great emergency? They would naturally think of the storm that once before had befallen them on that self-same sea. They would think of the glorious Personage that then sailed with them in the self-same boat. They would think of the sound slumber he enjoyed,, as he lay on the cushion in the stern. They would think of his calm composure when he awoke. They would think of the short but stern command he uttered, when he rebuked so effectually the tempest, and hushed it into a calm. They would think of that gracious presence that curbed the winds and calmed the waves and checked even the swell of the waters. They would think, "Were he with us now, he would still the storm, and we should soon be safe on shore." They would think of the petition they presented to him, the prayer they prayed, the fervency of spirit that inspired it, the faith that dictated it, the frailty that cleaved to it when they said, "Lord, save us.!"—there was faith; "we perish!"—there their faith was weak. Ever and anon, as they regarded the war of elements that raged around, they would sigh for their absent Lord, and long for land. No wonder, for had Christ been in the boat all would have been well.
6 . The Saviour ' s presence is safety. Nearly half a century before Christ, a great conqueror attempted to cross the stormy Sea of Adria in a small boat. The waves rolled mountains high. The courage of the sailors failed them. They refused to venture further. It was a sea in which no boat could live. Soon, however, they were reanimated and encouraged to renew their toil, when the conqueror discovered himself, and told them who and what he was, in the characteristic words, "You carry Caesar and his fortunes." With Christ in the boat, the disciples might have flung their fears to the winds, for One infinitely greater than Caesar would have been there—One who could have stirred their hearts and raised their courage with the emboldening words, "You carry Christ and his Church."
II. THE EYE OF CHRIST IS ON THE BOAT THAT CARRIES HIS DISCIPLES .
1 . His omniscience. He saw it all—their difficulty and danger and distress. His eyes were upturned to heaven in prayer, yet he saw all that was transpiring. The night was pitchy dark, yet he saw that small speck tossed like a cork upon the waters of that stormy sea. He had constrained them to embark, but he kept his eye upon them. He saw their fears, but he meant to teach them a new lesson of faith and confidence. He saw them from the distant mountain to which he had retired apart to pray. It is positively stated that he saw them. He saw them, though he was on the mountain-side and they were on the sea; he saw them from a distance which the ken of no mortal eye could reach; he saw them through the darkness of the night; he saw them in their panic terror; he saw them and all their embarrassments; he saw them when they did not, and when they could not, see him. "Be of good cheer!" he said. I did not forget you; I did not forsake you; I had you on my heart; I had you in my eye all the time. I did not fail to look on you, though you failed to look to me; I did not shut up my compassions, though you restrained prayer. You were neither out of sight nor out of mind. I was resolved you should not perish, nor a hair of your head fall. Boisterous as the wind was, I had charged it not to presume to harm you; rough as the sea was, I had commanded it not to dare to destroy your frail craft or damage one of the crew. Absence does not limit my power; distance does not separate you from my presence; danger and difficulty and distress only make you dearer, and call forth my more tender care.
2 . His love is unchanging. Jesus is the same Saviour still, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." "Be of good cheer!" he said. These words, though addressed to the first disciples, have sent their echo down along the centuries, and bring comfort to disciples still. In them Christ addresses you, reader, and myself. By them he says to every faithful follower, "Mine eye is on thee; it has been on thee hitherto; it will be on thee to the end. You may rest assured I will never fail thee—no, never forsake thee." Again, the words of the Saviour, "Be of good cheer!" are backed by another fact which presents itself to us in this passage, and that fact is the purpose for which our Lord had retired to the lone mountain-side. He was passing the night in prayer , not specially for himself but for his disciples—his disciples then and now; yes, for his disciples in that slight ship and on that stormy sea. They toiled and rowed; he prayed. They were suffering; he was supplicating. They were struggling; he was interceding. They were buffeting the waters; he was bearing them, as High Priest, on his heart before God in the holy of holies of that mountain solitude. They were ready to faint; he was praying for them that they might not faint, and that their faith might not fail. They were longing for the Master; he was exercising his love on their behalf.
3 . A true picture of the Christian ' s life. It is so still—as it was it is, and ever shall be, on the part of our dear Redeemer and his redeemed ones. We have before us a true picture of life-of human life, of the Christian's life. We are toiling in this world below; the Saviour is employed on our behalf in the world above. We are in circumstances of peril and pain; the Saviour bids us "be of good cheer!" and look up to him; "he has overcome the world." We are afloat on the sea of life; our barque is fragile, the wind is high, the storm scaresome, the sea raging, and we are tossed upon its waters; but Jesus is over all, and looks down on all, and will save through all,' for "he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him."
4 . The suitable season for succor. Once more he says, with yet another meaning, "Be of good cheer!" I did not come, it is true, when the storm began, nor when the first night-watch set in. I knew you would have wished me then, that you would have been glad to see me coming then, that you would have hailed my arrival then. But you knew little of the difficulties that beset you then, little of your own inability to cope with them then, little of the impotence of your own efforts then. You knew not, at least not sufficiently then, that the power of man is weakness, and the wisdom of man is folly. You knew comparatively little of your need of a higher hand and a stronger arm to save you then, and little also of the great mercy of deliverance. For the like reason I came not in the second watch, nor even in the third. The fourth watch had commenced, and still I saw reason to delay my coming. It was half run and more before the proper moment arrived. I did not postpone nor defer an instant longer than was meet. Soon as the minute-hand pointed to the right moment on the dial-plate of time, I came, and came at once, without further or any unnecessary delay.
5 . God's time is the right time. God 's time is not only the right time, but the best time. By his coming the time he did, the Saviour said in effect to the disciples, and through them to us, when we, like them, are tossed by the down-rushing winds and the upheaving waves of a troublesome world, Had I come sooner, it would have been premature on my part, and not expedient for you. Had I come sooner, it would have been pleasanter, but not so profitable for you. Had I come sooner, I should have consulted your feelings more than your interests. This fourth watch, and this last part of it in particular, is the season of your extremity and the time of my opportunity. Thus it is still. When you, reader, were saying, "Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Is his mercy clean gone for evermore?" his grace and mercy were drawing very near. When you were ready to give up all for lost, and about sinking into despair, then the Saviour said, I have come to give you confidence, to impart to you consolation, and inspire you with hope; in a word, to impress on your heart these words of comfort that now fall upon your ears. I come, therefore, as is my custom, at the moment best for the Creator's glory and the creature's good. Further, by the words," Be of good cheer!" he reminds us of the fact that we never enjoy rest so much as after long hours of labour, we never enjoy safety so much as after a time of danger, we never enjoy sleep so much as after a day of toil, and we never enjoy a calm so much as after a time of storm. Some of us can attest this by personal experience. We have often been to sea, but only once in a storm. And never did we so thoroughly enjoy the land, or rest so sweetly on the shore, as after that terrible storm.
6 . Application to ourselves. Thus will it be with all the dear children of God. After the tempests of earth, we shall enjoy the tranquillity of heaven all the more. After weary wanderings and a sorrowful sojourn in this vale of tears below, we shall relish far more keenly the rest and home above. Not only so, there is no common measure by which we can gauge the true relative proportions of these storms of earth and that sunshine of the skies. The great apostle of the Gentiles felt this when he said, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
III. THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF OUR LORD 'S PRESENCE .
1 . A mistake. The announcement of the Saviour's presence is contained in the words, "It is I." When he did come the disciples mistook him. First they see through the gloom of night the dark object at some distance, then they discern the outline of a human figure standing out amid the darkness of the night and against the lowering sky. They never for one moment supposed it was the Saviour. "What can that phantom form be?" they thought within themselves. They had doubtless many conjectures, but sin gave its gloomy interpretation to the scene. It is a phantom—a spirit! they said; a spirit of evil, a spirit of woe, to take vengeance on the guilty! So it was with Herod; and so it was with Joseph's brethren, as we have seen; so it was with Belshazzar. So, too, with ourselves many a time. Not unfrequently we mistake our own best blessings; we think them distant when they are close at hand. Nay, we often mistake them altogether; we regard as a curse the very thing that God meant to prove a blessing. The dark cloud of his providence "we so much dread," even when it is "big with mercy," and ready to burst with" blessings on our head." We continue our mistake, until God becomes "his own Interpreter, and makes his meaning plain." It was thus with the disciples here, until Jesus revealed himself in a manner not to be mistaken, and said, " It is I. " Often and often in time of trouble, of trial, of toil, of difficulty or danger or distress, of adversity or affliction, we have said individually, "All these things are against me;" all these things are tokens of Divine displeasure; all these things are messengers of wrath. Jesus draws near and whispers to the soul, Not so; that trial, that cross, that bereavement, that sickness, thus distress of whatever kind, came from me; it was my doing; it was I sent it; I was the Author of it; I sought by it your good; it is I, and you are to recognize me in it; it is I. "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me."
2 . A calm succeeds the storm. When all is storm around, when all is dark within, when of all human sources of consolation we are constrained to say with the patriarch of Uz, "Miserable comforters are ye all;" just then, it may be, a happy thought occurs to us, a ray of heavenly light shines down upon us, a gleam of comfort comes to cheer us. We fear we are imposing on ourselves. Not so. Jesus comes in a way not to be misapprehended, and says to us, "It is I' you need not be afraid. The winds have fallen and the waters subsided. It was I, says Jesus; they did it at my bidding.
3 . The real source of succor. Relief comes. We are rescued from danger; from sickness we are restored to health; out of a situation of discomfort and unrest we are relieved. At such times we are apt to speak of the immediate instrumentalities in the case, and to attribute the change to second causes. This passage corrects that error. In it Jesus says, "It is I" in other words, that medicine that proved so effectual derived its efficacy from me; it was I directed to it. Those friends that were so kind in the day of your trouble were moved to sympathy by me. It was I prompted them; it was I put it into their heart; it was I placed it in their power. "While some trust in horses, and some in chariots, we will make mention of the Name of the Lord." Thus, in all that betides the Christian, Jesus takes a part; in all the variety of change, and scene, and condition, and circumstance—that wonderful co-operation of all things for our good—we trace the presence of the Saviour. In the painful things and the pleasant, in the heights and depths, in the ups and downs, in the joys and sorrows, we are assured of the Saviour's power and presence; he is conducting us through all to the goodly land afar off.
"When the shore is won at last,
Who will count the billows past?"
4. Jesus with us all the way.
5 . Words of courage as well as comfort. Words of courage are also spoken by him. He adds, "Be not afraid." Be not afraid of temptation, for with every temptation he will prepare a way of escape. Be not afraid of trials; they enlarge your experience: "the trial of your faith worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope." Be not afraid of tears; they will soon be wiped away: even now the tears you shed cleanse the eyes, so that you see spiritual things more clearly. Be not afraid of toils; they will soon be past, and then "there remaineth a rest for the people of God." Be not afraid of troubles, for "through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom of God." Be not afraid of the perplexities of the wilderness; he will "guide you by his counsel" all the way. Be not afraid of the dark night of storm; for the dark clouds will scatter, and the feet of Omnipotence will come walking on the water. Be not afraid of the storms of persecution; "blessed are ye when all shall persecute you for the Saviour's sake." Only make sure you are his, and all the blessings of the covenant will be your portion.
6 . The feeling of danger a precursor of safety. "He would have passed by them." Why was this? Just that they might fully feel their need of his help, and earnestly apply for it. Salvation is the response of heaven to man when, in his misery, he cries for it. We have read of a young prince who toiled much and traveled much, who was often in danger, many times in perplexity, frequently in difficulties. But he was never left alone; a faithful friend called Mentor was ever at his side—his counsellor, caretaker, guide, and guardian. How much greater is our privilege, to whom Jesus says, "It is I 'I will be with you all the way; I will be with you at every turn of the way; I will be with you in every time of need; I will be with you in every place of peril; I wilt be with you in the darkness of the night and amid the terrors of the storm! In calm majesty he will come, walking on the surface of the foam-crested wave; nor will he pass you by, but provoke your confidence, and prove your faith, and pour into your ears the inspiriting words, "Be of good cheer: it is I be not afraid."
"Thus soon the lowering sky grew dark
O'er Bashan's rocky brow;
The storm rushed down upon the bark,
And waves dashed o'er the prow.
"The pale disciples trembling spake,
While yawned the watery grove,
We perish, Master—Master, wake!
Carest thou not to save?'
" Calmly he rose with sovereign will,
And hushed the storm to rest.
'Ye waves,' he whispered, 'Peace! be still!'
They calmed like a pardoned breast."