It is I AM
In his Gospel, Matthew notes numerous miracles of Jesus, beginning in chapter four through chapter fourteen. He healed all the sick (4:24). He cleansed a leper (8:1-4). He cured a Roman centurion’s servant (8:5-13). He cooled a fever (8:14, 15). He stilled the wind (8:23-27). He exorcised demons (8:28-32). He restored a paralytic (9:1-8). He stopped a desperate woman’s twelve-year bleeding trouble (9:20-23). He raised a little girl from the dead (9:18, 23-26). He opened the eyes of the blind (9:27-30; cf. 12:22). He made the mute speak (9:32, 33). He healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (12:9-13). And he took five loaves and two fishes and fed over 5,000 people (14:19)!
Commenting on these miracle stories in Matthew’s Gospel, Douglas O’Donnell writes:
‘These miracles – by how they are done, when they are done, where they are done, and to whom they are done – show us something of the nature of the Kingdom. What is the Kingdom of heaven like? Look to the parables of Matthew 13, but look also to the miracles of Matthew 4- 14. The Kingdom is for all who recognize their spiritual sickness and come to Christ in faith for rest, satisfaction, and the forgiveness of sin.
‘The miracles teach us about the nature of the Kingdom. But they also reveal to us the identity of the King. In the miracles we are to see Jesus as the one prophesied in the Old Testament, the one whose very miracles – the blind receiving sight, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, and the dead raised to life (11:4, 5) – attest to his identity. This is the promised Christ.
‘And we are to see in these miracles that the one who has authority over every disease and every affliction also has authority over our greatest illness (sin) and what sin leads to (death. We are to see that the one who has authority to heal has the authority to forgive sins (9:2, 6) and that such forgiveness ultimately comes on the cross, when ‘He took our illnesses and bore our diseases’ (8:17, quoting Isaiah 53:4). We are to see that this is “Jesus,” the name that means Savior, “for he will save his people from their sins” (1:21).’
So in the miracles of our Lord we are to see him as the Christ (the Messiah) and as Jesus (the Savior). Moreover, we are to see him as God’s Son, “‘Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (1:23). Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.
In our texts this week (Matt. 8:23-27; 14:22-33), we are going to look at the miracle above all miracles where Jesus shows he is God and says he is God. O’Donnell notes that Matt. 14:22-33 is structured in two parts or acts. Act 1 is verses 22-27, Act 2 verses 28-33. Act 1 is about Jesus walking on water. Act 2 is about the disciples’ response to Jesus’ walking on water.
Notice that Act 2 ends with the words, “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God’” (v33). Worship? That’s a very odd thing for pious Jews to do to another human being. Then, stranger still, these monotheistic Jews call Jesus God’s Son! It’s the first time they say that. God the Father has said it of Jesus in 3:17. The demons have said it of him in 8:29. But now and finally the disciples say it as well. And by their saying it Matthew is saying to us that we should say it as well.
So that’s the end of the miracle story and the end of Act 2. We have adoration and confession. Truly this is God’s Son. How does Act 1 end? It ends with Jesus saying these words through the howling wind and rising waves: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (v27).
Here is where the original language and structure is helpful and interesting. In the original language of our text, after Jesus says, ‘Take heart’, he tells the disciples, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Between those words – take heart/fear not – we find the words, ‘it is I.’ But in the original language it is a very straightforward formula that means ‘I AM.’ ‘Don’t fear – I AM is here.’ This is, of course, the name God used for himself in the Old Testament, most famously at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14).
Even more interestingly, this divine ‘self-identification formula’ (I AM) is combined in a few places in Isaiah with the phrase, ‘fear not’ (see Isa. 43:1-3). And fascinatingly, Douglas O’Donnell notes that this phrase is located exactly dead center within this story.
“Act 1 ends at verse 27 and Act 2 ends at verse 33, and both acts end with a resounding Christological note: ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ (v33), ‘It is I AM’ (v27). But both before and after that phrase in the middle – “saying, ‘Take heart; it is I am,’” or “saying to them, ‘Take courage; I am’” – are ninety-one words in Greek. In other words, structurally that phrase is dead center.”
‘The center of the story is Jesus’ imperial ‘I am.’ Yes, Jesus is the divine Lord who walks on water. Jesus says as much, and he shows as much. He is God the Son. So what should be our response to him? There is only one right response to this reality: Worship! Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Have you bowed down to Jesus in worship? If not, why not? If you have, what should you then live like? Join us this Sunday as we consider the great ‘I Am,’ in our series, ‘Who is Jesus?’ Keep us in your prayers as we continue working to extend the Reformation within our area by planting a Reformed church making disciples who make disciples. I look forward to being back with you this Lord’s Day in worship.
For Christ and His Kingdom,