And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” (Matthew 14:25–27).

 

What a profound correlation exists between these two parts of his cry of comfort! Not only is Jesus identifying himself here to them in contradistinction to anyone or anything else; he is actually making a fundamental statement about his deepest messianic and divine status: ‘I am Emmanuel, God-with-you, the one in whom the power of God’s own Being dwells’; “ ‘I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.’ Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters” (Is 43:15–16). ‘Do not be afraid: How could you be afraid in the presence of the One who not only created you but who also created the very element that for these many hours has anguished your souls?’ Jesus’ sharp command here, μὴ φοβεῖσθε (“Have no fear!”), in the present indicative mood, makes it not just a general prohibition against fearing, but an order that means to put a stop to fear immediately: ‘I forbid you to go on fearing for one more second’ is the full implication.

Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, Chapters 1–25, vol. 2 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1996–2012), page 377–378.

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