The Ghost

Immediately after, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Jesus won’t necessarily try to fix all the wrong notions that are in our heads. He picks his battles. After a long day of preaching, after feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent his disciples across the Sea of Galilee for some rest and relaxation while he went off to pray for awhile. The wind was against them, and they made very slow progress in their trip to the far side of the lake. Late at night, tired and exhausted, they thought they saw a ghost.

Thanks to the influence of Greek culture, by Jesus’ time belief in ghosts was widespread among the Jewish people. But Jesus did not launch into a theological or philosophical treatise against the notion of ghosts. He merely reassured them that he wasn’t one. Jesus’ concern at that moment was not their false belief in ghosts, which was merely a symptom of something far more damaging: their fear that they were all alone against the world.

Today, we may believe many silly things. But just as he did with his disciples, Jesus doesn’t berate us for those silly beliefs. Instead, he simply tells us not to be afraid. Why? “Take courage. I am here.”

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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