Familiar faces

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid'” (Matthew 14:27 NKJV).

On one of my first trips to Nepal I missed a flight and arrived at a different time from that for which I was scheduled. After waiting alone at the airport exit for some time, I finally recognized the local preacher whom I had met only once before. Though I fully expected to be met by someone, it was still a great relief to see him and know I was not forgotten.

Can you imagine the fear of the twelve disciples of Jesus as they fought the strong winds and waves of the Sea of Galilee? It was dark. They were alone, without their master and teacher, Jesus. Some of them at least were professional fishermen who knew all too well the hazards of their position.

Then in the midst of those natural dangers was added the mysterious appearance of some unknown being who appeared where no human could reasonably be expected to be. In the middle of the sea? At midnight? On foot, with nothing to protect from wind or water? No wonder they thought they were seeing a ghost (verse 26). No wonder they were afraid.

But then they heard that wonderful familiar voice. “Be of good cheer” (i.e., be happy)! It is I; do not be afraid.” And with that assurance they soon recognized Jesus and were reassured and felt safe in his presence. In fact Peter was so infused with confidence that he wanted to join Jesus out in the water, and did (verses 28-31).

Upon what do you rely when you find yourself in a dangerous situation? Obviously there are different types of danger requiring different methods of protection, but there are common features in all of them. Our solutions tend to be organized by category.

Some of us seek protection by insurance or savings – that is, through material resources. When danger presents itself we look to money or the things it can provide to offer us protection. Locks, bars, fences, security plans, and related systems can foil some threats. However, what one person can invent, another can usually circumvent.

Another common security measure may be linked to knowledge or wisdom. We entrust our secrets to passwords, encryption, or sophisticated software such as anti-virus programs. We purchase electronic locks openable only by codes or personal traits like fingerprints. In today’s technologically advanced societies we feel most secure when we believe ourselves to be smarter than those seeking to harm us.

One of the most used security strategies, however, continues to be the use of a familiar face. Whether we are hiring a trained guard, or enlisting the companionship of a friend, we simply feel safer when someone we trust is with us.

As I travel to different parts of the world, I am always able to relax when I have someone with me that I know, and that I am confident knows his way around the places we are going. If they are with me I can be happy and not fear.

Jesus has promised to be with us wherever we are, and in whatever difficulty we may face (Matthew 11:28-30). We can entrust all our worries to him, and be assured that he will protect us from every danger. All that is required is that we exchange our burdens for his, that we trust him, and follow (i.e., obey) him. If we do, we “will find rest for (our) souls.”

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