From Praying the Names of Jesus Week Twenty-Six, Day Two
In Jesus we have the richest, most vivid picture of God imaginable. No longer does God seem implacably remote, displeased with the world he has made. Instead, he bends toward us, sharing our weakness and shouldering our burdens. Through the perfect offering of his life he becomes our Way back to the Father. He is the True Vine in which we abide, bearing fruit for God's kingdom. He is the loving God who will never abandon us, but who will be present with us always, leading us to life eternal.
Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, ‘What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.' " Exodus 3:13-14
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him [Jesus], "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" John 8:57-58
Praying the Name
During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Matthew 14:25-27
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:4-6
Praise God: For being with his people.
Offer Thanks: For the ways Christ has been present in your life.
Confess: Any fear that God may abandon you in a time of need.
Ask God: To open your eyes to his presence and his power.
Imagine that you are Michaelangelo, the greatest of artists. Unfortunately something has gone terribly wrong with your favorite painting. You try adjusting the colors, creating new scenes, adding layers of paint. But no matter what you do to the canvas, nothing seems to fix it. Instead of trashing the painting you decide on a new approach. Fortunately, in addition to creating works of breathtaking beauty, you have the uncanny ability to enter your works and to walk among the people your artistry has made. You do just that with this painting, intending to restore it from the inside. But the people within the painting, so carefully and lovingly sketched by your hand, seemed to have changed — and not for the better. They are bad-hearted and dim-witted, evidence of the problem you came to fix. They do not recognize you — the genius who shaped them and brought them to life. Instead of expressing their gratitude, they treat you with contempt. The more you reach out to them, the more they reject and despise you.
John's Gospel, in its first chapter, tells us that the world Jesus made was so dim-witted that it did not recognize him when he entered it. The most momentous thing to have occurred since the world's beginning — God becoming a human being — and hardly anyone took note of it! The earth didn't move, the trees didn't dance for joy, and only a few people bowed down before the Christ to adore him. Yet there were numerous signs throughout the lifetime of Jesus for anyone who was paying attention.
One of these happened on a windy night in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The previous day, Jesus had fed five thousand people with a few loaves and a couple of fish. After that, he sent his disciples out in their boat while he headed up the mountainside to pray. Matthew's Gospel tells us that something extraordinary happened between three and six o'clock the following morning. The disciples were in their boat, straining at the oars because of a strong headwind. Suddenly they saw a figure on the water and cried out in fear, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But it was only Jesus, who calmed them by saying, "Take courage! It is I."
To the Jewish people the sea represented chaos. It was a place where demonic powers ruled. Only Yahweh could control the sea, and here was Jesus walking on top of it! Then, Jesus said, "Take courage! It is I" which can literally be translated, "Take courage! I AM." There was also the occasion of Jesus' arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Judas came with a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. Knowing exactly what was going to happen to him, Jesus took control of the situation by asking whom they were looking for. Has it ever struck you as odd that the gang of men who had come to arrest him, armed with torches and weapons, simply collapsed when Jesus identified himself, saying "It is I"? It may help to understand that the words Jesus spoke can literally be translated "I AM." His enemies fell to the ground, unable to stand in the presence of God.
Jesus, whose name means "Yahweh is Salvation," is the great I AM — the one who is always present with us whether or not we recognize him. Whatever difficulties you may face, whatever storms may threaten, pray for the grace to have eyes and ears wide open so that you may perceive the Lord saying, "Take courage! I AM."
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.