The Lord Jesus – the Maker and Ruler of Creation

Sam Shamoun

According to the N[ew]T[estament] writings Jesus Christ, in his prehuman existence, made all created things and is actively sustaining them. The inspired Christian Greek Scriptures state that Christ is the active (not merely passive) Agent of creation, that God [the Father] used his Divine Son to bring all created things into being:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-4, 10, 14 NIV

"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:6

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He IS before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:13-20 NIV

"In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:1-3 NIV

The next references make it plain that Christ didn’t merely have a passing role in creation but was fully responsible for making and fashioning the entire created realm:

"But about the Son he [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness… In the beginning, O Lord [Jesus], you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’" Hebrews 1:8, 10-12 NIV

Amazingly, the NT author has the Father praising his Son for being the Lord who personally created (and who is also actively sustaining) the heavens and the earth, and does so by quoting a Psalm which speaks of Yahweh’s work in creating the cosmos:

In the beginning You, O Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but you remain; and they all shall grow old like a garment; and as a vesture shall You fold them and they shall be changed. But You are the same, and Your years shall not fail. Psalm 102:25-27 Septuagint (LXX) (Source)

By attributing this particular Psalm to the Son’s role in creation the writer has pretty much identified Jesus as Yahweh, the God who created the entire universe!

As if this identification of Jesus with Yahweh wasn’t clear enough the O[ld]T[estament] writings emphatically teach that Yahweh alone made the cosmos since he didn’t enlist anyone to help him create the universe:

"This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself," Isaiah 44:24 NIV

"He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea." Job 9:8 NIV

The inspired Scriptures further teach that Yahweh is actively sustaining all creation, that he is the One who is keeping it all together and guiding it along to accomplish all of his purposes:

"Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, ‘Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise. You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.’" Nehemiah 9:5-6 ESV

Moreover, the Jewish intertestamental literature gives us an idea of what the Jews believed concerning Yahweh’s providential care of creation. It is rather apparent that the Jews who composed these writings did not think for a moment that God had some creature helping him but believed that Yahweh alone holds all things together by his word:

"Because of him his messenger finds the way, and by his word all things hold together." Sirach 43:26 RSV

And yet, amazingly, the NT says that the Son (yet not to the exclusion of the Father) created and sustains all things by his powerful word, which logically means that Jesus is Yahweh! (At the same time the NT teaches that Christ is not the Father or the Holy Spirit which further implies that there is more than one Person who is Yahweh).

The following syllogism illustrates why there is no way of avoiding the logic of this conclusion:

  1. Yahweh alone created all things.
  2. Christ in his prehuman existence created all things.
  3. Therefore, Christ is Yahweh God.

Here is another way of putting it:

  1. Yahweh is the only One who made all creation.
  2. Christ in his prehuman existence made all creation.
  3. Therefore, Christ is Yahweh God.

Since the Bible affirms both premises the conclusion is therefore inescapable.(1)

Did Yahweh really create everything by himself?

Unfortunately, not everyone agrees that the logic here is sound since there are some who try to deny that the Holy Bible teaches one or both of these premises. For example, anti-Trinitarian groups argue that the context of Isaiah 40-48 is a polemic against the false gods of the Babylonians and that Isaiah 44:24 must be read in light of this fact, e.g. Yahweh wasn’t claiming that he didn’t have anyone assisting him in creating the universe. Yahweh was simply denying that any of the Babylonian deities aided him in making the cosmos.

The problem with this assertion is that the verse from Job shows that this is not the plain reading of the Isaiah text since there is nothing within the context of Job that addresses other gods, e.g. Job is not pitting Yahweh against the false gods but is simply affirming Yahweh’s unique status and characteristics.

In a similar manner the prophet Isaiah was setting out to prove that Yahweh alone is God by highlighting the functions that only Yahweh is able to perform and the attributes that he alone has. These functions and attributes include such things as creating the universe by himself and foretelling the future. Yahweh then makes sure that what he has announced comes to pass exactly as he has stated:

"‘All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, "It is true." You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand.’" Isaiah 43:9-13 NIV

"This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’ who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’ who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Let its foundations be laid.’" Isaiah 44:24-28 NIV

"It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. MY OWN HANDS stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts… For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob's descendants, "Seek me in vain." I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save. Declare what is to be, present it— let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.’" Isaiah 45:12, 18-22 NIV

"Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness." Isaiah 46:8-12 NIV

All of these functions and attributes demonstrate that Yahweh is the sovereign Lord of all creation, having full control over it, who makes the end known from the beginning with absolutely no one being able to thwart any of his purposes since he is both omnipotent and omniscient:

"The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Psalm 33:10-11 NIV

"Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him." Psalm 115:3 NIV

"The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths." Psalm 135:6 NIV

It is apparent from the foregoing texts that the point Isaiah is making is that since Yahweh alone is God who can do all these things this means that there are no other gods, which therefore proves that the deities worshiped by the Babylonians are false gods who do not exist.

The anti-Trinitarians are not satisfied with this explanation. Seeing that Job 9 is not a polemic against other gods they realize that their explanation here won’t work. Yet they still want to desperately prove that Job 9:8 does not exclude God making use of another being or intermediate agent to create the universe by appealing to the second half of the verse, i.e. "treads upon the waves of the sea." They source the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint [LXX], to show that the text is specifically referring to the act of walking on the sea:

"Who alone has stretched out the heavens, and walks on the sea as on firm ground." (Source)

The anti-Trinitarian then references Matthew 14:28-29 where Jesus granted the apostle Peter the ability to walk upon the sea.

The point that the anti-Trinitarian is hoping to make by this example is to somehow convince a person that the verse from Job doesn’t rule out the fact that Yahweh can or did grant a creature (such as Jesus) the ability to assist him in creating the cosmos in the same way that this text doesn’t rule out the possibility that someone other than Yahweh was able to walk on the sea by the power of God. Job is simply stating (or so it is claimed) that Yahweh is ultimately the Source of all power and life, that no one other than God possesses such an ability in himself, and yet he can grant creatures the authority to perform specific functions such as creating and walking on the seas.

In this way the anti-Trinitarian thinks that one can believe that God used Christ to create the universe without having to accept the fact that Jesus is Yahweh God.

The main problem with this rather desperate attempt of denying the plain reading of the Holy Bible is that this grossly distorts and/or misunderstands Job’s point of Yahweh walking on the waves of the sea. A careful reading of the immediate context shows that Job wasn’t merely speaking of Yahweh’s ability to walk on water but was referring to Yahweh’s complete control over and mastery of the seas:

"Then Job answered and said: ‘Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God? If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times. He is wise in heart and mighty in strength — who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded? — he who removes mountains, and they know it not, when he overturns them in his anger, who shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble; who commands the sun, and it does not rise; who seals up the stars; who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea; who made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the chambers of the south; who does great things beyond searching out, and marvelous things beyond number. Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not; he moves on, but I do not perceive him. Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back? Who will say to him, "What are you doing?"’" Job 9:1-9 ESV

As the reader can plainly see, the idea that is being communicated here is that there is nothing in creation which Yahweh doesn’t fully control. The point of Job isn’t merely that Yahweh can walk on water but is emphasizing Yahweh’s sovereign rule over the entire created order, especially the seas.

In fact, the word darak, variously translated as "treads" (NIV) or "trampled" (ESV), is used in certain passages with the meaning of trampling over something such as grapes in a winepress:

"And they went out into the field and gathered the grapes from their vineyards and trod them and held a festival; and they went into the house of their god and ate and drank and reviled Abimelech." Judges 9:27 ESV

"In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them on the day when they sold food." Nehemiah 13:15 ESV

It is also used in reference to trampling over one’s enemies:

"Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and the sword of your triumph! Your enemies shall come fawning to you, and you shall tread upon their backs." Deuteronomy 33:29 ESV

"Surrounding the Benjaminites, they pursued them and trod them down from Nohah as far as opposite Gibeah on the east." Judges 20:43 ESV

The above examples demonstrate that the word darak can convey the notion of subjugation and domination. This is the point that Job is communicating, i.e. Yahweh treads or tramples the waves of the sea in the sense that he has complete control over the natural elements and that they perfectly obey whatever he commands, precisely the point that the book of Job goes on to make a little later:

"Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?" Job 38:8-11 ESV

The Psalmist echoes this very truth:

"The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the LORD on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore." Psalm 93:1-5 ESV

As does the prophet Jeremiah:

"Do you not fear me? declares the LORD. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it." Jeremiah 5:22 ESV

Jesus - the sovereign Lord of the winds and seas

With the foregoing in mind we can now examine the context of Matthew 14 to see whether the inspired Evangelist has left us any clues concerning who Christ is, i.e. whether he is God’s created agent invested with God’s power or whether he himself is God in the flesh:

"Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 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, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take heart; it is I (ego eimi – I AM). Do not be afraid.’ And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’" Matthew 14:22-33 ESV; cf. Mark 6:45-52

There are several rather interesting and astonishing factors to consider here, all of which point to Jesus’ Divine identity. First, Jesus not only walks on water but has complete control over the winds and waves. As we saw earlier (and shall see again) these are all functions that the OT says are performed or carried out by Yahweh.

Second, Jesus didn’t merely utter the words "it is I" but actually referred to himself as the "I AM" (Hebrew – ani hu or anoki, Greek – ego eimi).

What makes this such a vitally important clue in understanding Jesus’ true identity is that the "I AM" is specifically used in the Hebrew Scriptures by Yahweh as a type of self-designation, functioning as a Divine title of sorts, just as we see in the following verses:

I, even I, am He (ego eimi ego eimi, lit. "I AM I AM") that blots out your transgressions for My own sake, and your sins; and I will remember them no more. Isaiah 43:25 LXX (1, 2)

I, even I, am he (ego eimi ego eimi, "I AM I AM") that comforts you… Isaiah 51:12 LXX (1, 2); cf. Deut. 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10, 13; 46:4-5; 47:8, 10; 52:6; Zephaniah 2:13-15

Third, when Peter sinks he cries out "Lord, save me," which in the context is a plea to Christ to deliver him from drowning.

Some of these very same elements are found in an earlier pericope:

"And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’ And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’" Matthew 8:23-27 ESV; cf. Mark 4:36-41

Much like in Matthew 14, we see the disciples crying out to Jesus as their Lord, pleading with him to save them, and Christ having complete mastery over the winds and sea.

Fourth, Jesus has the power to allow others to perform miraculous feats such as walking on water, a point reiterated in other parts of the Gospels:

"Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons." Mark 3:13-15 NIV

"Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits… They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them." Mark 6:7, 12-13 NIV

"‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’" Mark 9:38-40 NIV

"When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." Luke 9:1-2 NIV

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’" Luke 10:17-20

These four factors combined prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Matthew (as well as the other Gospel writers) is portraying Jesus as the visible manifestation of Yahweh since Christ does the very exact works that the OT ascribes to the one true God of Israel, as the following references emphatically show:

"By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy." Psalm 65:5-8 ESV

"You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them." Psalm 89:9 ESV

"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven." Psalm 107:23-30 ESV

"But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west… You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he (ego eimi [LXX]). Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he (ego eimi). No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’" Isaiah 43:1-5, 10-13 NIV; cf. 41:10-14

These OT citations contain all of the same elements found in the stories of Matthew, with the only difference being that it is Jesus who is performing these astonishing feats!

In summary here is what we learned from these stories in Matthew:

In light of the foregoing does it come as any surprise that the disciples ask what manner of man Jesus is (cf. Matt. 8:27; Mark 4:41, 6:52) and worship him as the Son of God (cf. Matt. 14:33) seeing that even the winds and waves obey him? (3)

The Bible expositors have spoken!

There seems to be somewhat of a concensus among NT scholars, whether liberal or conservative, that Christ’s use of the "I AM" within the context of this particular Matthean pericope (as well as in its Markan parallel) is intended to unveil Jesus’ identity as Yahweh.

An example of a moderate liberal NT exegete who held to this view is the late Catholic Scripture scholar Raymond E. Brown. Here is what he wrote concerning the "I AM" sayings that are found in both John and the Synoptic Gospels:

"Against this background the absolute use of ‘I AM’ by the Johannine Jesus becomes quite intelligible; he was speaking in the same manner in which Yahweh speaks in Deutero-Isaiah. For instance, in John 8:28 Jesus promises that when the Son of Man is lifted up (in return to the Father), ‘then you will know ego eimi’; in Isaiah 43:10 Yahweh has chosen Israel, ‘that you may know and believe me and understand ego eimi.’ The absolute Johannine use of ‘I AM’ has the effect of portraying Jesus as divine with (pre)existence as his identity, even as the Greek OT understood the God of Israel.

John did not invent this usage, for there are examples that verge on the absolute use of ego eimi in the Synoptics even though one can argue that a predicate is assumed. For instance, in Matt 14:27 (Mark 6:50): As Jesus comes walking across the water, he says to the disciples in the boat, ‘Ego eimi; do not be afraid.’ This is the same use we saw in John 6:20 (footnote 202). That in this scene Matthew intends more than a simple ‘It is I’ is suggested by the profession of faith elicited by the disciples (Matt 14:33), ‘Truly you are God’s Son!’ Or again, when speaking of the signs of the last days Jesus warns, ‘Many will come in my name, saying ego eimi’ (Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). The context does not clearly suggest a predicate (even though Matt’s 24:5: ‘I am the Messiah’); and the juxtaposition of ego eimi and ‘my name’ brings us close to Johannine usage…" (Brown, Introduction to New Testament Christology [Paulist Press; Mahwah, NJ 1994], p. 139; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Brown, in a footnote, comments on two additional Johannine usages of I AM which have a direct bearing on the meaning of Matthew 14:27:

"I would include two other texts. The first is 6:20 where the disciples in the boat are frightened because they see someone coming to them on the water, and Jesus assures them, ‘I AM; do not be afraid.’ The second is 18:5: The soldiers and police who have come to the garden across the Kidron to arrest Jesus announce that they are seeking Jesus of Nazareth, and he answers, ‘I AM.’ Some would tell us that the first means simply, ‘It is I, i.e. someone whom you know and not a supernatural being or ghost.’ And they would tell us that the second means simply, ‘I am he, i.e. the one you are looking for.’ A better solution is to recognize a play on the expression ‘I AM’ as having a twofold meaning: While it has a simpler story-line import (as just exemplified), it also has a higher connotation. In the first example, the sacral comes from the context that involved Jesus’ walking on the water and a dangerous storm from which they are immediately brought to land: in the second example it comes from those who, hearing Jesus’ response, fall back to the ground. Both, then, would be instances of a theophany or divine appearance of one who, like the God of Israel, is master of storms and the sea and at the mention of whose name every knee must bend." (Ibid., p. 137, fn. 202; bold emphasis ours)

The New Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees with Brown since this is what this very liberal, critical source writes in reference to the Markan parallel:

(b) WALKING ON THE WATERS (6:45-52). The approach to this story as an epiphany/theophany is most consistent with Mark's presentation. The twin focus is Jesus and the disciples: (1) The divine identity of Jesus is suggested by his walking on the waters, his passing by them, and his words, "It is I" … The OT portrays walking on water as a divine function (see Job 9:8; 38:16). The representation of Jesus as walking on water thus carries an implicit claim about his divinity. he wanted to pass by them: The implicit christological claim is strengthened by the use of the vb. parelthein, which was linked with the theophany tradition in the LXX (see Exod 33:19,22; 34:6; 1 Kgs 19:11). Its appearance in the LXX of Amos 7:8; 8:2 also suggests that Jesus desired to help his disciples in their difficulty… I am He: In the context of self-disclosure and theophany, this phrase must allude to the OT revelation formula (Exod 3:14; Deut 32:39; Isa 41:4; 43:10) applied to Yahweh, thus contributing to the implicit christological message of the text. The formula ego eimi is prominent in John… (NJBC, eds. Raymond E. Brown, SS, Joseph A Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, O. Carm [Prentice Hall; Englewood Cliffs, NJ], p. 611); bold emphasis ours)

The Catholic commissioned version of the Holy Bible, the New American Bible (NAB), concurs:

[50] It is I, do not be afraid!: literally, "I am." This may reflect the divine revelatory formula of Ex 3,14; Is 41,4.10.14; 43,1-3.10.13. Mark implies the hidden identity of Jesus as Son of God. (Source)

The evangelical Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Volume 2: New Testament says concerning Matthew 14:25-27 that:

25-27 The Romans divided the night from sunset to sunrise into four watches (reflected here). Jesus’ approach to the boat therefore occurred between 3 00 A.M. and 6:00 A.M. The disciples were terrified, thinking they were seeing an apparition or ghost. "Take courage!" and "Don't be afraid" bracket the central reason for his calming exhortations: "It is I." Although the Greek words for "It is I" (‘I am’) can have no more force than that, any Christian after the Resurrection and Ascension would also detect echoes of "I Am," the decisive, self-disclosure of God (Ex 3:14; Isa 51:12; cf. Jn 8:58). Once again we find Jesus revealing himself in a veiled way that will prove especially rich to Christians after his resurrection (see comment on 8:20). (Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III [Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], p. 73; bold emphasis ours)

Another evangelical commentary, the Life Application Bible Commentary, writes in reference to the Markan version:

"Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid." Jesus called out to the disciples over the storm, telling them to take courage. He identified himself and told them not be afraid any longer. The literal reading for "It is I" is "I am" (Greek, ego eimi); it is the same as saying "the I AM is here" or "I, Yahweh, am here" (see Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; 52:6). Jesus, the "I AM," came with unexpected help and encouragement during the disciples’ time of desperate need. (Ibid., Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Wheaton, Il. 1994, p. 189; bold emphasis ours)

The late Bible expositor Matthew Henry noted:

1. It was a confirmation of their faith in Christ, and abundantly convinced them that the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him; for none but the world's Creator could multiply the loaves, none but its Governor could tread upon the waters of the sea; they therefore yield to the evidence, and make confession of their faith; Thou truly art the Son of God. They knew before that he was the Son of God, but now they know it better. Faith, after a conflict with unbelief, is sometimes the more active, and gets to greater degrees of strength by being exercised. Now they know it of a truth. Note, It is good for us to know more and more of the certainty of those things wherein we have been instructed, Luke 1:4. Faith then grows, when it arrives at a full assurance, when it sees clearly, and saith, Of a truth.

2. They took occasion from it to give him the glory due unto his name. They not only owned that great truth, but were suitable affected by it; they worshiped Christ. Note, When Christ manifests his glory for us, we ought to return it to him (Psalm 50:15); I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. Their worship and adoration of Christ were thus expressed, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. Note, The matter of our creed may and must be made the matter of our praise. Faith is the proper principle of worship, and worship the genuine product of faith. He that comes to God must believe; and he that believes in God, will come, Hebrews 9:6. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

This next Evangelical source states:

50. For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: It is I; be not afraid--There is something in these two little words--given by Matthew, Mark and John (Mt 14:27; Mr 6:50; Joh 6:20) --"It is I," which from the mouth that spake it and the circumstances in which it was uttered, passes the power of language to express. Here were they in the midst of a raging sea, their little bark the sport of the elements, and with just enough of light to descry an object on the waters which only aggravated their fears. But Jesus deems it enough to dispel all apprehension to let them know that He was there. From other lips that "I am" would have merely meant that the person speaking was such a one and not another person. That, surely, would have done little to calm the fears of men expecting every minute, it may be, to go to the bottom. But spoken by One who at that moment was "treading upon the waves of the sea," and was about to hush the raging elements with His word, what was it but the Voice which cried of old in the ears of Israel, even from the days of Moses, "I AM"; "I, EVEN I, AM HE!" Compare Joh 18:5, 6; 8:58. Now, that Word is "made flesh, and dwells among us," uttering itself from beside us in dear familiar tones--"It is the Voice of my Beloved!" How far was this apprehended by these frightened disciples? There was one, we know, in the boat who outstripped all the rest in susceptibility to such sublime appeals. It was not the deep-toned writer of the Fourth Gospel, who, though he lived to soar beyond all the apostles, was as yet too young for prominence, and all unripe. It was Simon Barjonas. Here follows a very remarkable and instructive episode, recorded by Matthew alone: (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible; source; bold, italic and underline emphasis ours)

Finally, in the book Case for Christ, Lee Strobel interviews renowned NT scholar Dr. Craig L. Blomberg regarding the Divine claims of Christ. Lee begins his interview by asking:

"John makes very explicit claims of Jesus being God, which some attribute to the fact that he wrote later than the others and began embellishing things," I said. "Can you find this theme of deity in the synoptics?"

"Yes, I can," he said. "It’s more implicit but you find it there. Think of the story of Jesus walking on the water, found in Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-52. Most English translations hide the Greek by quoting Jesus as saying, ‘Fear not it is I.’ Actually, the Greek literally says, ‘Fear not, I am.’ Those last two words are identical to what Jesus said in John 8:58 when he took upon himself the divine name ‘I AM,’ which is the way God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in Exodus 3:14. So Jesus is revealing himself as the one who has the same divine power over nature as Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament." (Strobel, Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, MI 1998, p. 29; bold emphasis ours)

With the foregoing in perspective it seems rather obvious that Matthew’s inclusion of the story of Christ walking on the water and his use of the I AM formula is intended to present Jesus as the visible appearance of Yahweh, the God who has come to dwell and remain with his people:

"‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)." Matthew 1:21-23

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Concluding Remarks

What we have discovered from our examination of the Biblical data is that the inspired authors of the NT ascribed to Jesus the very functions which the OT Scriptures emphatically proclaim to be the very works that Yahweh alone can carry out. For instance, the NT teaches that,

Since these are some of the various functions which Yahweh performs all by himself it is quite obvious that the Gospel writers clearly believed that Jesus is incarnate Deity.

We further saw that the arguments raised by anti-Trinitarians to refute this clear Biblical teaching concerning the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus were not at all convincing (at least not to us). The anti-Trinitarians had to grossly distort and/or misunderstood the obvious meaning of the specific passages that they marshaled against the plain teaching of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Triune nature of God and the Divine Person of Christ, thereby drawing erroneous conclusions from their gross misreading of these texts.

After all is said and done this one glorious truth remains crystal clear. According to the inspired Word of God, the Holy Bible, Jesus Christ is God Almighty in the flesh, the eternal Son of God and the sovereign Ruler of creation, the very Lord of the winds and the seas.

Further Reading


(1) One way in which a person can deny the logic of our case is to simply reject the teaching of the Holy Bible, or at least the NT. A person can discard the NT on the grounds that it is nothing more than the fallible, errant words of men who sought to distort and embellish the teachings of the historical Jesus. Even though a very strong and persuasive case can be easily made to prove the contrary, that the NT does not embellish but accurately transmits the message and deeds of Christ (something which is beyond the scope of this current article), this skeptical view of the Christian Greek Scriptures does very little to refute our arguments for the Deity of Christ. The logic we employed to show that Jesus is Yahweh doesn’t necessarily hinge on the inspiration and the veracity of the NT documents. It merely depends on what these very documents teach concerning the nature of God and the Person of Christ, and the fact is that these books do emphatically proclaim the absolute Deity of Jesus.

Now it is obviously important to know whether these books can be trusted in what they teach about God and Christ since we do not want to base our faith on myth and fairytales. But as we said that is a topic that goes beyond the aim of this current article. There are plenty of excellent books and web articles that thoroughly address this issue, some of which include:

(2) The Greek word for Lord that Matthew uses in both stories is the vocative form (direct address) of Kyrios:

"The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us (Kyrie, soson)! We're going to drown!’" Matthew 8:25 NIV

"But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me (ekrazen legon Kyrie, soson me)!’" Matthew 14:30 NIV

Interestingly, this is the same word which the Septuagint uses in place of the Divine name Yahweh. In fact, the Greek version of Psalm 107:28[106 in the Septuagint] pretty much employs the same language as that of Matthew 14:30:

Then they cried to the Lord (ekekrazan pros Kyrion) in their affliction, and He brings them out of their distresses. (1, 2)

This provides further attestation that Matthew recorded this episode in order to unveil Jesus’ identity as Yahweh God incarnate.

(3) A further comparison of the Greek version of Job 9:8 with Mark 6:48-49 provides additional substantiation that the Gospel writers’ purpose in relaying this story was to reveal Jesus as Yahweh God:

“God who alone stretched out the heavens, walking on the sea (peripaton ... epi thalasse) as if on dry land.”

“... At about the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking on the sea (peripaton epi tes thalasses), and he wanted to pass by them. But they saw him walking on the sea (epi tes thalasses peripatounta)”

It is apparent that the similarity in the language is not coincidental but deliberate since it communicates the point to those familiar with the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus is Yahweh God in human form.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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