Sunday School Lessons

Don’t Panic!

In Douglas Adams’s novel, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” [(c) 1979 by Serious Productions, Ltd.], the eponymous guide reportedly, “has the words DON’T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.”  (This is not a religious book, although some of the satire can be used to provide some interesting Biblical object lessons.)

Let’s hold that thought, as we continue (from previous articles) through an account from Matthew 14:

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.
Matthew 14:22 NIV

Matthew 14:22-24 (at least in the NIV and NASB) starts with the word, “Immediately”.  I wonder if Jesus was still seeking some peace and quiet, perhaps to grieve the loss of John the Baptist.  He had healed and fed people (despite the fact that He was trying to get away, remember?), and perhaps He was ready to try again.    Or, as a commentary (cited below) suggests, the people may have been ready to make him a political or military king (see John 6:15), and it was important to separate the disciples from this invalid understanding of His mission, lest they get pulled in.

In any case, he sends the disciples away.  I’m not sure how they expected Him to catch up, but if the current crowd could get there from their previous location by land, He could too.  Or, perhaps he could take another boat.  (See John 6:22.)

Finally, Jesus gets some alone time.  He may have grieved or rested, but the Bible says specifically that He went to pray.  That’s probably a good reminder for us: regardless of our circumstances, talking with God is a great “go-to” answer.

OK, now back to the idea of panic.  Jesus heads out to His disciples (still in the boat), but – being God – He walks to them on the water itself.

Shortly before dawn 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.
Matthew 14:25‭-‬26 NIV

Now, if someone told you that they were afraid of ghosts, would you dismiss them as being superstitious or silly?  In Matthew 14:25-27, the apostles seemed ready to accept that they were seeing a ghost, so maybe it’s not too unusual.  People today who claim to have seen ghosts have often encountered a phenomenon that they can’t explain, and – even for the apostles who had been fisherman – seeing someone walk on water would definitely fit that category.

When angels visit human beings, it seems that they often need to tell them to “fear not” up front.  Apparently, encountering a messenger from God normally triggers fear in mortal, sinful human beings.  And, if seeing an angel is alarming, imagine seeing a demonstration of Jesus’ divine power!  It is little wonder that Peter, James, and John were overwhelmed at the Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36).

Jesus addresses their fears right away, though

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Matthew 14:27 NIV

He doesn’t tell them, “Don’t Panic”, in so many words, but His reassurance should give us the same confidence today.  When we see the power of God, we should be impressed, reverent, and worshipful to Him.  However, once we realize that something amazing – something that would otherwise be unbelievable – is actually from the all-powerful God, we should remember His love for us (and perhaps straighten up our act, if we haven’t been following Him), but we should not panic.

So, look for the power of God at work in and around your life, but as long as you’re walking with Hm, don’t panic when you see it.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 11, 2022


  • The Lookout, December 11, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 342-349.  © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.

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