Jesus says in the gospel today “It is I. Do not be afraid.” This is a logical translation of the text, but it is not the most literal translation. Jesus actually says, “I am. Do not be afraid.” Jesus says this phrase, “I am”, 24 times in the Gospel according to John alone. It is an important phrase. Sometimes he is telling us something about himself. He says, “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” From these sentences we learn who Jesus is.
In other sentences, like the one today, he just says, “I am” without any predicate. When he says this, he is echoing what he said to Moses from the burning bush, “I am who am.” This was considered by the Jews to be the name of God. By it, God is saying that his existence is the central fact about him. This sentence flips our perspective on the universe upside down. We think that our existence is the central fact of the universe. Then we contemplate whether God exists. In reality, our existence could have gone either way, the earth, the sun, the moon, the planets, all the stars, the universe itself, were all possibilities at one point. God was never a possibility. He is the rock-solid foundation on which existence rests. Wondering whether God exists is like wondering whether water is wet. Certainty of his existence only seems elusive to us with our inferior intellect. Just because we have trouble being certain of the fact does not mean that it is not the most certain fact ever.
When Jesus today sees the apostles, they are afraid. He reminds them of this most important fact: “I am.” Jesus exists. We do not need to be afraid. We ought to walk through this world with an unshakable confidence. Jesus is. A haunted house at a carnival can seem scary with the lights off, but when they are turned on, there is nothing to be frightened of. This world might seem scary, but when the light of the world has entered into it, we should open our eyes and laugh at our fears. In this world we will have troubles, but do not be afraid: Jesus exists and he has conquered the world.