'It is I'

This statue of Jesus, ”It is I,” was created by internationally acclaimed artist Kent Ullberg. Jesus keeps a watchful eye on the shoreline of Corpus Christi from his boat in front of First United Methodist Church. “It is I” is from the Gospel of Mark 6:50 that reads: “And Jesus said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’” 

In 1519, Spanish explorer Alvarez de Pineda, on the Catholic Feast Day of Corpus Christi, discovered a Gulf Coast bay he named Corpus Christi, which translates to “Body of Christ.”

In 1928, Corpus Christi hired sculptor Gutzon Borglum to design the city’s seawall. Borglum envisioned building an amphitheater styled seawall including a 32-foot statue of Jesus standing inside the bay-front rock jetties.

Ultimately, the city failed to gain funding, and Borglum’s design was placed on hold as he moved on to South Dakota to create Mount Rushmore.

In 1941, Borglum’s seawall was completed much as he envisioned, but without the statue of Christ. Yet, the dream of a bay-front statue of Christ lived on, and during the next 50 years, four other attempts to display Christ on the bay-front rose and died.

Finally, in 1995, a statue of Christ overlooking Corpus Christi Bay came to fruition via the artful hands of sculptor Kent Ullberg.

Commissioned by First United Methodist Church, Ullberg created a 15-foot bronze of Christ stilling the waters.

This sculpture of Christ, “It is I,” has a special place in my heart. Likely, because First Methodist Corpus Christi has been my family’s home church for a hundred years. Additionally, my father, Arvid W. Anderson, was a champion who joined other leaders to develop this statue of Christ into reality.

While Borglum’s plan would have produced a monument that perhaps rivaled the Statue of Liberty, “It is I” in its simplicity speaks to the wondrous power of the name “I Am.”

“I Am” appears more than 300 times in the Bible, first in the book of Genesis: “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’” (Genesis 15:1)

These references led to God being referred to as “the Great I am.”

“It is I” references Jesus walking on water as His disciples feared they had seen a ghost.

Mark 6:50: “Jesus spoke to them. ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’”

Earlier, Jesus directed His disciples to take a boat and go on ahead of him, while he prayed. Soon, the disciples were straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. This suggests that even when we are doing what Jesus tells us to do, it is sometimes difficult and hard work. There are times when we feel troubled or filled with fear, and trusting Jesus’ love is all we need to find peace beyond understanding.

As Jesus climbed into the boat with them, the wind died down. We see a picture of the difference Jesus makes to our lives. It can be an uphill struggle unless you are conscious of Jesus’ presence with you.

In the above verses, we learn that those who see the face of Jesus also enjoyed the favor of feeling Jesus’ presence.

What’s in a name? Perhaps the acronym “SFT,” which, my miracle experiencing friend Tommy Rich shares is worthy of remembering: “See Jesus’ face, feel Jesus’ presence and trust Jesus’ love.”

Prayer: Jesus may we see Your face, feel Your presence and, regardless of our circumstances, may we trust Your love. Amen.

Jeff Anderson is Servant Pastor of SERV Kerrville, a nonprofit collaborating with community partners to empower lifelong learning. He welcomes your comments at jeff@LeadershipInc.us.

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