From The Gospel of Matthew, by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, commenting on Matthew 14:22-33
The story begins with another trip across the Sea of Galilee. This time Jesus does not accompany his disciples in the boat. Instead, he sends them ahead to the other side while he stays behind. His intention is to create an opportunity for prayer. Practicing what he preaches, he seeks solitude on the mountain in order to converse with his Father “in secret” (6:6).
The disciples, meanwhile, struggle against foul weather for much of the night. The wind blows hard against their boat and churns up angry waves on the sea. Though they manage to get a few miles offshore, they have not reached their destination by the fourth watch of the night, a Roman designation for the final hours of darkness between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. Suddenly they are alarmed to see Jesus walking toward them on the sea.
The first reaction of the disciples is terror, for they thought they were seeing a ghost on the waters. Hoping to calm their fears, Jesus approaches and responds: it is I. This is a perfectly accurate translation of the Greek egō eimi and, on one level, they are words of reassurance for the disciples, identifying the speaker as their Master.
On another level, however, they are words of revelation, for they can just as accurately be translated “I am.” So understood, the statement recalls the Lord’s words to Moses from the burning bush: “I am who I am” (Exod 3:14). Elsewhere too God revealed himself as the great “I am” in the Old Testament (see Isa 41:4; 43:2, 10–11; 45:18). For those with ears to hear, Jesus’ declaration is nothing less than a claim to divinity using the familiar words of scriptural revelation.