The story of my Israeli experience is no longer in any particular order. Life sometimes interrupts the best intentions of staying on track and life has certainly been busy these last month’s causing me to take a break from writing. While praying where to start again, I’ve landed on the Sea of Galilee.
The morning after our arrival, we ate breakfast rather early and left on a surprise excursion. It was a beautiful morning and promised to be a warm day. The sky overhead a fabulous blue, however, the hillsides were a little hazy due to dust storms in Syria, directly across the Sea. Our destination turned out to be only a short distance from our hotel- the harbor. There tied to the docks were two very large 1st-century replica fishing boats. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that not only were we going to board them, but sail out onto the sea!
Our group was large so the owner had tied the two boats together so that we could all fit. They had laid many plastic white patio chairs on the deck for seating. We made our way to the back. Due to a shortage of seating, which was ok with me, Eric and I sat on the wooden steps leading to a platform at the stern of the ship where among other things was a large flagpole. Slowly we traveled out to the middle of the sea. It was so peaceful, quiet and relaxing which felt fabulous since we had been on a continuous mock 5 pace. They had Christian music playing softly in the background.
Once we reached the middle, they dropped anchor. The first thing they did was announce that they had a tradition to raise the flag. As an honor to their American guests, they raised the American flag along with the Israeli flag and played the American National Anthem as well. This always makes me cry and being out on the Sea of Galilee doubly so. Pastor Jack and Amir then gave us the lay of the land followed by a Bible study.
We are surrounded by Biblical history. Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. Gennesaret, Chorazin,
Matthew 11:12 – “Woe to you Chorazin”, Capernaum (Home of Peter and site of many miracles; Bethsaida (home of Phillip); Mount of Beatitudes. Continuing on, Bethsaida, Mathew 11:21 “Woe to you Bethsaida”; and even the suspected location of the drowning of the swine.
To be floating on the sea where we are absolutely positive Jesus not only sailed but walked is more than emotional!
All four of the Gospels describe this event, and why wouldn’t they! This was an event that at first scared the daylights out of them and then convinced them that he was, in fact, the Son of God.
First, let me explain that the Sea of Galilee is 680’ below sea level and the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. Surrounding the lake are hillsides, some up to 2000’ high in the east towards Syria.
The weather at the top of the hills is cool and dry. The sea is relatively shallow as lakes and seas go, the deepest part about 200’ deep. All of these conditions are perfect for violent storms to suddenly occur with no notice. The winds coming from those high cools hills, whip down to the middle of the shallow warm sea and small boats especially are in real trouble. I’m told even in March of 1991 a severe windstorm caused waves as high as 10’ went onto the shores causing property damage.
After one of Jesus’s teaching sermons, he made His disciples get into their fishing boat, instructing them to go to the other side of the lake ahead of Him. Jesus needed some alone time and went up on the mountain to pray.
Matthew 14:24 reports “Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves for the wind was contrary.”
Mark 4:37 says 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.
As you can imagine, they were afraid. The fourth watch is the darkest part of the night, before dawn. The disciples had been painfully rowing towards Capernaum approximately 3 or 4 miles (John 6:17). Suddenly, they think they see a ghost. They believed that right before death you see spirits so they naturally assumed they were about to drown in the raging sea. But it wasn’t a ghost, it was Jesus!
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,[b] he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
33 Then those who were in the boat came and[c] worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Can you imagine? I was floating here in this beautiful spot picturing this event in awe and wonder.
We were then challenged. “What is the wind in our life, and do we try to impose our will on God or pray that His will be done in our lives?” Do we believe Psalm 89:8-9
O Lord God of hosts,
Who is mighty like You, O Lord?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
9 You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, you still them.
I was reminded, that we rarely listen, but Jesus is there whispering or yelling to us during the windstorm “Be of good cheer. I am here!” “Take heart and do not be afraid”
Are we gripped by fear during our windstorms? If so, it will rob us of life and the blessing of seeing Jesus. Peter walked on water until he realizes the waves are enormous. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and let Him calm the winds and the waves. Peter as an old man in 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us:
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
God Bless You All
Debbie lives in Southern California with her husband Doug and her children and grandchildren.
Scripture is taken from the New King James Version Copyright @ 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.