Sea of Galilee - Riding the Storm

Reading: Luke 8.22-25; Matthew 14.22-33
Long before the advent of British Petroleum, B.P. was the initials of Baden Powell, founder of the scouting movement – with its motto, "Be Prepared."

That’s a good Christian motto too – not surprising when you remember that Baden Powell was a Christian too. Jesus insisted that we should always be watching, ready, alert… (as in Matthew 24.42; 26.23,41). Unexpected (and totally new) situations will come on us. We may well be surprised, startled… but we don’t need to go into a panic. Or do we…?

The Sea of Galilee is 21 kilometres long and 13 kilometres wide. The Jordan River flows into it, fed by springs near Mount Hermon and, in summer, by melting snow. The Jordan flows out on its journey south to the Dead Sea. On the eastern shore the Golan rises high above it.

The Sea of Galilee is still a productive source of fish, though fish farms help supply the needs of Israel’s growing population. The water is extensively used for irrigation, and there has been concern that the level has been dropping in recent years.

In February we boarded a modern diesel-powered boat and sailed pleasantly out across the Sea on an overcast but peaceful day. Because of its geography, however, the Sea is subject to sudden squalls – no real problem to our modern boat, but a real danger to a first-century sailing boat.

Our readings today are about two incidents that happened on the Sea of Galilee.

One day Jesus and his disciples go into a boat and set sail for the other side of the lake. Jesus himself, tired out from a demanding day, soon fell sound asleep. A squall came down the lake. The boat was taking water and they were in danger of drowning.

They woke Jesus – "Master, Mater, we’re going to drown!" Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging water. The storm subsided and all was calm.

Jesus was concerned about their lack of faith in this situation. They were amazed, wondering who their Master really was – even winds and water obey him (Luke 8.22-25).

On another occasion, Jesus had fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. He sent the disciples on ahead of him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowd and went up into the hills by himself to pray.

By evening he was on the shore alone. The disciples were in the boat – a considerable distance from the land, "buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it."

In the fourth watch (somewhere between three and six in the morning) Jesus went out to them, walking on the water. They were scared stiff, thinking it was a ghost – until they heard the calming words of Jesus, "Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid."

Reassured, Peter wanted to walk to Jesus on the water. He expected to be able to do it only if Jesus called him to come. He could do it only as he looked to Jesus – not at the wind and the waves.

Once again the disciples were impressed about the identity of Jesus – truly you are the Son of God" (Matthew 14.22-33).

In both these incidents we note that four of the disciples of Jesus were professional fishermen. They knew this lake "like the back of their hand" – knew every shoal and bank, had many years of practical experience handling a boat in all weathers. They had done their best – and feared the worst! Yet over and above all their preparedness and skill, they had with them the very Son of God – greater than the wind and waves.

It is important to "be prepared" – to be thoroughly equipped and highly skilled. But – how often we find we have done our best yet fear the worst!

Like those disciples we need to know that, over and above our equipment and skill, is the same Jesus who has promised to be with us always.

Learn to trust in him – his presence, guidance and help in all our calm, unruffled, orderly days. Then we won’t need to panic when the storm breaks. We will safely ride the storm with the one who is Master of the wind and the waves.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you have promised to be with me always. Forgive us when we have thought of you only when we needed an emergency life-line. Forgive us that, in emergencies, we are often in too much of a panic to remember that you are with us. Help us, in the easy times, to know that you are with us to guide and help. Help us to know your peace within so that we can ride the storm when it breaks. We pray this in your name. Amen.

Still My Heart!

Still my heart, Lord!
Still my heart!

When all is calm,
I can cope.
Within the limits
of my own ability
I am fulfilled.
But with the breaking
of the storm,
when I am taken
beyond my skills,
my plans,
when faced by failure,
when confronted
by unexpected
and unwanted
still my heart, Lord!
Still my heart!

O to live in your peace
in good times
and in ill –
to bring
my life
and skill to you,
to know
your presence
and your peace
all day
and every day!

Still my heart, Lord!
Still my heart!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care Devotions, 26 June 2001
More photos of Israel are available here.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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