TBT: Sea of Galilee

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Here is the research and story for Day 2 of or mission trip prayer journal:

Day 2: Jesus and Peter Walk on Water – Matthew 14:22-33

THE CONTEXT

The Sea of Galilee… or is it?

The Sea of Galilee is known by many names, but the two most important to Biblical studies is Lake Gennesaret (as it was known in Jesus’ time) and the Sea of Chinnereth (as it was known in Old Testament times).

 

The Sea of Galilee’s Geography

This pear-shaped lake extends 13 miles from north to south and 7israel-1162839_640 miles from east to west and has a surface area of 64 square miles. When I researched the depth of the lake I found numbers ranging from 141 feet deep to nearly 200 feet deep during Biblical times. So pick a number, whichever number you pick will still make it a relatively shallow lake.

 

The surface elevation has long been given as 686 feet below sea level, although it has dropped below that level for that last several decades. Surrounding this low elevation are 2000 foot high hills and cliffs on the east, plains to the north, the hills of Lower Galilee to the west, and another plain to the south.

 

Why Did Storms Occur Without Warning?

israel-555771_640The Golan Heights to the east are a source of cool dry air. In contrast, directly around the Sea of Galilee, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air.  The large differences in height can cause large temperature and pressure changes, resulting in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.

Trapped in this area, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias.  Now imagine being a 23 x 7-foot boat battling those waves… Yikes!

 

Quick Tidbit: The Jordan River flows through the lake from north to south.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(Retold in my own words.)

Jesus had just finished feeding the crowd of 5,000 men. He told the disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the people.

 

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Jesus went off by himself to pray for a while and it was evening before he finished. He was ready to join the disciples but the boat was over a mile away from the shore. The wind was strong and the waves were high.

 

Around three in the morning, Jesus came toward the boat, walking on top of the sea. Waves were crashing all around him. The wind was blowing. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they thought Jesus was a ghost and they were scared.

 

Jesus wanted to calm them and told them, “Have courage! It is me. Don’t be afraid.”

 

Peter called out to Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

 

“Come!” Jesus said.

 

Peter had to have the first moment of courage to leave the sure safety of the battered boat to the completely wild waters of the sea. He had no safety net. He truly believed that Jesus would keep him above the water. There was no doubt in his heart. It is almost as if he acted with his heart before his head could catch up and tell him logically why this was not possible.

 

J0UAWTH21ZHe stepped from the boat. Eyes on Jesus, eager to reach him. Then his brain caught up. He could feel the wind tug at his clothes. The cold water lapping over his feet. The waves slapping his legs and soaking his clothes. Fear began to seep in. What am I doing out here? Jesus is too far away. I am going to drown! I can’t do this. The wind is going to blow me over. The waves are going to consume me. I won’t be able to breathe. I will die.

 

So the water begins to rise as he sinks. He panics.

 

“Lord, save me!”

 

Immediately, Jesus reached for Peter’s hand and caught hold of him. But hadn’t Jesus been a long way off? Wasn’t that what scared Peter most? Jesus was too far away to help him. But no, Jesus was right there. Peter would not drown. He was safe now. Jesus had him.

 

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

I can just imagine the scene as they walked back. The wind is still blowing, the waves are still slamming against Peter. Peter clings to Jesus’ body, soaked, exhausted, trembling, but moving with his Savoir. He will not drown, no matter how bad the storm is. Jesus has him.

 

When they reach the boat, the wind stops, the waves calm, and the boat stills. Peter is still soaked, but he has survived because of his Lord.israel-1162839_640

 

Jesus’ power was demonstrated.

 

Those in the boat worshipped Him and proclaimed, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

 

But if Jesus is the Son of God, why did He allow the storm to happen? He could have prevented the storm or stopped it at any moment. He could have prevented Peter from sinking at all. But He didn’t.  Why didn’t He?

 

To find the answer, you have to look at the results of Peter going through the storm.

 

Because of the storm, Peter’s faith was tested. He was able to start through the storm, strong and firmly holding on to the belief that he could walk to Jesus through the storm on his own. Jesus would give him the power, the strength.

 

As he got farther away from the safety of the boat, and the logic of his mind took hold, Peter grew fearful, frantically looking for Jesus. But Jesus was too far away. He would never make it on his own, so he cried out, and Jesus was there for him at that second.

 

UHVEE852V2Jesus could have prevented Peter from sinking, He could have prevented or stopped the storm, but He didn’t. Instead, He walked with Peter through the storm, allowing His warmth to seep into Peter’s cold, trembling arms. He held Peter up when Peter had no power of his own to stay above the waters.  Peter was not going through this storm alone. The Son of God was with him.

 

When they reached the boat, Peter knew who Jesus was, both in heart and head. He had a stronger relationship with Jesus because he had depended on Jesus to carry him through.

 

No matter the storms in your life right now, you are not alone. Jesus right there, hand extended, waiting for you to call out to Him. He will keep you from sinking. He will walk with you through the storm and you will be closer to Him because of it.

 

He could make the storm go away, but the benefit of drawing near to him during the storm, warms your body, you soul, and your mind. Without the storm, you could miss out on learning just how dependable Jesus really is and just how much He loves you.

 

Reflections for You:

Here are a couple videos of relatively small wind storms on the Sea of Galilee.

How would you feel if you were Peter?

Do you ever think with your heart before your mind can stop you? What was that like?

Are you in a storm right now? How can you see Jesus helping you in the midst of the storm?

 

 

TBT: Fisher of Men

For the next few Throw Back Thursdays, I am taking a break from my novel research and am instead sharing some Biblical Times research.

 

For the last five years, my family and I have traveled to Wisconsin with our church to provide a Sports Vacation Bible School. And for the last three years, I have created a daily prayer journal for the missionary teams to complete as they progress through the week.

 

The process for this takes me hours for each individual entry. While I am not going to share the devotions, I thought I would share some of the Bible story and the research that helps me understand the context of the Bible story.  So here we go…

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Day 1: The Calling of Simon Peter, Luke 5:1-11

THE CONTEXT

Biblical Times Fisherman

Most of us today think of fishing as a relaxing venture with a pole or two in the water, a hat pulled down over your eyes, and a dozing kind of day. And perhaps if fishing were done for leisure it might not have been too different for our Biblical friends.

 

However, the life of a fisherman was anything but leisurely.

 

A Day in the Life of a Fisherman

Being a fisherman was strenuous work which required persistence, dedication, and long hours, often with little results.

 

Nets were handmade out linen or flax. Pieces of cork or wood were attached to the tops so they would float. The weights were stones with holes hand-drilled through the middle.

 

To prevent rotting, fishermen had to carefully clean, character-1161955_640dry, mend, and then fold their nets every day, and this was all completed after working as a team, dragging the nets along the bottom of the lake toward shore, drawing them up, emptying the nets into the boat, rowing back out to deep water, and then dropping the nets again… seven or eight times each night.

 

And don’t forget the fish had to be sorted, cleaned, and then sold before the fishermen could head home for an afternoon of rest.

 

Why Did They Night Fish?

Was it to avoid the heat of the day when the sun would bake their backs? Was it so the fish would be fresh to send to market in the morning?

 

Good reasons, but actually, no.

 

Due to the fact the fishing nets were made out of linen or flax, fish could easily see and avoid the nets during the day. That is why most fishing occurred at night.


What Was the Boat Like?

fishing-boat-164308_640The typical fishing boat was 23 feet long and seven feet wide. A crew of five people manned it: four to row and one to steer and supervise the catch. The last person also had the job of watching for signs of sudden storms.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(My own retelling of Luke 5:1-11.)

 

Simon Peter was part of a fishing team of at least two boats who had fished all night long only to end up unsuccessful. Not a single fish. Weary, they sat on the shore tending to their nets when Jesus came along, a crowd pressing against Him.

 

Jesus asked Simon to allow Him to get in the boat and put out a little way. After the long night, they had, and the many chores ahead of him, it would have been easier for Peter to say no. However, Peter did as he was asked and had the privilege of listening to Jesus teach the crowds.

 

When the teaching was complete, Jesus asked Simon to network-1028678_640once again put out into deep water and try fishing again. Peter was tired and reluctant to do so. He knew that fish would see their nets during the day and the likelihood of this trip being a failure as well was high. But he wasn’t doing this on his own. The Great Teacher had asked him to put out into the deeper water.

 

“Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.”

 

Can you hear the reluctance in his answer? It is almost as if he is saying, “I really don’t want to do this, but because you have asked me, I will do it anyway.” He wasn’t enthusiastic about it. In fact, it was probably the last thing he wanted to do, but he did it anyway.

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His obedience was rewarded with so many fish, their nets began to tear and they had to call for help. When Simon Peter saw this, he realized Jesus was holy and had divine power. He knew he was unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence.

 

“Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord!”

 

But Jesus knew Simon Peter better than even Simon knew himself. He had created Simon. He valued Simon. He had a job for Simon.

 

“Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people!”

 

Simon had been called. He left a successful business behind and followed Jesus.

 

Reflection Questions for You

What trepidations do you have as we go into the weekend?

Is there anything holding you back from following Jesus or serving God?

Do you feel you have been called to do the impossible?

 

Jesus called you. He knows your skills. He knows your heart. He wants to use you. Admit whatever is holding you back and say, “But at your word, I will let down my net.”

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