For the longest time I thought it would be great to live in California because you have both majestic mountains
|King’s Canyon – California|
and spectacular seashores.
|Big Sur – California|
These seem to be the two places people love to spend their time and Jesus was no exception. While he often retreated into the mountains to pray and listen for the voice of God, the other place Jesus loved to spend his time was by the water, particularly the Sea of Galilee. While we call it the Sea of Galilee, it is not really a sea but a lake. Known also as Lake Gennesaret and Lake Tiberias, this body of water is 700 feet below sea level which makes it the lowest freshwater lake in the world. Its average depth is 84 feet, but in some places it is 150 feet deep. The Jordan River actually runs right through the sea which is why people often talked about “crossing over” the sea because when you crossed from one side to the other you were literally crossing over the Jordan River.
On the northwest shore of the sea is the city of Capernaum where Jesus made his home and where many Jewish people lived. On the other side of the sea was the region known as the Decapolis which was a large Greek and Roman region which meant it was home to large communities of Gentiles. It is important for us to understand that Jesus crossed over the sea many times to minister in this region because his message was for all people. We need to remember today that God’s message is not just for believers in the church but for all people and walking in the footsteps of Jesus means sharing God’s love and grace and truth with everyone – everywhere.
So the Sea of Galilee was a place Jesus loved to spend his time, either walking along the lakeshore or sailing on the waters, but it was also the scene of some of his most significant ministry. There are two main things that Jesus did on the sea, he revealed to his disciples who he was and then he called them to follow him. We see both of these things clearly the first time Jesus went out on the sea and it is a story found in Luke 5:1-11.
One day Jesus was walking along the seashore and because of his fame as a great teacher and preacher a huge crowd pressed in around him. In an effort to help people hear his words, Jesus asked Peter if he could use his boat as a floating stage. The idea was that Jesus could push off from the shore and the people would be able to see and hear him better. Peter said yes. Now let’s stop here for a moment and ask: if Jesus asked to use our stuff – what would we say? Are we willing to offer our boat, cars, homes, electronics and other stuff to Jesus? Are we willing to give Jesus our time?
A few years ago my car broke down on I-80. It was completely dead and yet the good news was that God had it break down just outside of Lewisburg, where I had served a church for 7 years. I contacted a friend of mine who immediately said, “Andy just take our car. Our boys are both at college and so it is just sitting here. Use it as long as you need it.” They were willing to allow Jesus to use their stuff which was a blessing to me. When their boys came home from college and I still had not replaced my car, Sue Quick was willing to allow Jesus to use her stuff and so she offered me the use of an extra car she had until I bought one. When we allow God to use our stuff it is a blessing to everyone. It is a blessing, but it can also get messy.
The summer I worked in Colorado, a friend and I decided to worship at the Air Force Academy chapel in Colorado Springs.
|Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs|
It is an amazing place but what was really amazing was our trip home. It had snowed while we were in worship so when we left there was about 2 inches on the ground and everything was beautiful. As we drove out of the Academy we saw a woman stranded by the side of the road with a broken down car. We stopped and asked her if she needed help and she did. We allowed God to use our time and our car that day, but boy was it more than we thought.
The woman’s windshield wipers didn’t work which meant she couldn’t see to drive because of the snow and she was too upset to know what to do. I agreed to drive her car to the nearest garage, while my friend followed in her car, but this meant I had to drive with my head out the window since I couldn’t see through the windshield. Because of the snow that had fallen, a wet dirty slush from the streets and passing cars splashing all over.
When we got to the entrance the guard in the booth was very kind and told us that the closest garage was at the other exit, so we drove all the way back through the Academy but this time we had a police escort but I still had my head out the window and the slush and water kept spraying all over me! When we got to the other exit we thanked the guard and made our way to the closest garage which thankfully was right next to a McDonalds.
We asked the mechanic to look at the car while we went to McDonalds to clean up and get some hot coffee. The woman we helped had no money, so we bought her some breakfast, calmed her down and realized we would now have to pay for her car too. When we went back over to the garage, I was anxious thinking about how we were going to pay for the repairs since my friend and I had very little money. Now here is where I wish I knew more about cars. What the woman’s car needed was a screw tightened – that was it. All that hassle and all that was needed was a screw tightened.
I braced myself when the mechanic told us how much it was going to cost because I knew Jesus was calling us to use our stuff, our money, to pay the bill. The mechanic charged us $3. $3! I was so relieved and thankful to the mechanic and to God. I was completely drenched, cold, dirty and tired but also thrilled that God had used us for his purpose. When we are willing to allow Jesus to use our stuff it can be messy, literally, but we are drawn closer to him through the process and it can make for an amazing adventure.
So Peter allowed Jesus to use his boat as a platform to preach, but little did Peter know that this was just the beginning. Jesus then asked Peter if he would be willing to take his boat out into deeper water and let down his nets to catch fish. Now understand this, Peter was an experienced fisherman and Jesus was not. Peter had been fishing all night and caught nothing which told him there were no fish here to catch. What was Jesus thinking? Peter says to Jesus,Luke 5:5a. I think there was a long pause here, but Jesus said nothing so Peter goes on Luke 55b. Peter finally agrees and lets down his nets.
As he is doing this I am sure Peter is thinking to himself, “this Jesus might be a good teacher but he knows nothing about fishing – this is a huge waste of time” but then the nets begin to move. Then Peter and the other fishermen begin to haul in a catch of fish that is beyond anything they could imagine. There were so many fish that they swamped the boat and I imagine Peter looking at Jesus who is just standing there smiling.
Peter suddenly knows that Jesus is more than a good teacher and more than a good fisherman, there is something special and holy about this man and Peter’s response is… Luke 5: 8-9. On the water, Jesus has revealed himself as a man of God and while Peter doesn’t fully understand who Jesus is, he knows that he is not worthy to be in his presence so he tells Jesus to depart, but take note – Jesus doesn’t leave.
It’s important to notice the choices Jesus makes in life. Jesus could have said, “you’re right, Peter, you are so unworthy that I am going to find someone else.” But he doesn’t. Instead, Jesus invites Peter to go even deeper with him. Instead of leaving him behind, Jesus invites him to leave behind his nets and boats and life as he knows it to enter into the service of God. First Jesus just asked for the use of Peter’s boat but now Jesus wants all of him, and that’s how it is with Jesus. He might start by asking for us the use of our stuff and our time but eventually he asks for all we have and all we are.
So on the water, Jesus begins to reveal who he is, he is a holy man of God but he also calls people to follow him and work for God. Jesus still calls us to follow him and work for God. I am amazed, humbled and honored that Jesus invites us do work that not only transforms our community but brings the kingdom of God into our world. Too often we think of the work we do in the church as just volunteering at Vacation Bible School, or just going on a mission trip – but it is not. It is being someone who changes hearts and lives and works for God’s peace and justice in the world. Like the disciples, we are on the water with Jesus and in the boat with Jesus and he is inviting us to fish for people. Will we say yes?
The second story of Jesus on the water is found in Mark 4:35-41. Here Jesus and his disciple are again out on the sea but Jesus makes his way to the back of the boat to take a nap. While Jesus is napping on a little pillow (gotta love the detail here!) a storm comes up that threatens to destroy the boat and the disciples. In fear for their lives, the disciples wake up Jesus and ask him why he doesn’t care about them. Jesus immediately says to the wind and waves,Peace! Be Still! And the storm stops.
When the disciples see that the wind and waves obey Jesus they ask themselves, “Who is this?” They understand that Jesus is a good teacher and a holy man of God and that he has the power of God to do amazing things, but no one can calm the wind and the waves – that power is reserved for God alone, at least that is what they learned from the Bible. Look at Psalm 89:8-9. So they ask themselves – who is this?
While the disciples didn’t get an answer to that question that day, they did learn this, Jesus is someone who can calm the storms – and as we walk with Jesus we need to remember that he is still able to calm the storms of our lives. I don’t know what storm you are going through today, it might be a storm that is trying to destroy your marriage or your family. It might be a financial storm that is creating stress or a health storm that creates an uncertain future. I don’t know what the storms are, but I know this, when we invite Jesus into our lives he is there to provide the strength and power we need to help us make it through.
Now let’s be clear, Jesus doesn’t make the storms go away forever, after all, the disciples experienced more struggles after this day, so there will be times when we will struggle and be afraid, but during those times we have someone we can count on to be there for us and to help us. If you are going through a storm today, I would invite you to simply turn to Jesus and ask him for help. Like the disciples found out – he will be there and he will help us. He will give us strength and peace and if nothing else he will remind us that we are not alone in the storm.
The third story of Jesus on the water we want to look at is from Matthew 14:22-33. After a long and tiring day of feeding thousands of people, Jesus sends his disciples out to cross over the Sea of Galilee while he goes off for some time alone. While the disciples are on the water, a violent storm comes up that threatens to swamp their boat and kill them all again. In the midst of the storm they see what appears to be a ghost walking to them on the water and they are now even more terrified. If the storm wasn’t bad enough – here is the angel of death coming to get them. While they are crying out in fear, Jesus calls us out to them saying, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”
The most interesting part of this phrase is it is I. From the original Greek it would be translated I AM. Now here is why this is significant, when God called Moses out of the burning bush, he told him that his name was I AM. So here is Jesus, 1300 years later telling his disciples that he is God. Jesus fully reveals himself to his disciples on the water as God, but once again he goes further and invites his disciples to walk with him. When Peter asks to get out of the boat and walk on the water, Jesus immediately says, Come. Are we ready to ask God to help us out of the boat? Are we ready to ask God to help us take this step of faith and walk in his footsteps and experience all that God has for us?
If we are, then there are two things we need to learn from Peter, the first is to keep our eyes on Jesus. As long as Peter kept his focus on Jesus and not on the problems around him – he stood strong. But when Peter took his eyes of Jesus and focused on the problems – he sank. It’s not easy to keep our eyes on Jesus because the wind and waves, the problems we experience in life are real and powerful. It takes effort to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, but if we do – we will stand.
The second thing we learn from Peter is that if (or when) we start to sink – if we cry out to God for help – God will save us. When Peter started to sink into the water he cried out, Lord Save Me, and he did. Jesus immediately reached out and lifted Peter out of the water and helped him into the safety of the boat. And once in the safety of the boat, once they saw the full power and love of God the disciples proclaimed, Truly you are the Son of God.
And in that statement their faith journey is somewhat complete. Jesus has gone from being a holy man of God to the Holy Son of God – the one who really does control the wind and the waves and the one who helps us experience the full potential and power of life and the One who saves us.
Walking in the way of Jesus means taking this same journey of faith ourselves. We might start by seeing Jesus as a good teacher and a holy man of God and then slowly begin to see him more and more as a the true Son of God, the Messiah our Savior. Wherever we might be on this journey and however we might see and experience Jesus today, what these stories teach us is that Jesus is here to revel more of who he is and invite us to walk more faithfully with him. Maybe we need to invite Jesus into our boats (our lives) and begin to let us use our stuff so we can begin to see who he really is. Maybe we need to ask Jesus to help us through the storms we face and allow him to calm the wind and waves. Maybe we need to once and for all get out of the boat and start really walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Wherever we are today, Jesus says, here I am –invite me into your life and I will invite you to walk with me.
The Way ~ The Sea of Galilee
Take time to read the three stores of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee: Luke 5:1-11, Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 14:22-33.
1. What “stuff” have you allowed Jesus to use? How did it feel to be used by God for His purpose? Did this experience help you see who Jesus is and experience more of God’s presence or power? How?
2. What “stuff” do you have today that Jesus might want to use? What will it look like for you to offer these things to Him?
3. Jesus calmed the wind and the waves (something only God could do – see Psalm 89:8-9). What storms can you identify in your life today? Ask God to calm those storms and then trust Him to do it in His time.
4. When Jesus called Peter to walk on the water He was calling him to experience the fullness of life and reach his full God given potential. If you could do anything with Jesus, what would you want to do? What keeps you “in the boat”?
5. Thank God for coming to us fully in the person of Jesus and showing us His amazing grace and love. Ask God to give you His grace and power as you walk in the way of Jesus this week.