Why are people willing to spend thousands of dollars to come see a lake? To walk around it, swim in it and even get re-immersed in it? Probably because this lake inspires faith. I am speaking of the Sea of Galilee, which is actually Israel’s largest fresh water lake, and the site of many powerful moments in the New Covenant.
My favorite story in regards to the Sea of Galilee comes from the gospels:
That day when evening came, He said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Yeshua was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
The message in this story is clear. There are storms in life and sometimes they can arise quite quickly, even when everything seems so calm. The Sea of Galilee is famous for these massive bursts of wind that Matthew refers to as ‘a furious storm’ in his narrative. The lake is situated 680 feet below sea level and is surrounded by massive mountains. The height difference causes drastic changes in temperature and pressure, often sending winds from the hills to the sea.
“The Sea of Galilee is small, and these winds may descend directly to the center of the lake with violent results. When the contrasting air masses meet, a storm can arise quickly and without warning. Small boats caught out on the sea are in immediate danger.” 1
No doubt this is what happened in the gospel story. You can imagine the fear in the disciples. I am sure they had heard tragic stories of others who had been caught in the storm—some that drowned. The fact that Yeshua was sleeping through it all did not inspire faith, as it should have—instead they thought that maybe he didn’t care for them at all!
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
I have felt like this before. In the midst of life’s storms—whether it be a financial need, concerns about my family or the fact that I live in the most hated country in the world—I have sometimes taken God’s inaction as evidence that He does not love me. LORD, you see my situation, why are you not acting?
But in truth, He is simply teaching us to trust Him in the midst of the storm. While the disciples believed they were about to drown, their fate was never in question. Yeshua was always in control. The ‘freaking out’ caused Yeshua to rebuke them saying, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The fact is that while I have passed through some tricky trials where it appeared that Yeshua was sleeping, He has never forsaken me. When we had to raise funds for our first trip to Africa, it was a daunting task and there were days when I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?” And yet, He came through—as always. Not always according to my preferred timing, but always on time.
That brings me to the second lesson that He was seeking to teach them. About two years after I was married, Elana, my father, my sister and I went deep-sea fishing. This was something my father and I did regularly when I was a child. I was so excited for Elana to be a part of it. However, shortly after we entering the boat for our five-hour excursion, the weather turned. Elana was the first to feel it, then me and then my sister. For hours we had to endure horrible seasickness, as the boat rocked back and forth at angles that were quite scary, until finally we went back to shore.
I cannot imagine that during that storm someone could have been leisurely napping unless he was a hardened seaman who neither succumbed to seasickness nor was worried about the danger. Someone who had been there before and knew the outcome!
Yeshua, in the midst of a more severe, life-threatening storm, was “sleeping on a cushion.” He was at peace in the midst of the storm. He knew the outcome because He trusted His Father. So much so, that he could actually work-in a nap during a great trial. We too have the grace to walk in such peace.
Trials are normal. The bible is clear that we will pass through them. The question is will we react like the disciples on the Sea of Galilee:
1. Fearing for our lives
2. Questioning God’s care and concern for us
Or will we be like Yeshua, who walked (and slept!) in peace in the midst of the storm.