In early October I spent a morning on the Sea of Galilee. It’s really a rather large freshwater lake – 33 miles around, eleven miles long at its longest and eight miles wide at its widest. The morning we were on it, the water was quite smooth. Three large launches carried our group of about three hundred to the center of the lake where we tied the boats together for a period of worship.
A lot of us were wondering: “What would it be like to be on a storm here?” We didn’t have to wonder long. After the devotional, it began to rain and the wind began to blow. But our boats were large with powerful engines. Most of us just got really wet.
The boats came ashore at Kibbutz Ginosar (ancient Gennesaret – where Jesus landed after feeding the 5000) and I visited the Museum of the “Galilee Boat.” In the mid 1980’s, two brothers discovered an ancient boat, buried in the mud of the receding lake. Israeli archeologists carefully rescued the vessel and it is now on display at the Yigal Alon Museum in Ginosar. About 27 feet long and 7 ½ feet wide, there was a place for four rowers, as well as a mast for a sail. It has a relatively shallow draft – much like that of a flat-bottom boat. The boat interested me for two reasons: First, it dates to the time of Jesus. While there is nothing tying this particular boat to the Lord, it was being used when Jesus was there. Second, it is the only real example we have of a fishing boat of that time. While Jesus may not have used this boat, he no doubt used one like it.
Small, flat bottomed boats do not appeal to me. I’ve found them incredibly unstable and I cannot imagine being on one in a storm. Though the sea was calm when I was on it, in 1992 a storm drove waves some 10 feet high near the city of Tiberias doing extensive damage. If the storm of Matthew 8:23ff was anything like that one, it’s no wonder the disciples, though most of them were experienced fishermen, were genuinely afraid and thought they were going to drown! Jesus’ criticism of them points to the huge importance of trusting God. For believers, there is no excuse for “little faith.”