In John 6, "...16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.." (NIV)
Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred near the Sea of Galilee, particularly in Capernaum at the northwest end. The sea (Lake of Galilee) is generally calm.
Additional information for the same story is in Matthew 14:22-34
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. 25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.”
The shores of the Galilee are known for the place where the majority of Jesus’ ministry occurred, most notably recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Continuous settlements attracted thousands of inhabitants to its shores, providing Jesus the necessary means for His preaching. The Apostles Simon (Peter), Andrew, John, and James were all recruited from the Galilee region.
The Sea of Galilee also has a vibrant history straddling the ancient Via Maris (trade route) that connects Egypt with the northern empires of the past. This stunning freshwater lake plays a most significant role in Israel’s past, present, and future.
The Sea is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and is anywhere from 686 to 705 feet below sea level, depending on lake levels. The trademark harp-shaped lake is deceiving in its size. It has a 33 mile circumference, is 13 miles long at the longest point and 8 miles wide at the widest point and is fed mainly by the Jordan River. It is relatively shallow. It is known by various names, including the Sea or Lake of Kinneret, the Sea or Lake of Gennesaret, the Sea of Ginosar, Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias and Lake Tiberias. It is bounded by hills, especially on the east side where they reach 2000 feet high. These heights are a source of cool, dry air.
The climate is the region is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funnelling through the hills. Because the Sea of Galilee is not big, these winds may descend directly to the center of the lake with violent results. When the contrasting air masses meet, a storm on the surface can arise quickly and without warning. putting any vessel at sudden risk.
Compare the Eastern shore (far background) and the west coast (on the right, recent times), they are quite different.
The wind probably came down from the area of Hippus and blows towards the direction of the western shore (Gennesaret). The apostles’ boat a short distance from Capernaum was therefore at great risk.
One important point to note is from from John 6:19,
“19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened”. This special verse enables us to fix precisely the position where Jesus is seen walking on water. It is amazing that this site sits smackly at the site where the wind will be the strongest.
As Capernaum is still precisely located today, it will be invigorating if we can go to that exact spot and take a good look.
When Peter jumps out of the boat, his heart is full of good intentions. Sometimes we take a leap of faith with similarly good intentions, but, like Peter’s, our faith soon falters. Peter’s exercise of faith does not end in failure. Although he is sinking in fear, he calls out to the Lord, “Save me!” God loves to hear our cry for help. It means we know we can’t save ourselves. Peter helplessly cries out to the only one who can help him. Jesus uses this stormy experience to bring His followers into a fuller understanding of who He is. The disciple’s experience also reminds us that a lapse of faith becomes a stumble, but He is there to raise us back safely to our feet when we call out to Him for help.
Beginning to grasp that Jesus is all-powerful, even over the forces of nature, the disciples take another step closer to mature faith. To Jesus they say, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33). He showed this truth to the disciples who witnessed His divinity and responded with a confession of faith in Jesus as God.
As Jesus and Peter climb into the boat, the storm ceases. The disciples respond to everything they’ve witnessed with awe and adoration of the Lord. Similarly for us, no matter where we are in our walk with Jesus, we should keep our eyes and ears on him, always. And be ready for awe and adoration.
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