The Sea of Galilee is a pear-shaped lake 13 miles long from north to south, and about 8 miles at its maximum width. Its average depth is 84 feet, and its maximum depth is 141 feet. There’s 64 sq. miles of surface area. (Wikipedia) And it’s a lot like the sea of life.
Because it lies in a basin surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee is very susceptible to sudden, violent storms. Cool air from the Mediterranean Sea is drawn down through the narrow mountain passes and clashes with the hot, humid air lying over the lake. One moment, the lake can be smooth like glass, without a ripple on the surface of the water. Moments later, strong winds could bring high winds and waves that could easily capsize a small fishing boat. There’s a storm on record in March 1992 that sent waves ten feet high crashing into the downtown of a city on the east side of the Sea of Galilee.
Isn’t that how life is for us? One day, things seem to be going smoothly, no problems, not a ripple on the water. And then out of the blue, clouds of change move quickly toward us. Maybe problems develop at work – rumors start flying that the company is having trouble paying its vendors. You start to wonder, “Will I be one of the ones to be let go? How will I provide for my family?” Or maybe the pain in your hip or knee has been growing sharper and it is affecting your mobility. Joint replacement surgery may be the only answer.
Sometimes you are alerted to clouds in the distance moving in quickly and know, no matter what you do, you won’t escape the blast. Maybe that’s like when a mammogram finds a lump in a breast, or a man’s routine physical shows a problem in his prostate. There is the agonizing wait for the tests. You know something is coming and you can’t stop it. The storm strikes when the tests say there is a malignant cancer. You cry out, “How am I going to get through this? Did I find it early enough? Will I survive this storm?”
Or maybe a parent notices the clouds moving in quickly when her teenage son begins to hang around with a bad group of kids at school, and his attitude and demeanor changes. The clouds are ominous and visible, but she thinks – maybe this storm will miss us if I just don’t make a big issue about it and hope all will be okay. But late one night the police call and the son has been arrested for burglary. He’s been trying to support a drug habit.
The sea of life can become ugly very quickly. And when the storms rage, the water gets muddy and life doesn’t look very beautiful anymore. Although the sky turns blue the next day for the rest of the world, the water around these individuals and families stays muddy.
It doesn’t appear the disciples had much warning that a storm was coming. They were out in open water when one of these sudden storms caught them. The disciples knew enough about weather and boats and the sea to know that this was a situation where they didn’t have much control and they were in real danger. That’s like when Friday’s paycheck bounces and the company locks its doors, unannounced. Or a you are hit by a stroke or a heart attack, something where there’s no warning – a Sea of Everything’s Going Wrong in Life – and you didn’t see it coming. And you cry out, “Jesus, can’t you see what’s going on – don’t you care that I’m going to drown?”
The lesson suggests Jesus has the power to quiet the storms of the sea. When we turn to him, (we fail to see that Christ sleeps within us – 2 Cor. 13:5), he helps us put things into the proper perspective. He doesn’t eliminate the sea of life. He calms the storm of emotions that rage inside us. He helps us recognize what is important, that the loss we fear may not be as significant or final as we might imagine. God has a plan for us.
Once the storm of the moment has passed, we raise our heads to assess the damages to our selves, to our pride, to our expectations for life. Jesus asks, “Why were you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? Couldn’t you see that I am with you?”
As objective observers, it’s easy to think, “You silly disciples, don’t you know that the Son of God is in the boat with you?” How could they miss that? But when you are the one watching the winds and waves rising and falling all around you, it’s easy to take your eyes off the only One who can give you peace in the midst of your storms. He is within you (2 Cor. 13:5). The prince of peace.
Often, it’s only when you look back at what you have come through that you are able to see where Jesus was during your storm. When you look back, you see it was his arms that comforted you in the loss of your loved one; it was him that drove you to your chemotherapy treatments. It was him that baked the casseroles for you when your home was damaged by the tornado or when you moved into a new town. It was him that sat with you in the waiting room during the surgery of your loved one. When you live as a community of faith, you don’t face your storms alone. Christ is with you.
You and I – we are the physical hands and arms and voice of Jesus Christ. Jesus is always with us. He is with us in and through the members of His body, the church.
The Sea of Life is not simply about living from one storm to the next. The Sea of Life is also teeming with abundance — with an abundance of purpose and meaning, with relationships and interactions, with the beauty and wonder of creation. When we come to know Jesus as the Source of Life, this is where we find that peace, and hope, and joy, and love where life is lived in its abundance.