Mark 4:35-41, Luke 5:1-11
I have a confession to make. I am not a fisherperson. I appreciate a good seafood meal, but that is my extent of seafaring experience. I shared with you the story of the one and only time my father took me fishing – I’ll share it again if you’d like. I understand those who make a living from the sea are quite enamored with the power of the waters, the bounty or lack of that the sea provides, the feeling of the wind and waves while preserving the sanctity of a way of life. Me – I prefer viewing the water from the shore! Jesus was not only drawn to the mountains, but he found solace and direction when focused on the sea. In today’s video we will visit the ‘sea’ of Galilee, and gain an appreciation for those who still harvest its bounty. [play video]
The Sea of Galilee was not a sea so much as it was a lake. As the author of our series noted, it is fed to the north by the Jordan river which passes through the middle of the sea and exits to the south. There is this imaginary line between the two halves of the Sea of Galilee, which the Bible indicates when it talks about crossing over the sea. Jesus begins his public ministry on the shores of Galilee where he encounters some local fishermen who had just come in from a fruitless catch the night before.
Consider this first sea story as Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John as his followers. Jesus’ fame was already surfacing, so you can imagine he was walking along the shoreline and was recognized by others who quickly gathered to hear his message and witness miracles. Granted, some were only there to witness something spectacular – much like we are today. Think of how quickly crowds gather at scenes of tragedy, hoping for a glimpse of something they can post on Facebook. People are naturally curious and are drawn to the unusual. A man who could heal a withered hand, help the blind to see, and raise the dead was someone to behold.
So as a crowd gathered Jesus saw the need to get a little distance so he could provide some teaching. He approached Simon Peter and asks to borrow his boat. Consider Simon – he’s exhausted, he had a fruitless night fishing with the nets and caught nothing, yet he must have seen something in Jesus that compelled him to do as Jesus asked.
When Jesus finished teaching, he told Simon to go out again and drop the fishing nets. Understand Simon was an accomplished fisherman. He knew the reason you fish at night was because the fish could not see the nets at night. He knew you could attract the fish at night with small lights, leading them straight into the nets of which they could not see. And here Jesus was telling him to go out during the day with everything stacked against them. Remember that Simon is dog tired after being up all night. You have to love his response to Jesus, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5.) Against all odds, Simon and his family were saved because of the bounty of fish caught. With man it is impossible, with God, all things are possible.
Simon, his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee James and John, all left their profession and followed Jesus, not fully understanding who Jesus was or what was in store for them. It is clear they were still confused when we come to the second seafaring story read for us today. The book of Mark includes the story of a time when Jesus and the disciples were ‘crossing over’ the Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm erupted. Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat and the experienced fishermen were terrified by the familiar. They woke Jesus and referred to him as ‘Teacher.’ So far in their relationship with Jesus, they still only saw him as a prophet or wise man, nothing more. In spite of the miracles they witnessed, they still didn’t quite get it. And so the woke Jesus with the statement presented by every college student during finals week, “Teacher, do you not care that we perish?”
Jesus commanded the wind and the waves to cease and there was a great calm. But Jesus had to question the faith of his followers, “Have you no faith?” What about us? Where is our faith in the midst of the storm? ‘Fair winds and following seas’ is a popular nautical phrase but our lives rarely show long periods of fair winds and following seas. More often than not, we experience storm after storm after storm. If not for faith in Jesus, we would be fighting these storms alone. But keep in mind, Jesus is in your boat. The storms may rage but the master of the winds and the waves is in your boat. You can find safety and assurance regardless of the roaring of the elements.
There is one additional yet familiar story I’d like to share with you. [Matthew 14:22-33 storytelling] This ragtag bunch of humble working men finally saw the light of day – Jesus as the son of God. After an incredible journey of healings and teachings, of criticisms by the religious leaders, they finally got it. Jesus was no ordinary prophet. Jesus was no ordinary teacher. Jesus was no ordinary man but God incarnate. I can almost see the light bulb (or candle) ignite. There is a real blessing when we finally accept Jesus as the son of God, Lord of our lives, and King of kings.
Where are you this day in your faith journey? We have talked a lot about our spiritual health. We have talked about what hinders us from a closer relationship with Jesus. We have explored ways to connect with Jesus and make the final decision to let Jesus be ruler, knowing the freedom there is with a life free from the guilt of sin. Some of us are with Simon in the boat after a long fruitless night. We encounter Jesus for the first time, and there is something that compels us to respond to his calling. We have no idea where it will lead but we know in our hearts that following him is a better and more meaningful path.
Some of us are perhaps in the boat with Jesus but feel as if he is sleeping while we are struggling to make ends meet. Yes, we believe in Jesus (sort of) but we aren’t going to call out to him until we seem to have no other choice. We are fix-it types – we like to take control and feel the satisfaction of solving everything ourselves. All the while Jesus is in the boat, in the back corner. Maybe we have not fully embraced the fact that we have the son of God in our boat. We are not quite ready to let go and let Jesus lead us.
Or maybe you are witnessing Jesus walking on the water. Maybe you have fully embraced Jesus as Lord, yet you are still terrified when he presents himself. Maybe you still need to hear his reassuring words, “Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” Wherever you are in your faith, this is the place and this is the time to strengthen it if you choose. I invite us to spend a little time in prayer this day. The altar is open – I don’t often give altar calls but this just seems to work today. I am going to invite a couple of folks to stand in for those in need of special prayer today. If you are willing to join with us at the altar, I invite you to pray for yourselves, your families, your church family, your community and your world. If you prefer staying seated that’s ok too, but let us spend a little time in prayer this day, knowing that we are standing in the presence of Jesus the master of the seas and Lord of our lives. Amen.