Primary and Junior
There are often hard storms upon the Sea of Galilee. It lies deeply sunk below the country around it, six hundred twenty-seven feet lower than the Mediterranean. The winds which sweep over the country puff down through the narrow valleys on the water, sweeping this way and that, very sudden and changeable, quickly raising the water into white-capped waves. You remember the fishing boats; you have seen pictures of those that are used on the Sea of Galilee today.
It drew toward evening as the Lord was teaching. He said, "Let us pass over unto the other side." We think of them setting sail in the cool of the evening. The Lord was asleep. But there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship so that it was now full. Read the story; how they wondered when they saw the Lord's power.
It probably was early morning as they drew near to the eastern shore, where one of the largest valleys comes down to the water, nearly opposite Magdala. Here by the shore are ruins of Kersa, probably the scene of our story. A path led by the town through the valley up to the pasture country. The valley bottom was green, its sides were rough cliffs in which were caves, many of them used as tombs.
Near this town the Lord and the disciples landed in the early morning after the stormy night. They seem to have taken the path which led through the valley, but there met them a man (Matthew speaks of two) possessed with devils, whose home was in the tombs of the wilderness, so strong that he could not be bound. How sad to read of this poor man! When the Lord came into the world evil spirits had so much power that sometimes they made men do and say whatever evil thing they pleased, and always tried to hurt them. But the Lord had power to cast them out. The devils felt the Lord's power and cried out with fear. They knew that they must go and leave the poor men safe in the Lord's care.
Near by on the mountain, on a steep slope above the lake, was a great herd of swine. The devils loved to do all the harm they could, and asked that they might go into the swine to destroy them. The Lord gave them leave. They were vile, evil, swine-like spirits; and going into the herd would show them just as they really were. Because the swine were greedy, unclean creatures, the Israelites were commanded not to keep them nor to eat their flesh, but they often did it though they knew that it was wrong. And now the people from the city saw the man sitting at the Lord's feet, clothed and in his right mind. But they forgot to be glad and grateful. They cared more for their swine, and besought the Lord to go away and leave them. The same Lord who sent out the evil spirits from these poor men, keeps them away from us, and makes us able to do right if we will. Shall we be grateful for this wonderful help, or shall we ask Him to go away and leave us?
1. How did the Lord show His power on the sea? With whom was He sailing? What shore were they leaving? To what shore were they going?
2. How did He show His power on the farther shore?
3. Were the people of that place grateful to the Lord? Was the man who was healed?
The sea, with its atmosphere of cold, heavy water, is like a natural, worldly state of mind. Sometimes it pictures a state quite evil and unheavenly. The storm on the sea represents excitement of the worldly thought, which threatens to swallow us up from the light of heaven. Winds represent the silent, unseen influences of the spiritual world. Sometimes good, heavenly influences (John 3:8), but here evil influences which arouse the evil in ourselves. The Lord's calming the winds and waves shows us His power over nature. It is the same power which always stills the storm, dissolves the clouds, and brings the sunshine. But all the Lord's works were signs of spiritual works which He was doing and always desires to do for us. When the Lord rebuked the winds and waves and there was a great calm, it was a sign that He had conquered the worldly nature in Himself, and the influences from hell which aroused that nature. He had conquered them in Himself, and gained the power to still the winds and waves for us. "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33; T. 123; E. 419, 514)
In times of excitement and temptation the Lord seems far away, and to have forgotten us. This was represented by His being asleep and seeming not to care if the disciples perished. But really, the Lord never forgets us. He is always near. In temptations He is nearer than at other times, more near than we can know or believe. When any evil is roused with its storm of winds and waves, if we ask the Lord's help He will give it, and say to the storm, "Peace, be still." (E. 514; A. 840; Psalm 107:23-31)
Beyond Jordan. The Holy Land itself represents a spiritual state of life. Lands beyond the border of Canaan represent external, natural states. The Lord crossed the Sea of Galilee to the pastures of the eastern shore as a sign of His presence with us in external states; in our recreation and our enjoyment of natural ease and beauty. We need the Lord's presence in this more natural state, that we may not abuse these enjoyments.
Does the Lord find us in our states of natural enjoyment and rest moderate, with our appetites under strict control, always serviceable to our higher life? Or does He find us as men possessed, in the power of self-indulgent spirits? There are swine-like spirits which make us indolent and greedy, which drive to what is impure, and to indulgence in eating and drinking. When in their power we live in the tombs, in ways in which there is nothing of spiritual life. What spiritual conditions are represented by wearing no clothes and living in no house? Of our own strength we cannot tame or bind them. Only the Lord can. He has overcome such evil spirits, and has power to cast them out from us. He will, if we ask Him, help us to see these enemies as they are - swine, and will cast them out. (A. 1742; E. 659) Then we shall sit at His feet, clothed and in our right mind. We shall be safe and free to do well if we will.