As the Lord taught the people in parables, He sat in a boat near the shore. What shore? What sea?
The Sea of Galilee is a beautiful blue lake shaped something like a pear with the small end toward the south. The Jordan River, you remember, runs into it at the north and out again at the south, keeping the water sweet and fresh. There are hills and mountains around it except where the plain of Gennesaret comes to the water's edge. In the Gospel days there were many boats on the sea, some of them bringing merchandise from the East; and there were many fishing boats, for we learn that the fishermen toiled day and night. On a quiet summer's day this little sea is blue and dancing in the sunshine, a happy, friendly sight to see; but sometimes, suddenly, without notice the wind sweeps down between the mountains, and in a few moments the quiet sea is a raging enemy, seeming ready to destroy every boat, upon it.
It was at a time when the sea was quiet that the Lord sat and taught the people; but as the evening drew near He turned to His apostles who were near Him, and said, "Let us pass over unto the other side." And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He
was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. As they sailed, the Lord lay down in the hinder part or stern of the boat, and slept on a pillow. And as the darkness deepened, the wind came sweeping over the sea; the waves rose high and began to break over the sides of the boat, and it was fast filling with water and the apostles were afraid. Still the Lord slept on the pillow. Should they disturb Him? They were not yet wholly trustful, though they had seen so many wonderful things that He had done. So they came to Him in their terror, "and they awake Him, and say unto Him," etc. Tell the rest in the Bible words: verses 38-41.
How many of you can draw from memory a map of the Sea of Galilee? First think of its shape, twice as long as it is wide. Make it narrower at the southern part on the western side. Remember where the Jordan runs in and runs out. Next show how the hills come down to the shore on every side except at the northwest where they stand back leaving the plain of Gennesaret. Don't forget the Mountain of the Blessings and the valley leading up to it from the plain. Now put down the towns that you know; Tiberias, Capernaum, Magdala. Show me the town where the Lord made His home; the shore where He called His disciples, and where He taught the people from the boat.
There are often hard storms upon this little sea. It lies deeply sunk below the country around it, six hundred and twenty-seven feet lower than the Mediterranean. The winds which sweep over the country puff down through the narrow valleys on the water, quickly raising it into white-capped waves. You remember the fishing-boats. We have seen pictures of the boats that are used on the Sea of Galilee today, and I have told you about them: stout boats some twenty-five feet long, pointed at both ends, with a little deck in bow and stern, a three-cornered sail, and oars, and, a rope to tow the boat along.
It drew toward evening as the Lord was teaching, and they turned the boat to cross to the other side. Do you know any towns on the other side? There were some but not many. It was mostly open pasture country where the Lord sometimes took the disciples for rest. (Mark 6:31) Read what happened as they sailed.
Were you ever frightened in a storm? When we are, it is because we forget that the Lord is taking care of us. Is He with us on the water, and in the dark? If we trust the Lord to take care of us, whether He at once stops the natural storm or not, He quiets our fears and anxious feelings, and there is in our own minds a great calm. Why should we ever be afraid of a storm or anything if we remember that the Lord is with us taking care of us? There is nothing in this world to be afraid of but doing wrong which takes us away from the Lord.
1. "The same day." What day?
2. "To the other side." Of what?
3. What happened as they sailed?
4. Where was the Lord?
5. What did He say? What did He do?
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 calling of the disciples from their nets pictured to us the Lord's call from a natural, worldly life to a spiritual life. The drawing of the net full of fishes to the shore pictures our passing from this natural world into the spiritual, world. The Lord's teaching the people by the sea and from the boat represents the fact that He was teaching in simple, natural forms of thought. Now the Lord's going out upon the sea with the disciples tells us of His full presence and sympathy with us in all our most natural affairs, and especially of His help in overcoming what is evil. (E. 342)
The storm. Are our minds sometimes calm and peaceful and sometimes tempestuous? The sea is the worldly thought, in this place especially false and evil thought. At times this is excited and 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)
Read of another time when the Lord calmed the winds and the waves, and in still another way showed His power over the sea and what the sea represents. (Matthew 14:22-33) Read the description of a state of temptation in Psalm 107:23-31; and how beautifully the promise of the Lord's help is given to calm the waves!
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)