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The Galilean fishermen and their boats (and calming of the storm)

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, 23and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. 24And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. 25He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:22-25; also Matthew 8:23-27).

Sea of Galilee, at Tiberias. View of ruins at shore of Galilee. 1862.
Public Domain

The Calming of the Storm, a 33-minute sermon on the biblical text of  Luke 8:22-25 from Ligonier Ministries is very good.

The Sea of Galilee is an important location in the biblical history. Jesus displayed His sovereignty over creation on the sea of Galilee when He calmed the storm and rebuked the waves. ‘The wind and waves obey Him!’.

Don’t you find it interesting that seasoned fishermen were afraid for their lives? These were tough men who saw death on a daily basis. Between the high death rate in general in the first century, the daily animal sacrifices, and the naturally high mortality rate due to their profession, they were familiar with terror and the presence of death. Yet in this storm, they were afraid for their very lives.

What’s the Sea of Galilee like? Let’s get a mental picture.

The “sea” is really a freshwater lake. It ranges from 16 miles tall to 9 miles wide. By comparison, Lake Tahoe in the United States is 22 miles long and 12 miles wide. The Sea of Galilee has been given other names, including Lake Gennesaret, and Lake Tiberias.

City of Tiberias – Jewish Fishermen by the Sea of Galilee, Palestine,
a photograph by William H. Rau, 1903. Public domain

The storms on the Sea are legendary. This is because of its geography, which makes it prone to sudden, boiling storms and pitched waves. It sits about 640 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s surrounded by towering hillsides. Ravines on the Sea’s west side funnel cool air into the basin. When the cool air rushes into hot air rising from the low sea level valley, the resulting clash can create sudden, fierce winds that stir up steep waves. These choppy waves can become big enough to swamp a boat. When you get a steep chop and no space for the waves to become rolling, there’s no time for the boat to climb up one wave and surf naturally down another. The waves simply pound down on its bow, and if caught broadside, the waves can capsize you in a moment. As a former yachtsman, I can attest that there is no worse situation for sailor and boat alike than high winds and a steep chop. The boat takes a severe pounding, as does the helmsman!

In Jesus’ time, a thriving fishing industry was one of the main ways men earned a livelihood in and around that area. Peter, James, and John earned their living as fishermen. The lake yielded many kinds of fish. Three of the most popular were Sardines, Biny fish, and Tilapia, now known as “St. Peter’s Fish”.  According to the Wiki Bible project, “Biny fish are easily identified by the “barbels” or whisker type flesh that hangs from around the mouth. These fish are a hardy fish that was popular for the Sabbath feasts. These Biny fish can usually be found near schools of sardines as they are predatory fish eating everything from snail and mollusks to sardines.”

‘The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee’ By Rembrandt van Rijn

We know that the fishermen were petrified for their lives during the terrible storm. But after Jesus calmed the storm, they became more petrified.

He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25).

The word in the verse for afraid is phobēthentes, the main word is phobéō or phobos. You will recognize the English use of the word in ‘phobia’. It means to put to flight, to terrify, frighten. If the men hadn’t been trapped in the boat in the middle of the sea they would have run away! Much like the men did in Daniel 10:7. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31).

The scene should stir in us an awe and a recognition that there is nothing more terrifying, even waves that swamp your boat, than the living God who created the waves and calms them at a word. The takeaway is that though the waves made the men were fearful for their lives, when Jesus displayed His sovereignty over the creation, they feared for their souls.

He is a great God, powerful, yet kind to His children. Praise His holy name.


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.