Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The "Jesus Boat" and the Storms of life

The Sea of Galilee Boat or commonly known as the "Jesus Boat" was an ancient fishing boat discovered in 1986 on the north-west shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It was a remarkably well preserved boat dating from the 1st century CE. Carbon and pottery dating placed it to be between 50 BCE to 50 CE. Its significance is that this boat may be representative of what Jesus and his disciples, many of whom are fishermen, are familiar with. There is no evidence linking Jesus to this boat even though it is called the “Jesus Boat.”

Excavating the boat from the mud without damaging it, quickly enough to extract it before the water rose again, was a difficult process which lasted 12 days and nights. The boat was then submerged in a chemical bath for 7 years before it could be displayed at the Yigal Allon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. (Wiki)

The remains of the boat, 27 feet (8.27 meters) long, 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 meters), first appeared during a drought, when the waters of the Sea of Galilee which was actually a great fresh-water lake receded. It is made of cedar planks.

replica of the boat

More about the discovery of this boat here and here.

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake which is surrounded by high mountains. The Sea is at 680 feet below sea level while the surrounding mountains may reach 2000 feet high. The air at the height is cool and dry while the air at the Sea level is hot and moist. There is a huge drop in temperature and humidity. The difference result in strong winds that cause sudden deadly storms on the Sea. A small boat such as the one above will be in great danger. Mark described one such episode:

   MK 4:35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

Jesus, tired after teaching, was fast asleep. The disciples and other travelers did not expect a storm or otherwise they would not have started out to cross the Sea. It is interesting to note that the storm (squall) caught the disciples by surprise (many of whom are seasoned fishermen) and that these seasoned fishermen are afraid! Obvious this is not a minor storm.

I was rereading Max Ehrmann’s (1872–1945) 1927 poem Desiderata (Latin: "desired things"). A dear friend highlighted this section of the poem

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

This section reminds me of the boat incident above. Storms of life always hit us when we are exhausted and depressed. This seems to be a fact of life. Not matter how much security we built into our lives (huge bank accounts, property assets, academic and professional degrees, children, gated communities, bullet proofed cars etc) I believe we all know consciously or subconsciously that we are on a tiny sinkable boat on the sea. Any storm can come along and sink the boat. No boat is unsinkable, even the Titanic.

How do we nurture strength of spirit? Not from the ‘security’ things mentioned above. These things sink very quickly! The strength of spirit comes only by interactions with the only person who is not worried in the same boat. Imagine being able to sleep through a storm! Mark continued,

MK 4:39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

    MK 4:40 He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

Strength of spirit or faith can only be developed by knowing God. It is developed by time spent reading and meditating on the Word of God, hours in prayers, awareness of God’s presence in all things and his sovereignty, and putting our lives completely in his hands. The result? You can sleep through a storm because you know the boat you are in is in God’s hands, and you know who this God is.


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