Here is the research and story for Day 2 of or mission trip prayer journal:
Day 2: Jesus and Peter Walk on Water – Matthew 14:22-33
The Sea of Galilee… or is it?
The Sea of Galilee is known by many names, but the two most important to Biblical studies is Lake Gennesaret (as it was known in Jesus’ time) and the Sea of Chinnereth (as it was known in Old Testament times).
The Sea of Galilee’s Geography
This pear-shaped lake extends 13 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west and has a surface area of 64 square miles. When I researched the depth of the lake I found numbers ranging from 141 feet deep to nearly 200 feet deep during Biblical times. So pick a number, whichever number you pick will still make it a relatively shallow lake.
The surface elevation has long been given as 686 feet below sea level, although it has dropped below that level for that last several decades. Surrounding this low elevation are 2000 foot high hills and cliffs on the east, plains to the north, the hills of Lower Galilee to the west, and another plain to the south.
Why Did Storms Occur Without Warning?
The Golan Heights to the east are a source of cool dry air. In contrast, directly around the Sea of Galilee, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large differences in height can cause large temperature and pressure changes, resulting in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.
Trapped in this area, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias. Now imagine being a 23 x 7-foot boat battling those waves… Yikes!
Quick Tidbit: The Jordan River flows through the lake from north to south.
THE BIBLE STORY
(Retold in my own words.)
Jesus had just finished feeding the crowd of 5,000 men. He told the disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the people.
Jesus went off by himself to pray for a while and it was evening before he finished. He was ready to join the disciples but the boat was over a mile away from the shore. The wind was strong and the waves were high.
Around three in the morning, Jesus came toward the boat, walking on top of the sea. Waves were crashing all around him. The wind was blowing. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they thought Jesus was a ghost and they were scared.
Jesus wanted to calm them and told them, “Have courage! It is me. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter called out to Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
“Come!” Jesus said.
Peter had to have the first moment of courage to leave the sure safety of the battered boat to the completely wild waters of the sea. He had no safety net. He truly believed that Jesus would keep him above the water. There was no doubt in his heart. It is almost as if he acted with his heart before his head could catch up and tell him logically why this was not possible.
He stepped from the boat. Eyes on Jesus, eager to reach him. Then his brain caught up. He could feel the wind tug at his clothes. The cold water lapping over his feet. The waves slapping his legs and soaking his clothes. Fear began to seep in. What am I doing out here? Jesus is too far away. I am going to drown! I can’t do this. The wind is going to blow me over. The waves are going to consume me. I won’t be able to breathe. I will die.
So the water begins to rise as he sinks. He panics.
“Lord, save me!”
Immediately, Jesus reached for Peter’s hand and caught hold of him. But hadn’t Jesus been a long way off? Wasn’t that what scared Peter most? Jesus was too far away to help him. But no, Jesus was right there. Peter would not drown. He was safe now. Jesus had him.
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I can just imagine the scene as they walked back. The wind is still blowing, the waves are still slamming against Peter. Peter clings to Jesus’ body, soaked, exhausted, trembling, but moving with his Savoir. He will not drown, no matter how bad the storm is. Jesus has him.
When they reach the boat, the wind stops, the waves calm, and the boat stills. Peter is still soaked, but he has survived because of his Lord.
Jesus’ power was demonstrated.
Those in the boat worshipped Him and proclaimed, “Truly You are the Son of God!”
But if Jesus is the Son of God, why did He allow the storm to happen? He could have prevented the storm or stopped it at any moment. He could have prevented Peter from sinking at all. But He didn’t. Why didn’t He?
To find the answer, you have to look at the results of Peter going through the storm.
Because of the storm, Peter’s faith was tested. He was able to start through the storm, strong and firmly holding on to the belief that he could walk to Jesus through the storm on his own. Jesus would give him the power, the strength.
As he got farther away from the safety of the boat, and the logic of his mind took hold, Peter grew fearful, frantically looking for Jesus. But Jesus was too far away. He would never make it on his own, so he cried out, and Jesus was there for him at that second.
Jesus could have prevented Peter from sinking, He could have prevented or stopped the storm, but He didn’t. Instead, He walked with Peter through the storm, allowing His warmth to seep into Peter’s cold, trembling arms. He held Peter up when Peter had no power of his own to stay above the waters. Peter was not going through this storm alone. The Son of God was with him.
When they reached the boat, Peter knew who Jesus was, both in heart and head. He had a stronger relationship with Jesus because he had depended on Jesus to carry him through.
No matter the storms in your life right now, you are not alone. Jesus right there, hand extended, waiting for you to call out to Him. He will keep you from sinking. He will walk with you through the storm and you will be closer to Him because of it.
He could make the storm go away, but the benefit of drawing near to him during the storm, warms your body, you soul, and your mind. Without the storm, you could miss out on learning just how dependable Jesus really is and just how much He loves you.
Reflections for You:
Here are a couple videos of relatively small wind storms on the Sea of Galilee.
How would you feel if you were Peter?
Do you ever think with your heart before your mind can stop you? What was that like?
Are you in a storm right now? How can you see Jesus helping you in the midst of the storm?