Do you have a favorite lake? If you live in Oklahoma (as I do), you may have a great affection for Grand Lake, or Lake Texhoma, or Lake Eufala. These lakes are favorites of ours NOT just because of their natural beauty, but because of the memories we have on their waters and around their shores. I learned to waterski on Lake Tenkiller. I played golf all around the shores of Grand Lake. We had family vacations at Lake Texhoma. These memories make these bodies of water special.
Did you know that in the Bible (particularly the New Testament), it seems like God has a favorite lake? It sure seems like the Sea of Galilee is one of God’s personal favorites – not because it is the most beautiful natural setting (though it is quite pretty), but because of the memories He has with His people on and around its waters.
Throughout Jesus’s early ministry, He spent time around the Sea of Galilee. He called His disciples to follow Him from its shores. He taught sermons from the surrounding hillsides. He fed thousands on its banks. He caught scores of fish from its waters. He stopped raging storms on its waters with a single spoken word. He even walked on top of its waves to meet up with His disciples as they rowed ahead. That’s quite a history! It sure trumps the 87 I shot at Chickasaw Pointe on Lake Texhoma!
It is clear to see that Jesus used the Sea of Galilee as a prominent setting for His ministry . . . but as I visited the Sea of Galilee on my trip to Israel, I began to think more and more about WHY Jesus used this particular body of water. Though it is impossible to know for sure, I think Jesus used this body of water because it was so familiar to the people He was relating to at the time.
The Sea of Galilee was the most prominent geographic feature of the section of Israel where Jesus grew up. The entire northern economy centered around this lake. Towns surrounded its shores. Fish from its waters and crops from its surrounding fields fed the people. It is estimated that as many as 250,000 people lived in Galilee at the time of Jesus, and the Lake was what they knew . . . so Jesus used it to teach the people about Himself.
- Everyone in Galilee knew of the fierce storms that could spring up on the Sea of Galilee. That is why Jesus used these storms to demonstrate His power and sovereignty to His disciples.
- Everyone in Galilee knew of the farms around the lake that were often owned by wealthy people who lived in the southern part of the country. These wealthy landowners would frequently leave their land for long periods of time in the hands of their servants who would steward the property until the master returned. It is interesting how Jesus used this phenomena to teach His disciples through parables about our stewardship responsibilities on this earth while we wait for His return.
- Everyone in Galilee knew what it meant to be a fisherman . . . that is why it made so much sense for Jesus to call His disciples “fishers of men.”
Jesus used what His disciples knew to communicate who He was so that they would trust Him with all they had.
Jesus communicated His identity to His disciples in ways they could understand. I am so thankful He does the same thing for us today. By preserving the New Testament record for us, we can see Jesus in “3-D,” living life in the world we inhabit. More than just proverbs and poems, Jesus calmed storms, walked on water, multiplied fish and loaves, and taught in vivid illustrations so that we would know Him!
Visiting the Sea of Galilee was a true treat for me . . . but thankfully God has not required that I go there to find Him. He pursued me and found me all the way in Oklahoma, speaking a language I knew to reveal to me who He is so that I might trust Him with all I have — and He wants to do the same for you.