Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
August 26, 2012
Unforgettable the breathtaking beauty of the Sea of Galilee
It was an unforgettable moment – my first sight of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Our little group was riding in a bus. As we came around a curve and over a hill, there stretched out before us was the beautiful sea so prominent in the stories of Jesus. The sight was so breathtaking that I can close my eyes and relive the moment even today.
Located near the Golan Heights, the Sea of Galilee is also known as Lake Kinneret or Lake Tiberias. It is the largest freshwater lake in Israel and being below sea level it is the lowest freshwater lake on earth. A popular tourist site the lake is the main source of water for the population centers of Israel.
The sea was much larger than I had supposed – about 13 miles long and eight miles wide. There was a strong wind the day we went for a short boat ride. An experienced seaman told us that squalls can develop quickly, without warning, when the winds come up.
In his Gospel Mark describes such a furious squall that threatened to sink the boat that Jesus and his disciples were using. The storm was so fierce that the disciples feared for their lives. And they were surprised and frustrated to find Jesus asleep in the rear of the boat. Weary of ministering for hours to others, Jesus was getting much needed rest.
Complaining that Jesus seemed not to care about their plight, the disciples woke the Master in the hope that he could save them. Jesus arises and rebukes the wind and the sea, commanding them to become peaceful and be still. Immediately, Mark says, the wind and the waves obeyed his voice.
This demonstration of Jesus’ power surprised the disciples but it should not surprise us. After all, the Bible tells us that Jesus helped to create the world. John even says that Jesus, as the Word, was with God in the beginning and that “through him all things were made.” So if Jesus is the Creator, should he not have power over his own creation?
Mark wants his readers to understand that Jesus is the Son of God and his power and authority have no limit. Indeed, the disciples have no need to be afraid as long as Jesus is with them.
The real issue is not about Jesus’ power over nature but the need of the disciples to replace fear with faith. Jesus confronts them about their lack of faith; they were handcuffed by fear. Fear paralyzes. Faith liberates. Faith in God is the biblical antidote for fear.
The Gospel of Mark uses another incident to demonstrate the power of Jesus – his encounter with a demon-possessed man living in a cemetery. Evidently this story’s purpose is to show that Jesus has power over the demonic as well as power over the natural world.
Some people doubt the reality of demon possession. They reason that belief in demons was the result of first century ignorance and superstition.
Yet there are hideous evils deeds for which demon possession seems the most plausible explanation. To explain incidents of violent evil as “mental illness” leaves unanswered the question of what produces mental illness.
A reasonable conclusion is what Jesus believed – that Satan, or the Evil One as Jesus called him, is responsible for the demonic power that seeks to destroy life and separate people from life in God.
In a world where the demonic forces of evil seek to makes us slaves of fear, it is heartening to read what Mark proclaims in his gospel – the “good news” that a loving God sent Jesus to help us.
Mark invites us to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Creator and our Redeemer. He alone, Mark says, can heal the brokenness of our souls and give us peace with God.
Through faith, “When the storms of life are raging,” we can call upon Jesus to stand beside us. We can ask him to calm our fears, break the demonic chains that bind us and set us free to live life to the fullest.
Though I can recall with joy my first view of the beautiful Sea of Galilee, I realize there is something more beautiful. And that is the inner beauty of a soul that has been changed by the calming power of the living Christ. + + +