The Sea of Galilee is actually a misnomer. The “sea” contains no salt water as does its neighbor to the south, the Dead Sea. It is also very small as far as the size of a sea should be. But it has several other names which are more accurate- Lake Gennesaret (Greek) or Lake Kinnor (Hebrew) which describe its harp-like shape and the Sea of Tiberias after the largest city in the region, Tiberias, which was named after the Roman emperor who ruled from A. D. 14 to 37. The northwestern corner where the “Jesus Boat” (a. k. a. The Ancient Galilean Boat) was discovered had several cities connected to the fishing industry in Jesus’ day- Capernaum, Bethsaida and Tabgha.
It took a special kind of personality to run a fishing business. One had to not only know the habits of fish and the best time to catch them, a fisherman also needed to understand the weather of the region. While it was mostly pleasant there a good portion of the time, the Sea of Galilee was also known for its tempestuous storms. These dangerous squalls were stirred up by the wind as it traveled through gorges known as “scarps” which fed into the sea’s basin. It was not unlikely that even a seasoned veteran could be caught off-guard when one of these storms picked up (see Mt. 14:22-27; Lk. 8:22-25). When Jesus set up His ministry in Capernaum He was settling in the heart of the fishing industry- an interesting location for One who saw Himself as the Good Shepherd (Jn. 10:11-18). But it is here along these fruitful shores that Jesus calls His first disciples- also a twist as most rabbis of the day were sought out by their students and not the other way around. Jesus saw something in these hard-working men and they saw something in Him.
Matthew notes that the dialogue was rather short and sweet. We learn from John’s Gospel that Andrew and Peter may have been familiar with Jesus’ ministry in the area (Jn. 1:35-42). But what Matthew finds as noteworthy is the immediacy with which Peter and Andrew respond. We get the sense that once Jesus says, “Follow Me,” they drop what they are doing and do so. The response is the same from James and John who even leave their father behind to take care of the rest of the nets! Thankfully, with family-run businesses like most of those in the Galilee region were, this was not as rude as it sounds. But it does indicate the power of “the Call”. These men understood they were being invited to not only take part in a grand mission, but that this journey was going to change them. Jesus offered no destination or distance, but by trusting Him step by step they would arrive wherever He determined to go. Little did they know it would take them to Jerusalem and Jesus to the cross.
Jesus has called each one of us to “come and follow Him”. Sometimes the call is dramatic and spectacular, while at other times the call is quiet and simple. Jesus’ call matches the nature and needs of the person He is calling. Some may need a more emotional call; some may need a more rational one. What matters the most is your response to the call. Is Jesus calling? How will you answer?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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