Summary: This is the 3rd in my lessons on Israel. This message focused on Jesus' ministry on the Sea of Galilee and the impressions I received as I visited that exciting area.

TITLE: Sailing On The Galilee John 21:1-11

OPENED: Video from our trip where we’re on the tour boat “Faith” on the Galilee and the group singing “It is well”

(Then we showed this map of the Sea of Galilee)

The Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in Israel. It is approximately 13 miles wide at its widest point East to West and 8 miles long from North to South. It has a total surface area of 64 square miles (the closest body of water to us is the Mississinewa Dam – surface are of 5 sq. mi.).

It’s generally the same size as Washington D.C.

It’s depth at its deepest point is 141 feet.

(Showed a “topographical map”)

As you can see from this topographical map, the Sea of Galilee is surrounded by mountains. The sea itself is about 690 feet below sea level (compared to about 1400 ft below sea level for the Dead Sea). The surrounding Mountainous terrain makes it a treacherous body of water for boats in midst of storms due to intensity of wind currents and the size of waves they can generate (as noted by the storm that frightened the Disciples when Jesus was asleep in the bow of the ship).

(Map of Jesus’ Ministry at the Sea of Galilee)

What was surprising to me was the smallness of the area covered by Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee area. If you pay close attention to this map you’ll find that the majority of Jesus’ time was spent on this one body of water.

o Jesus chose James and John while they were by their boats/ nets Matthew 4:21

o It was while he out on a boat like this that he was asleep (PEACE) Mt. 8:23ff

o Jesus would have used Peter’s boat to preach from Matthew. 14:13

o Jesus’ disciples were out in such a boat in a storm – walked on water. Matthew 14:22ff

o What I found most intriguing was the reference in John 21 to the number of fish that the disciples caught when Jesus told them to throw their nets over to other side of their boat.

The number? 153 fish.

Many have wondered as to why Scripture would have bothered to give us the exact count of fish caught that day. Some have speculated that it had to do with the number of nations that were known at that time. But most scholars scoff at that.

Our guide, however, came up with a very intriguing possibility to this question. He noted that the Jewish people (like many ancient cultures) did not count using “numbers” as we do. There was no 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Instead it seems they used “letters” to designate numerical values. If you were to take the numerical values in Hebrew represented by “one hundred fifty three” you’d have the words “Ain Elohim” – which translated means “I am the God.”

(Picture of a boat as it would have looked in Jesus’ day)

This would have been how a fishing boat would have looked in the days of Jesus. Notice, it’s not very large, but it would have been big enough for a few fishermen to go out on the sea and cast their nets to catch fish. This is the kind of boat the disciples would have been in when the storm threatened to capsize them and Jesus said “Peace be still”. It was also in this boat that the 12 disciples would have crossed the sea as Jesus walked out to them in the middle of the night.

(Pictures of the “Jesus” boat on display at the visitors center near the Kibbutz of Ginosar)

These are pictures of a boat archaeologists found not so long ago buried in the mud along the shore the Sea of Galilee. The remains of the boat were found by brothers Moshe and Yuval Lufan, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginnosar. The brothers were keen amateur archaeologists with an interest in discovering artifacts from Israel's past. It had always been their hope to one day discover a boat in the Sea of Galilee, where they and generations of their family had fished. When drought reduced the water-level of the lake, the two brothers examined the newly exposed beach and stumbled across the remains of the boat buried in the shore.

The brothers reported their discovery to the authorities who sent out a team of archaeologists to investigate. Realizing that the remains of the boat were of tremendous historical importance to Jews and Christians alike, a secret archaeological dig followed, undertaken by members of Kibbutz Ginosar, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and numerous volunteers. Rumor spread that the boat was full of gold and the dig had to be guarded night and day. 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.

Notice the metal connectors along the side of the boat. These are pressure sensitive and are computer driven to sense the slightest change in the movement of the boat and move to keep the boat in one piece.

(Pictures of boat encased in Foam)

The biggest challenge was how to move the boat from the place where it was found to the place where they wanted to restore it and eventually display it. That problem was resolved by encasing the entire boat in a coating of foam. This not only protected the boat from the elements, but allowed the workers to float the boat to its destination.

However, there’s a problem with encasing such a fragile archaeological find in foam… you have to find a way to remove the foam. Thus, 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.

Of course, the question arises… how did the boat get there to begin with? Most scholars seem to agree that this boat was amongst those sank by the Romans in the rebellion that began in 66 A.D. Initially the Jews defeated the legions sent against them, but that was never going to be allowed to continue.

In 67 AD during the Roman conquest of the Galilee (before the Romans set upon Jerusalem and destroyed that city in 70 A.D.), the city of Migdal was a hotbed of Jewish revolt. The Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, who may have been an eyewitness to the events, describes how the Romans, under the future Emperor Titus, took the city after vanquishing a Jewish army arrayed on the plain of Gennessaret. A city wall protected Migdal from land invasion, but it was unprotected on the lake’s shore side. By sailing his mounted cavalry around the walls, Titus entered the city and massacred most of its inhabitants except for a few who fled with a group of fishing boats and harbored in deeper waters.

The next day the Roman General Vespasian ordered the construction of vessels - apparently catamarans of some sort – for the purpose of attacking the Jews stranded in the lake. When ready, soldiers and archers took their places on these vessels and moving out into the lake, engaged the Jews. During the ensuing nautical battle, all the Jews were overwhelmed and killed. Josephus Flavius describes how the lake’s water turned crimson with blood and the shores were covered with derelict Jewish boats as a result of the battle’s aftermath. (War 111: 462-542).

(Picture of the Ginosar visitor center)

This is the visitor center at Ginosar where the “Jesus Boat” is displayed. It is also the place where visitors would enter the area where we boarded our tour boat to go out on the Sea of Galilee

(Pictures of tour boats)

There are several companies vying for your business to take you out on the sea in boats like this one. They’ll show you areas of interest, read Scripture to you. Sing to you. Even cast out fishing nets as they did in the days of Jesus.

(Picture of our tour boat – “Faith”)

This is the boat we were on. It’s called “Faith.” The company that owns this has another boat they call “Hope.” And, of course they have another boat they’re going to be incorporating into their fleet in a few years called (wait for it) the “Love Boat”.

Its captain – Daniel Carmel – is a believer who had originally been captain of another tour boat company’s vessels. But he was so driven to share his faith in Christ that many church groups preferred his boat to anyone else’s… which caused some degree of strife with the other tour boat captains. Ultimately he was let go rather than create more difficulties.

However, now that he was known by church groups for his faith, he was often asked to come speak at their gatherings, both in Israel and in the U.S.. In time he felt God’s leading him to return to the tour business and he began building his small fleet.

(Showing several views of the Sea of Galilee)

When I visited the Sea of Galilee I was struck by how small an area this was. The majority of the stories of Jesus’ life – his times of teaching and miracles and of healings – centered around an area not much bigger than about half the size of our county.

This brought to mind the fact that the size of a community doesn’t matter to God. What matters is the size of your service to Him. Whereas Jesus did most of his ministry here in this small region of Israel – it seemed the all of Israel made their way to His doorstep.

I’ve often noted that our congregation does way more ministry than a church our size should be allowed to be involved in, and yet I’m convinced that this is because we love Jesus and serve Jesus as much as we can… and God has granted us favor.

(Peter’s Restaurant)

Our next stop was at the “St. Peter’s Restaurant” down by the Sea of Galilee. The owner was very gracious believer in Christ (he even gave us our meals for free). One of the specialties of the house is “Peter’s Fish” otherwise known as Tilapia Galilea.

(Pictures of “Peter’s Fish”)

As you can see, this dish comes with the WHOLE fish, head and all. It’s quite the delicacy I’m told – I say “I’m told”, because I passed on this. I think I have an allergy to fish.

(Pictures of the Church of the Beatitudes)

From the Restaurant we went on to the Church of the Beatitudes. As we’ve noted before, wherever Jesus taught or performed miracles or there was some other significance – somebody builds a church building. This church building is especially attractive and has wondrous landscaping. Along the path they have these plaques with one beatitude on each to honor the sermon Jesus may have taught just below the hill.

As we gathered in one of the gardens there, our little group took turns reading Jesus’ sermon on the Mount and soaking in the ambiance of the moment and the significance of what Jesus had done and said in this general area.

(Picture of the spring)

In this same garden area is a beautiful spring with the words from John which say: "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:37-38)

But what was interesting was another sign that was close by, warning: “Water not for drink”

Think about that.

Too often churches advertise a Jesus who satisfies… but then do not offer you to drink of Him. Many of the religious people in Israel are more concerned with making sure others don’t take away their religious “water” than they are with offering the “rivers of flowing water” Jesus has offered.

We must be careful we don’t fall into that same trap.