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  • Jane Wheeler

The Jesus Boat

Back in 1986, two brothers out fishing on the Sea of Galilee in Israel, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, fishermen from Kibbutz Ginnosar, (a Kibbutz is a communal settlement, unique to the country of Israel; originally a farming settlement), found the remains of a boat.

This boat caused quite a stir because it looked like an ancient fishing boat. That is the picture above, now on display at the Yigal Allon Galilee Boat Musuem in Israel.

Archaeologists came to inspect the find and took 12 days to uncover the boat completely. They covered the boat with foam insulation to the point where it looked like a gigantic marshmallow. But this allowed the boat to float and not be damaged in the moving of it.

Based on radiocarbon dating the boat has been dated to 40 BC (plus or minus 80 years). Pottery (cooking pot and lamp) and nails found in the boat, were dated at 50 BC to AD 50 as well as hull construction techniques. The first owners of the boat would have stripped the boat of essential parts and then let the boat sink to the bottom of the lake where it would get covered with mud and sediment. The covering with the mud and sediment would have prevented bacteria from breaking down or decomposition.

The boat is recognized as one of the oldest boats ever recovered. It is a 1st century fishing or transportation boat. It had a mast allowing the boat to be sailed like the replica picture on the right. The Galilean Fishing Boat was one commonly used in the period of time that Jesus lived in. There is no evidence to suggest Jesus was in this boat, rather it was the type of boat Jesus used, hence the name the Jesus Boat.

The boat was 27 feet (8.27 meters) long by 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) wide and with a maximum preserved height of 4.3 feet (1.3 meters). The boat first appeared during a drought, when the waters of the Sea of Galilee (a great fresh-water lake) receded.[1]

Now I have to admit, when I first saw the picture I was rather taken aback. In my mind, all the Bible stories I heard about fishermen, and Jesus in a boat, had a much bigger boat.

Then my mind went to the storm where the disciples were so scared of drowning; now I can see why.

Mark 4:37-40

"A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

So, where the disciples wrong to be afraid? If it was me in this little boat with waves sloshing over the sides, the wind whipping us around on top of the water, the sail useless at the time, rowing did not help, and bailing the water out over the side as fast as it was coming in, I would have been a little anxious as well. But remember, some of those men in the boat were seasoned fishermen, they had seen their share of wild weather and storms, and yet they were afraid. This must have been quite the storm.

Then they turned to look at the stern and see a guy asleep in the back while they are bailing, praying and doing everything they can to save themselves.

I am not sure if they expected to see Jesus sitting there wide eyed, white knuckled and saying “Hey guys I hope we are going to make it!”

Earlier in the day, they had seen Jesus doing miracles, healing the sick, feeding the multitudes and at this moment, in their moment of fear, they lost track of the miracles. All they could see was what was right in front of them. A Storm, and their life was in danger.

Fear causes us to lose our sight. Fear causes us to try to save ourselves, and my oh how we try.

I remember once when I was driving in a snow storm, pushing 4” of snow on the road and out in the middle of nowhere. I was more uptight than a squished down Jack In the Box, talking to God about how I sure hoped He was able to take care of the situation. I am sure He must either eye roll or grin when we question His ability.

I distinctly heard His voice inside my head say, “Isn’t it beautiful, I made it.”

As if a light went off in my head, I got it. How could I not trust the God who actually made the snow? After that I was able to calm down, breathe and trust that snow was God’s business not mine.

You see God does not worry about the waves, the wind, the storm, the snow or whatever is looming in front of us, He made all those things. He does not worry – period.

You will not find Him wringing His hands wondering what to do. He will not ever say, “Wow I am not sure I can do this.” When God is in the boat with us, we are totally safe, the wind and waves still have to obey Him, even if our eyes see something different.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

~Philippians 4:6-7

[1] Rabinovich, Abraham (1999). "'Jesus Boat' Causes Ripples". Jerusalem Post.

from the original on October 13, 2009.

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