Introduction: I want to tell you about Father’s Day: not the holiday, but the boat. It’s a very small bright red boat that was designed and built by a man named Hugo Vihlen. He built his small vessel and named it Father’s Day. It was only five-feet-four-inches long. He woke up every hour during the night to check his bearings, and as a result he never drifted off course. He sailed across the Atlantic in 105 days in 1993. Father’s Day, now in a museum in England, still holds the world record for being the smallest vessel to cross the Atlantic.
I want to tell you about another small boat that was even more spectacular. You know, we don’t have to be large or great or famous or wealthy to be used in this world by our almighty God. The Bible says, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are no–to overturn the things that are, so that no one might boast before Him” The Lord Jesus specializes in using humble, human dads and moms and all manner of Christians.
Let me tell you about one little fishing boat from Galilee; it’s not a speed boat, a yacht, or a cruise ship. God isn’t so interested in razzle-dazzle, but in the run-of-the-mill, given over to Him. It’s not the sensation that He uses, but the humble. It isn’t the extravagant, but the everyday. Not the theatrical, but the ordinary.
So let’s study the biography of this little boat.
A Message That Instructs Us
First, we learn from this fishing boat that Jesus has a message that reveals information to us that we need. He came as a teacher, as an instructor, as someone who could tell us things we needed to hear in order to be healthy and holy and happy. He wasn’t just a proclaimer and motivator. He was a teacher and a rabbi. Look at Luke 5:1:
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret…
This message is very fresh in my mind because I was just there recently. I had the opportunity of leading 68 people on a trip to the Holy Land, and for three nights we stayed on the shore of this beautiful little lake, which was scooped out by God at the beginning of time to be the ministry arena of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lake of Gennesaret is another name for the Sea of Galilee. We think of the word “sea” as being somewhat equivalent to the word “ocean.” But the Sea of Galilee is simply a lake, and a relatively small lake at that. It is 13 miles long and only 8 miles wide at its widest point. It is harp-shaped, appropriately; and it is a beautiful spot. In fact, the word Gennesaret, which is used here, or the modern equivalent Ginosar means “garden of riches.” It speaks of the beauty of this natural lake in the hills of Galilee.
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around Him and listening to the Word of God.
Jesus didn’t come with fallible human opinions. It was God Himself speaking. If you want to know what God thinks, read the words of Jesus. If you want to know God’s insights into any subject, listen to Jesus. If you want the wisdom of God, listen to the words of Jesus.
- Even as a child, our Lord’s words were profoundly divine. When He was twelve years old, He started asking questions and giving answers in the Jewish Temple among the rabbis, and it was said, “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers” (Luke 2:47).
- As a young man He went to His hometown synagogue and gave the sermon on a certain Sabbath day. Matthew 13:54 says: “He began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom…,’ they asked.”
- During His ministry, according to Mark 10:24, “The disciples were amazed at His words.”
- In John 7, the Jewish national leadership sent temple guards to arrest Jesus and bring Him to trial. These soldiers went and listened while Jesus spoke, and they were the ones who were arrested. They were arrested by the force of His words. Our Lord said things like, “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 him.” The guards returned without their prisoner, and when the chief priests demanded to know why the mission failed, the guard simply said, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).
- Luke 4:22 says, “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips.”
- Luke 4:36 says, “All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What words these are!’”
- Luke 19:48 says, “The people hung on His words.”
- Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31).
- He said, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock” (Matthew 7:24).
- He said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask whatever you will and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
Jesus taught the Word of God, and He is even called the Word of God. If you want to hear the voice of God, read the Sermon on the Mount about everyday ethics and practical righteousness. Read the Olivet Discourse on the signs of the times and the end of the age. Study His Upper Room Discourse about peace and comfort and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Read the Parables of the Kingdom in Matthew 13, and the Bread of Life sermon in John 6, and the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Ponder His seven “I Am” statements in John’s Gospel and His seven last words on the cross.
The words of Jesus and the Word of God are synonymous and perfectly corresponding. The Bible says that He taught them the Word of God. Well, you can imagine that such a preacher would attract a large crowd and that’s what happened. According to Luke 5, so many people converged on the scene that Jesus was nearly pushed into the lake. Verse 2 says:
He saw by the water’s edge two boats, left there by fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Jesus knew how to turn a boat into a pulpit. This is one of the most beautiful scenes from the life of Jesus. Bobbing around in that little fishing boat, Jesus sat and taught as the crowds on the shore listened. The backdrop was the azure water of Galilee and, just beyond, the rising ascents of the Golan Heights. The water of the lake formed a natural sounding board to carry the tone and texture of His voice into the ears and hearts of His listeners.
There have been more elaborate pulpits, but never a more effective one. That little boat represents the greatest pulpit the world has ever known for the greater preacher who ever lived. And every time we read the red letters of the Gospels, we are standing in the crowds and hanging onto His words.
A Miracle That Changes Us
But that fishing boat, which represents the ministry of Jesus, also represents more
Verse 4 says: When He had finished speaking, He (Jesus) said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
So they pulled their boats up to shore, left everything and followed Him.
When we hear His words and see His power, it causes us to confess our sins and leave everything to follow Him. John Piper, noted Christian author and pastor, wrote the book Don’t Waste Your Life. He begins by sharing a word of testimony. He wrote that his father was a traveling evangelist. The elder Piper often began with some humor, and then got into his text and into his subject. There would be a certain squint of his eye and tightening of his lips, and near the end would come an avalanche of biblical texts and a forceful appeal to come to Christ.
One night at the end of a sermon, an old man came forward. This was a man who had resisted the Gospel all his life, despite the prayers of many people. But that evening as the crowd dismissed, the man sat down with evangelist Piper and with many tears and much sobbing he gave his life to Jesus. But that didn’t stop the man’s weeping. In fact, he began sobbing and weeping even more, saying of his life, “I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!” His happiness at being saved was tempered by his awareness his life was almost over and he had wasted many years on things that didn’t really matter.
Piper said, “This was the story that gripped me… In those early years God awakened in me a fear and a passion not to waste my life.”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being a fisherman; but in the case of these particular fishermen and boat owners, that was not God’s will for them. He wanted them to become fishers of men. He wanted to call them to missionary service. He wanted to send Peter and Andrew and James and John to the ends of the earth. So they pulled their boats up to shore, left everything, and followed Him.
The Lord has an individual plan for each of our lives. It doesn’t really matter whether it is big or small, whether here or there. The only thing that matters is our saying, “Lord, I don’t want my will but Yours to be done in my life. What would You have me do? What do You want me to do today? I’m here, reporting for duty, willing to follow You whatever it means.”
A Master Who Calms Us
Now, there is a third lesson in this old fishing boat. Turn over a few chapters to Luke 8, and let’s begin with verse 22:
One day Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, He fell asleep. A squall came down the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” He asked His disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked on another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him.”
This image of an exhausted Jesus, sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat as a storm arises, somehow speaks of our Lord’s humanity. And then His dramatic stilling of the storm tells us of His deity. But most of all, when He turns and rebukes His disciples for their fear, we come to understand that our Lord’s primary concern wasn’t the storm; it was the fear and unbelief of His disciples.
There are several stories in the gospel of the disciples on the sea of Galilee, and there were times when these seasoned sailors and fishermen were terrified. Jesus caused them to be led into places of tremendous stress. But He did it to teach them to trust Him. Sometimes we face storms in life, but the Lord always wants us to trust Him. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths, he will correct your paths, He will elect your paths, He will perfect your paths.
The Lord is always in control, even when it appears He is sleeping. And His primary concern isn’t the intensity of the winds or the turbulence of the waters; it’s whether or not we are trusting Him in the storm.
That little boat represents a Master who calms us. As the old hymn says: “No storm can swallow the ship where lies / The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.”
If you’re in a storm today, the important thing is not the fierceness of the winds but the faith in your heart. Over the howling of the wind and the spray of the waves, we can often hear our Lord say: “Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith?”
A Mission that Engages Us
There were several occasions when the fishing boat became a missionary ship. Look at verse 26:
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, He was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a longtime this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.
Jesus cast the demons out of the man, and when the local townspeople came to investigate, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind.
Verse 37 says, Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So He got into the boat and left. The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with Him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Many a missionary has traveled to some harbor city, boarded a ship, and sailed off for the mission field. Prior to recent history, it was always by ship. In so doing, they were following the example of Jesus, who did just that very thing in Luke 8. He traveled across the lake and found one man who was in the grip of the devil.
How did the demons manifest themselves? This man was naked; he enjoyed casting off his clothing. He was loud. He was obsessed with death and with darkness. He was impure. He was ungovernable and self-destructive.
Whenever you look around you and you find a culture that is obsessed with nudity, with loudness, with impurity, with ungovernable self-destructive impulses – well, that’s a pretty good indication the devil has the upper hand. Those are indications that a culture is under demonic influences.
But even in such a place, here or there you’ll find a few people—in this case only one or perhaps two as we read the parallel accounts—who long for healing and holiness. And Jesus Christ saves us. He heals and helps us. He sets us free from Satan’s power. And He tells us, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” And so we go away and tell all over town how much Jesus has done for us. We’re all commissioned as missionaries. We’re all to go and say, “Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy.”
One of the most interesting archaeological discoveries of recent times is called the Ancient Boat, or the Jesus Boat. Back in the 1980s, the water level of the Sea of Galilee dropped dramatically during a drought, and fishermen from Kibbutz Ginosar found the remains of an ancient boat submerged in the mud. It dates from the first century and has been restored. It is very possible it’s the remains of the very boat we read about in the Gospels, although we can’t identify it with specificity.
That little fishing boat was the lifeboat of the ages. It was the fellowship of the Savior. It was the greatest vessel that ever sailed. It represents a message that instructs us, a miracle that changes us, a Master who calms us, and a mission that consumes us. God uses the ordinary – ordinary boats like us – and He came to do great things in and through our lives.
Just a humble little fishing boat
upon a blustery sea,
crafted by some carpenter,
perhaps from Galilee.
Its hull of wood, its smell of fish,
its owners rough and worn,
till Jesus came and sat and taught;
And commandeered the storm.
And from that day until our own
no other barge or boat
so navigates the tides of time
and keeps our hearts afloat
as the vessel of the Master
of the Sea of Galilee,
as the Captain of salvation
who cries: “Come and follow Me.”
Jesus says to you: “Permission to come aboard.”
And when He does, He makes us a vessel fit for the Master’s use.