Courtesy of The Original Jesus Boat Store of the Jesus Boat Museum, Nof Ginosar
Commentary: 'Jesus Boat' stirs imagination …
By Don Kirkland
Author Don Kirkland visited the Jesus Boat in 2008. In this article he ponders that as he viewed the “Jesus Boat,” it did stir my spirit that maybe — just maybe — this was the vessel from which Jesus, as recorded in the gospels, taught the people and stilled a storm that threatened his disciples.
The chartered passenger boat carried its load of two crewmen and nine Southern Baptist newspaper editors smoothly out into the fresh waters of the Sea of Galilee before our captain cut the engines, allowing the vessel to sway gently to the rhythm of gentle waves.
Surveying a landscape that still would be recognized by Jesus, a valley between distant mountains caught our attention. Violent winds, we were told, can suddenly rush through that valley into the Sea of Galilee, creating danger for any in boats on the lake.
The synoptic gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — have given us a record of such an event in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. As their boat began to fill with water, the disciples awakened Jesus, who was asleep in the stern of Peter’s boat, and begged him to save them all from impending disaster. According to the Bible account, Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves — and that was enough. “Be quiet,” he said to the wind. “Be still,” he said to the waves.
Later that same day, I viewed the remains of what is popularly called the “Jesus Boat,” which was discovered by two brothers, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, on the muddy shores of the Sea of Galilee between Ginosar and Migdal in the winter of 1986.
Archaeologists soon confirmed that this boat sailed the Sea of Galilee during the time of Jesus, and its features matched up with the description in the gospels of the boat that Peter owned and Jesus used when sailing on the lake and at times when teaching on the shore.
In its day the boat, made mostly of cedar planking with oak frames, would have measured 26.5 feet long, 7.5 feet wide and 4.5 feet high with a rounded stern and prominent bow. Such a boat would have been adaptable to sail and oars and used primarily for fishing, but also for transporting goods and passengers.
“A vessel like this could easily have accommodated Jesus and his disciples,” said biblical historian Ory Mazar in an interview with the Jerusalem Christian Review. “The boat’s historical significance should not be underestimated.” The professor expressed his belief that the boat represents “a remarkable link to the past.”
The Jerusalem Christian Review article offered the opinion that because a limited number of vessels the size of the “Jesus Boat” sailed the sea at that time, “it is possible that this boat was the one used by Peter, James, John or Jesus.”
Although it is true that no evidence directly links the boat to Jesus, the possibility of it fires the imaginations and spirits of believers. It does, however, increase understanding of what boats navigating the waters of the Sea of Galilee at that time were like.
And so, what should followers of Jesus in 2008 make of a 2,000-year-old waterlogged vessel that was buried in, and preserved by, the sediments of a freshwater lake bed, whose now fragile timbers had survived for centuries sunk in the mud of the Sea of Galilee?
As I viewed the “Jesus Boat,” it did cross my mind and stir my spirit that maybe — just maybe — this was the vessel from which Jesus, as recorded in the gospels, taught the people and stilled a storm that threatened his disciples.
We cannot, of course, ever know for sure whether Jesus ever sailed in, or taught from, this particular boat. Never mind. We can be certain, though, that Jesus continues to teach us through the scriptures and by his spirit, and that he will never stop ordering the storms of life that threaten the peace he has given to his children to “be quiet,” to “be still.”