The weather over north India in the winter season is largely controlled by what are known as ‘western disturbances’, so named because they approach the country from the west. Although these disturbances keep coming throughout the year, they are more predominant during the winter season. They are the primary source of winter rains over the country, which sustain the winter or rabi crops, the southwest monsoon having withdrawn by October. Western disturbances also produce heavy snowfall over the slopes of the Himalayan mountains, at times giving rise to avalanches and causing a disruption of normal life. As these disturbances move away eastwards and weaken, temperatures drop in their wake, leading to cold waves, frost and fog across large parts of India.

The path of the western disturbances can be traced from India to as far back as the Mediterranean Sea, where they originate as low pressure areas. If they can maintain their strength all the way to India, it is easy to imagine what fury they would have over the regions close to the Mediterranean Sea. One such region is what is presently known as Lake Tiberias or Lake Galilee, and described in the Bible as the Sea of Galilee. This is in fact not a sea but a fresh water lake about 166 sq km in size and situated 40 km to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. It is about 200 m below sea level and has steep slopes on all sides.

It was on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, in a town named Capernaum, that Jesus had delivered the Sermon on the Mount, which was in a sense his inaugural address, containing the most significant of His teachings. On one of the early days of His mission in Galilee, Jesus had narrated the first few of His parables, and gone ahead with His work of teaching and healing. He was being followed by crowds who were gathering in large numbers. At the end of this busy day, Jesus wanted to have a time of rest and seclusion, and decided to go along with His disciples to the other side of the lake or the Sea of Galilee in a boat.

In the mean time, a low pressure area had perhaps been brewing over the Mediterranean Sea and had been moving eastwards on its long journey towards India, passing over the Sea of Galilee on its way. In the Bible, there are three parallel accounts of the storm that caught the disciples of Jesus by surprise later in the night. (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25). Compared to what we now call a hurricane, the storm described in the Bible was a very insignificant one. It could have been just a squall. Yet it had left the disciples shaken and made them feel helpless. They felt all the more deserted because Jesus who was with them, had been sleeping soundly in the midst of all the chaos as if unconcerned with their plight. When they woke Him up and sought His help, Jesus got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and commanded, “Quiet! Be still!”. That was enough for calm to be re-established. The disciples were astonished and said, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

There is always a tendency to view the events of this type, or miracles, narrated in the Bible, with a degree of skepticism, because they go against the laws of nature as we understand them. But in fact, the Son of Man was just doing, and succeeded in doing, something that Man has forever been trying to do. The most cherished human ambition is to have control over nature.

It is worth recalling that in the aftermath of several devastating hurricanes, the U. S. had launched Project Stormfury in 1960 with the specific aim of taming hurricanes. This experiment was based upon the concept that hurricanes could be weakened by dropping silver iodide into their wall clouds. The project continued for 20 years, but was eventually terminated after the results were found to be inconclusive.

God’s ways and man’s ways are not the same, and there is no reason why they should be the same. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

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