Shores of Galilee

Jesus centred his ministry around the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee dominates the region. It was also called Chinnereth (Kinneret) (Numbers 34:11), Gennesaret (1 Maccabees 11:67), or Genesar (Jospehus). While usually calm, storms could threaten small boats like the one we see at Ginosar (Matthew 8:23-27 || Mark 4:36-41 || Luke 8:22-25; Matthew 14:22-33).

Jesus chose Capernaum as a base for much of his three-year ministry (Matthew 4:13; Mark 2:1). It was home to his fishermen friends: Peter and Andrew, James and John (Mark 1:29). Capernaum means Nahum’s town (kĕpar naḥum).

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) pulls together Jesus’ most important teaching. It starts with the Beatitudes. (Luke records a similar sermon on a level place in Luke 6:17–49.) But don’t expect a mountain: it’s more of a hillside. Why might Matthew have called it a mountain? Perhaps he wanted us to make the connection with Moses going up a mountain to bring down the word from God (Deuteronomy 9:9; 10:3).

Jesus also ministered at Bethsaida, 5 km east of Capernaum. This was the hometown of Peter Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21).

The feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all four Gospel accounts: Matthew 14:13-21 || Mark 6:31-44 || Luke 9:10-17 || John 6:1-33. Tabgha is the traditional setting, though this doesn’t really match the description as in the wilderness and far from the crowds (Mk 6:32-32, 35).

The Gerasene region to the east of the Sea of Galilee was where Jesus freed a man from a legion of demons that drove 2,000 pigs into the sea. (Mark 5:1-17 || Matthew 8:28-34 || Luke 8:26-37). People would have viewed this as an amazing picture of what his ministry was all about. Jesus had authority even in this gentile region. Jesus could free a person who was this severely bound. And Jesus had authority to cast the demons into the depths.

Close to where we’re staying is Migdal (Magdala), home of Mary Magdalene. Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered an ancient fish factory here, so it’s possible that Jesus’ disciples sold fish here. They’ve also uncovered a small synagogue, with a fascinating stone engraved with symbols from the Jerusalem temple.

Ports on the Sea of Galilee (first century)

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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