I’ll admit that I am not much of a photographer to begin with, but it seems impossible for me to capture the beauty of this land through my iPhone camera. Israel is a simple stunning nation.
We woke up this morning on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Technically we are on Lake Kinneret, which is the name of the body of land that the gospels refer to as “Sea of Galilee”, or “Lake Tiberius”, or “Lake Gennesaret”.
It was a beautiful morning for a run, so I put in a nice little 5k before the sunrise. At sunrise I had the privilege of leading worship out by the lake for our group. That was something special. I will be leading worship by the lake for the next few mornings while we are in Galilee.
Our first stop for the morning was at Bethseda. During the lifetime of Jesus, Bethseda would have been under the control of Herod Philip and would have had a significant Roman influence. It was on the outside of the “Promised Land”, being located just on the east side of the Jordan.
Going back further, Bethsaida was also the home of Maacah, one of King David’s wives. The city was named Geshur at that time.
Interesting side note that is not typically understood: one of the reasons why David had so many wives was because it was a political move. Each time he would marry a wife who was the princess (daughter) of a neighboring king, he would enlarge his territory because the father of his new wife would be friendly towards him.
Maacah was the mother of Absolom. When Absolom rebelled against his father, David, he fled to Geshur (possibly to stay with his grandfather).
It was interesting to be standing on such historically rich ground. Of course, we also know that Jesus performed many miracles in Bethsaida, because he mentions it by name when he says:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. – Matthew 11:21
Philip, Andrew, and Peter were actually from Bethsaida (see John 1:44), which brings a little different light to the story from John 6.
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” – John 6:1-5, ESV
There are so many fascinating bread crumbs in this passage (see what I did there?!)
I didn’t realize until I was here that Jesus going “to the other side” meant that he was going essentially to Bethsaida. You can see this clearly when your feet are here on the ground.
I also never put it together that this miracle feeding of the five thousand happened basically one year before the crucifixion. Wait?! How did I get that? Verse 4 says that the Passover Feast was at hand. The next time we see this phrase is when Jesus goes up to Jerusalem to be handed over to the religious leaders and to be crucified.
The last interesting piece from this shirt passage that I never noticed before was that Jesus turned to Philip specifically to ask where they should get something to eat. Remember that Philip was from Bethsaida, so it makes sense that he would know where to find food.
Of course, Jesus just asked this just to test Philip, because he already knew he was going to perform a miracle. Still, these are cool little insights that have been jumping out from the text here on the ground.