Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan. – Matthew 15:29-39
Jesus continues his “Lake ministry” walking beside the Sea of Galilee (Lake of Gennesaret) in this passage. As I have pondered this passage a question has occurred to me, why did Jesus choose this location near the lake to begin sharing the Good News about the kingdom of God? Part of the reason may have been merely geographic in that Jesus was familiar with this area and it was close to where he grew up in Nazareth. I wonder if there were other reasons as well.
The lake provided easy transportation, especially for someone who can walk on water in a pinch. Numerous times Jesus and His disciples have relied on a boat for transportation and sometimes to provide a venue for teaching to a large crowd. My wife pointed out that this unique venue for teaching may have provided favorable acoustics for teaching to a large crowd as well. Fortunately many of Jesus’ disciples were fisherman experienced in lake navigation and tending a boat.
The lake was where people washed both their bodies and their clothes. They collected food in the form of fish from the lake. The lake provided for them. So it was very fitting that Jesus who came to provide Living Water and food for the soul chose this place to meet, teach, heal, and feed.
I suspect the lake was a community focal point where people met and gathered. Similar to the role of community wells in dryer areas away from the lake. Mountain springs in Haiti are a place where people from all directions gather once or twice a day to fetch water. There is much communication and sharing that takes place at these springs. I suspect the Sea of Galilee was also a place where people met and shared about family news and local events several times a day. Interesting news about a young man who claimed to be the Son of God who could heal the sick and give sight to the blind.
In this passage Jesus leaves the lake to move up onto the mountainside. I am not sure why he does this except that perhaps he is reaching a different set of people than those who frequent the lake. I am not sure. I suppose that if one of His main reasons for going there was to heal the lame and sick it makes sense to go to them since they may not have been able to go to the lake. Whatever the reason Jesus shows compassion for the people in several ways. He heals them, then he feeds them. This is the same process that Jesus promises for all those willing to faithfully follow Him. Healing then feeding.
The healing that takes place in modern day Jesus followers may be physical as described here, but I think even more often the healing is a spiritual cleansing of the soul that takes place if we allow the healer to heal us. He changes and channels our hearts in new directions and feeds us as we continue to learn about this new way of living.
Prayer: God heal the broken and battered parts of our souls so we can move in the new directions You have for us.