After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Heals Many Sick in Gennesaret
And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
Gennesaret is a land that was incredibly fertile, to the point the Rabbi’s called it the Garden of God”. The very name Gennesaret comes from two Hebrew words. “Gan” in the Hebrew means garden, with the second portion from the Hebrew “sarim”. meaning prince. Gennesaret may mean “princely gardens” and in the days of Christ, this small area of the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Gennesaret) was home to an area full of fruits and vegetables. The land could produce not only a multiple variety of food stuffs, but each crop would produce an abundant harvest!
Gennesaret, being just west of Capernaum was a central base of operations for the Lord during His early ministry, when the miraculous acts of the Lord increased in intensity. This very passage speaks of the healing of many. And the apostles provide very little information when compared with the many miracles that are spoken of. It’s almost as if the apostles are starting to see a pattern in the physical healing and the effect of it.
Yet as we continue in our series on the mighty works of Jesus, we will begin to see the Lord leaving this northern region where He performed so many of His miracles, and where His ministry went through a period a tremendous popularity. As we see Him moving into His next phase of ministry, it is good to remember that His time in the north was planned from centuries before.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiahs ministry in the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali in his 9th chapter and Matthew connected Jesus’ ministry with this prophecy.
Matthew 4:14-16 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–
the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
The people had seen a great light, and on them a light had dawned. This period of time when the Lord was in the region provided multiplied proofs of His identity, and at no time since has a people had such a bright light shine (in relation to miracles produced).
Everyone recognized Him and they all understood He was a great miracle worker, but for some reason this region fell under condemnation by the Lord later in His ministry.
Matthew 11:21-24 “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. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
Per the passage, everyone in the region of Gennesaret were either witnesses or recipients of the Lord’s presence. When I say everyone, (and being an engineer by trade), I automatically think of the population that would be in the area. This was difficult to determine with a desktop search, but the area itself is generally considered to be about 3 miles long from south to north and about 1¼ miles broad, form shore to rocky foothills. Given that this area was predominantly a farmers paradise, I intended to calculate a potential population, assume a percentage of sick amongst the population and provide a number of healings performed. I nixed that foolishness, since even within the passage the author describes the extent of coverage as being “all that region”. I will not attempt to define the limits of “all that region” for that may cover cities like Capernaum, maybe even Bethsaida. Dang it all if even as I read the passage again, the verse speaks of going into villages and cities also.
This explosive burst of miracles performed by the Lord might well have encompassed many more than I first thought. Nevertheless, the audience was massive, most likely (in my humble opinion) greater than the 5,000 He recently fed.
He sure was popular!
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
One additional assumption of mine that was wrong when I first considered this miracle, or should I say period of miracles, is the duration described within this short passage. The passage speaks of the Messiah going from village to city, and throughout the countryside. This surely was not an hour stint (as I assumed) where He stopped for a quick visit. We are not even told if He had plans upon arriving here that was interrupted by the crowds!
Again, the duration of this prolonged period of miracles can only be guessed at, yet it seems to beg a day or two, maybe more. He travelled through the area, and the population retrieved the sick to meet with Him. This was not a efficiently planned ministry stop over that catered to the Messiah’s crowded day planner!
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See above for a description of the area, its fruitfulness and general size. Also, see Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
The passage does not provide a motivation of the Lord in the healing of multitudes, and it seems He was somewhat passive in the act of healing. Yes, the passage speaks of the crowd imploring Him, requesting healings, yet the action of healing also is described as the woman with a blood disorder. See Jesus #14 – Jesus Heals a Woman in the Crowd.
Remember that the woman simply took the healing. She didn’t approach the Master for permission, but simply took power from Him by touching the fringe of His garment. (Desperate for a healing or great faith?)
The fringe of his garment seemed to be a key for the crowds in getting what they wanted, for in both passages in describing this mighty work, the fringe of His garment is referred to. Even as the crowd clambered about Him, grabbing and clutching, He provided the light necessary, in the form of miracles to see the truth of His person.
But I have to ask myself if the physical healing became a stumbling lock to receiving spiritual healing? Nothing in this specific passage addresses this concern of mine, yet I wonder…
What was the message for the original audience?
The message to the original audience was that He was a patient and beneficent miracle healer. At no time in either of these passages in Matthew or Mark is there any description of those being healed as confessing Him for who He was. Now I realize silence is not a good basis to build a teaching on, yet the intent of the miracles, if I understand them correctly, is not simply the physical healing, but identification of the Great Healer being present, the One of whom the nation of Israel (and the world) needed to recognize as the Messiah, the Deliverer sent by God.
Yet, and it seems anticlimactic to say this, but all we have is many multiple physical healings, and that is all. And since this region came under condemnation by the Master a bit later in His ministry, I assume this display, or notification of His arrival was not received as intended.
What is the message for us today?
The message that screams out to me is the tremendous patience and goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s recall that this period of time originally began with the Master seeking a time of rest and regrouping with His men.
Mark 6:31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
This intended plan was dashed, for instead of rest, He fed five thousand, spent a night in prayer, rescued the disciples on the sea (walked on the water out to their boat in the early morning), and now was besieged by even greater crowds than the day before. Yet He continued in the midst of tiredness, frustration of intended effects, and a broken expectation of rest with His disciples.
One item that seems to echo in my thoughts is that the display of miracles by the Master did not produce a vibrant Christian experience, or revolutionize the area, produce a spiritual revival or initiate a great missionary effort. It was simply physical healing for multitudes that seemingly produced no real spiritual fruit.
Sad, since this area is known as a fruitful garden!
Might that be something for us to understand in our efforts to those who are outside the Body? Is the existence of miracles, (or at least the claim of miracles), automatically a sign of healthy spiritual life and fervor? Do miracles produce spiritual life!
Matthew 7:22 – 23 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
As I mentioned above, it seemed Jesus was mighty popular during this period of His ministry, yet the popularity didn’t translate into the intended effect of changed lives. No repentance or true faith is spoken of, yet He sure was popular!
Jesus is somewhat popular in our society nowadays, and yet when I ask who He is, I receive many various descriptions from declared believers. Popularity of Jesus is dependent on the understanding we each have of Him, and if we see Him only as a miracle healer, One who is there to serve us, this may be replicating the people of Gennesaret.
Did I mention that this region was never spoken of in a positive manner after this explosion of light?
Food for thought.
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