Jesus left Capernaum and we are going to join Him and His disciples somewhere on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. We don’t know how long He is here but it is long enough for people from OVER 100 miles away to join Him.
Jesus is on the seashore and Mark reports that people “from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon” were all present. That is an amazing amount of territory to cover! Mark’s list only includes three cities by name, so we don’t know exactly where the people from the territories listed came from. They probably came from several cities, so for expediency, they were listed by region instead. Here is a Map of Ancient Israel I found. This map comes from the website Bible-History.com. It lists the distances between some of the cities.
While looking at maps showing the region the people came from, I got to wondering how long it would have taken them to travel that far. According to the sites I found, an average person can travel about 20 miles a day. So many of the people who met Jesus on the shore of Galilee had been traveling for five or more days to get there. Add to this the fact that some of these people were sick and would have required additional travel time.
Something else to consider when looking at this group is how long it took for those in the distant cities to even learn of Jesus’ itinerary. There were no phones or telegraphs available, so there were only two ways to learn about other places. One was to go there yourself and the other was to hear about it through travelers from the region you were interested in. This second “information highway” depended on merchant caravans.
So Jesus had to be on the seashore for some time. I wonder how long it took before the crowds got unmanageable. Jesus apparently had been healing people for a while, probably days or even weeks, before He became so overwhelmed with the masses that He needed a boat to retreat into. Even with the people seeking healing pressing into Him like shoppers on Black Friday after the hottest toy, He didn’t leave or refuse to heal them. He made space to protect Himself from being trampled, but He stayed to teach AND minister to the people. I have a feeling Jesus’ disciples learned a lot about crowd control during that trip.
Let’s join one desperate mother on her journey to meet Jesus. Her name is Helen and she is from Tyre. She has a six year old daughter, Sarah, who has been ill for several months. Yesterday the doctor told her there is nothing more he can do for her. He told her to make her comfortable, but that by the end of the week she would most likely be dead. It hurt him greatly to have to tell her this news, but she needed to be prepared.
This morning Helen went to the well to draw water for Sarah and herself, when she overheard two men talking. One was a local merchant and the other was the leader of a caravan that just arrived from Philadelphia. The caravan leader was talking about a large group of people gathering on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. He said there seemed to be people coming from every direction. He even passed a few people yesterday headed that way from this area. The merchant inquired as to what was going on to bring so many people together. The caravan leader told the merchant that Jesus of Nazareth was speaking there and was offering healing to anyone who came seeking it.
Helen’s heart began to beat faster! She had heard stories about Jesus from other travelers. It was said that He could even raise the dead. Surely He could heal her daughter, if she could get to Him. Helen grabbed her jar and headed home as fast as she could go. She needed the water for the journey; otherwise she would have dropped her jar and ran!
Helen hurriedly packed food and water for the journey for herself and Sarah. She sewed the last of her meager savings into the hem of her garment to protect it from thieves. Then she went into Sarah’s room to gather her for the journey.
This was not going to be an easy journey. Sarah was too weak to walk so Helen had to carry her, along with her provisions. First Helen tied the water skins around her waist, then the food she wrapped in a linen towel and tied across her chest. Finally, Helen wrapped Sarah in her shawl and tied it to her back. Sarah had lost so much weight in the last few weeks that carrying her this way was not too difficult. For support and stability while walking Helen removed the bristles from her broom and used it as a walking stick.
Helen set off as soon as her supplies and her daughter were in place. She had to hurry! In the back of Helen’s mind was a voice telling her she was crazy for doing this. “What if Jesus isn’t there when I get there?” “What if Sarah dies on the way?” “What if Jesus can’t help her?” “What if He won’t help her?” All these thought run through her mind over and over again, but Helen REFUSES to listen to them.
Her determination shows in how she answers these questions. “If He’s not there then I will look for where He has gone to next.” “Jesus is said to be able to raise the dead.” “Sarah is such a sweet child. There is NO WAY Jesus would refuse to help her.” “If He is half as good as they say He is, He can and will heal her.”
Helen walks as far as she can each day but it is slow going because of carrying Sarah. Helen has to stop frequently to encourage Sarah to drink and eat something. She has to keep Sarah alive! Helen also has to remind herself that she has to eat and drink on this journey. If something were to happen to Helen the Sarah would certainly die.
Occasionally Helen meets other travelers going her way and they offer her support as best as they can. Some carry Sarah for a bit, some offer to share their food and water, and some just keep her company for a while. Because of the slow pace Helen is setting, her companions usually don’t stay long.
Helen has been traveling for over a week now. Somehow Sarah is still alive. Helen sends prayers of thanks giving Heavenward every time she stops to offer Sarah food and water and finds her still breathing. Helen gently whispers to Sarah as she strokes her hair, “Just a little further baby. We are almost there. Please hold on a little longer.” It takes everything in Helen to keep walking. She is exhausted. But for Sarah’s sake she has to keep going.
Today Helen shifts Sarah to her chest, as Sarah’s breathing is becoming shallower. Helen wants her in her arms so she can comfort her and encourage her to hang on a little longer. “I see a big group of people up ahead baby. I think we are almost there.” Four more hours pass before Helen reaches the outer edge of the crowd.
Helen approaches a man and woman standing near the edge. “Excuse me but is this where Jesus is teaching?”
The man speaks over his shoulder without turning around “Yes it is.” Then the woman turns to look at Helen, who is dusty from head to toe and looks so weary that she might fall down at any moment. Then her eyes land on Sarah. She is so frail and still. The woman’s hand nearly leaps to her mouth in fear! “Oh my dear! You look worn out. Please, what can I do to help you?” On hearing his wife’s comment the man turns around to see who she is talking to. He too is taken back by Helen and Sarah’s appearance. He quickly offers to hold Sarah for Helen.
With tears gently falling and furrowing through the dust on Helen’s face, she hugs Sarah tighter to her breast. “Thank you, but I just need to get to Jesus. My daughter doesn’t have much more time. I have to get her to Him. He is the only one who can help her.” Galvanized by Helen’s tears, the man begins to push his way through the crowd, pulling Helen along behind. His wife falls in behind Helen and starts calling out, “Make Room! Make Room!”
Progress is slow as there are so many here who want to see Jesus too, but when anyone turns and sees Helen as she struggles to press forward with Sarah, they quickly step to the side. Our small band continues to push through this great sea of humanity until they reach and even tighter group of people. Without even being told, they know Jesus is at the center of this group.
The whole group is full of people seeking healing, just like Helen. They are desperate to reach Jesus. Helen stops. “What do I do now? I can’t take Sarah into that mob! She will be crushed to death.” Tears now stream down Helen’s face and her knees give way under her. To have come all this way and be denied access to Jesus when He is so close. Helen brushes her tears away from Sarah’s face and bends to kiss her one last time. “You are such a brave little girl. I’m sorry I failed you. It’s alright, you can sleep now. Mommy loves you.” Helen then closes her eyes and rests her head against Sarah’s.
As Helen is saying her final good bye to Sarah, the crowd in front of her parts. Jesus steps through the throng of people and kneels in front of Helen. He gently reaches out and touches Sarah on her back. Sarah takes a deep breath, and then begins to breathe more easily. Helen feels Sarah’s inhale and opens her eyes. She instantly notices the blueness that had taken hold of Sarah’s face is gone! A smile splits Helen’s face as she watches her daughter breathe. After a few more breaths, Helen looks up and sees a man kneeling in front of her. His entire face radiates with love. Without even asking she knows who He is. “Thank You Jesus.” There is nothing more she can say as she now dissolves into weeping. This time though she is weeping with JOY!
Just as quickly as Jesus met her need, He turns back to meet the needs of others too. The wife who had helped Helen reach the center of the crowd envelop Helen in her arms. The husband and wife had watched as Jesus stepped through the crowd to meet the cry Helen’s heart.
A few hours later Helen and Sarah sit on a rock listening to Jesus. He is teaching from a boat in the middle of the sea. The husband and wife remain close by Helen and Sarah. They have fallen in love with this mother; driven to the end of herself, in hopes of saving her little girl. Now a mother and daughter so full of joy that it infects everyone around them.
Lord Jesus, thank You that You took the time to minister to everyone who came to You. Some received healing, some wisdom from Heaven itself, and some received it all. Helen would have been one of those receiving “it all.” She had her daughter restored to her and stayed to hear the Man behind the miracle.
How many received what they needed then went away right after? How did this make You feel? Did Your heart long to give them the deeper things of God? Did they keep their healing? Those who were demon possessed or oppressed, did they remain free if they walked away before hearing the truth? Lord Jesus, I admit that I sometimes walk away too soon. Sometimes I rush through prayers like it is something to get done before I can get back to doing what I want to do. I short change both of us when I do that. I’m so sorry. Remind me of this story when I’m tempted to do that again. Thank You for taking the time to meet every need, even when that meant stepping back a bit to let the chaos die down.
I am amazed at how long You stayed on the seashore. I truly believe it was for people just like Helen who had urgent needs and had to have time to reach You. I can’t even imagine the heartache of arriving just after You left. You knew the needs before they even came, and You waited to ensure they were met. Thank You. That’s all I can say too.