One of the results of having been in the Holy Land is a greater appreciation of the distances and relationships of the geography of the land. Gael and I had that privilege about 2½ years ago.
I have always enjoyed maps, and having been brought up in Central Africa, and often traveling significant distances; by train, pickup, car, bicycle, and foot; have come to appreciate the nuances of maps and what they tell us about journeys. However, a map comes short of the real thing. A map may help to understand things not seen “on the ground” but there are often things that are highlighted by actually having one’s foot on the ground.
My university education was in the earth sciences, and I often find myself noticing the upheavals and torments seen in the rock-cuts and hills of Ontario as we travel.
Recently I was reading in Mark’s Gospel, and one aspect of our Lord’s ministry caught my attention: the number of times He crossed the Sea of Galilee. We can’t know exactly how many times He crossed the Sea in a boat, but we have record in the Gospels of at least five occasions. Understanding that He grew up in the area, and that not all of the events of the 3½ years of His ministry are recorded for us; we can be quite certain that He crossed the Sea many more times than are recorded in Scripture.
As I meditated on these things, another aspect came into focus. How many times it would seem that His journey from one side to the other, and then back was for the benefit of only one person. Of course, this is seen in other areas as well: His need to pass through Samaria; and then to have the conversation with the woman at the well.
I received a phone call this morning from a brother who (in passing) mentioned that he travels by car roughly 100,000 km a year for business. My own travels total about 40,000 km; mostly for ministry purposes. Both of us have the benefit of the comfort of a fairly recent vehicle.
Our Lord (we would gather) traveled almost exclusively on foot, or in a boat. There are occasions where the Gospel narrative makes it clear that He walked, and sometimes His disciples followed behind Him as He walked.
In both Matthew and Mark we are told that He left the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee and went north-west to the region of Tyre. We are not told the name of the city/town that He visited, but estimates have been given that it was likely a journey of about 80 km (50 miles). Waiting for Him, although she may not have thought of it that way, was a woman who had a daughter severely demon possessed. We all know the conversation that took place, and this is not the place for that. My thoughts were focussed on the fact that He almost immediately, after healing the girl, left the area and returned to the region of the Sea of Galilee. 160 km roundtrip on foot for one person!
What purpose and compassion are seen in the life and words of our Saviour!