The Galilee region is divided into two sections, Upper and Lower Galilee. The Upper Galilee region is mountainous and windswept. Although it is not at its center, the Sea of Galilee is definitely the hub of activity in Lower Galilee. The “Sea” is approximately 20 miles long and 8 miles wide. The temperate climate and fertile soil of Lower Galilee make it a wonderful place for agriculture. Galilee was also a melting pot of people. Economic and political threats from outsiders had been all but stopped by Rome and the road systems which cut through it opened up trade with the outside world. Galilee was hardly the backwater region of peasants and Pharisees as it is often depicted to be. The broad scope of Greek, Roman and Jewish culture was probably one of the reasons the orthodox Jews of the south despised the people of Galilee and were convinced that no prophet could come out of it (Jn. 1:46; 7:41,52).
One might think that the Messiah (as a descendent of David) would launch His ministry from Jerusalem the capitol of David’s kingdom but Jesus chose to begin His ministry in the Galilee region and used the city of Capernaum as His home-base. Galilee’s hillsides were populated with terrace farms which grew grapes, olives, figs and grains, and its villages were filled with family-run industries in fishing and masonry. There were also small cities like Capernaum and Nazareth where synagogues were well-established as the heart of daily life. Jesus walked through them all and drew upon the daily routines associated with them to teach and proclaim the Good News. As He interacted with His surroundings Jesus taught the people about His human and Divine Nature by celebrating weddings (Jn. 2:1-11), feeding thousands (Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:33-44; 8:1-9), healing the sick (Mt. 4:24; 11:5; 12:5; 14:14; 15:30; 19:2; Mk. 7:37; Lk. 7:22; Jn. 9:39), demonstrating His divinity (Mt. 17:1-8; Mk. 9:1-8; Lk. 9:28-36), raising the dead (Lk. 7:11-17; 8:49-56; Jn. 11:1-45) and performing miracles (Mt. 9: 30; 11:4-6; 12:22; 14:22-34; Mk. 6:45-52; 7:32-25; Lk. 8:22-25; Jn. 9:1-7; 11:47).
But really, why begin in Galilee? It could be said that Galilee was chosen solely on the basis of God’s sovereignty. That is to say that He chose this area because He wanted to. However, that would ignore two rather obvious factors concerning Galilee itself. First, Galilee was chosen because of its geographic location. The Via Maris (or Coastal Highway), an ancient and well-traveled trade route, ran diagonally through it. The Via Maris acted as an advertising platform for the ministry of Jesus. Whatever He did in Galilee, the news of it spread with the merchants, traders and pilgrims who traveled this road as they conducted their business and went to Jerusalem for the holy days. It is commonly known in business today that “word of mouth is the best advertising” and this was no different for Jesus. He wisely took advantage of people’s natural tendency to talk about the news of the day. And Jesus was certainly news! Secondly, the choice of Galilee fulfilled prophecy which Matthew, Mark and Luke all point out in their Gospels when speaking of this region (Is. 9:1-2; Mt. 2:19-23; 4:12-16; Mk. 1:14-15; Lk. 4:14-21). And according to Matthew, the fulfillment of prophecy was a prominent characteristic in what Jesus came to do (Mt. 5:17-18).
While Galilee’s place in fulfilled prophecy is unquestionable, it demonstrates to us an even more important aspect of God’s nature. He desires to be with us! From the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:7) to the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:8) and Temple (1 Ki. 8:10-13), Galilee proves that when God said He would once again dwell with His people (Zech. 2:10), He did it in the most intimate way by taking on flesh and walking upon the Galilean soil (Mt. 4:23; Jn. 1:14-18). It is no different today than it was when Jesus walked by the Sea. He wants to walk with you and He also wants you to walk with Him. Some of His first disciples came from the shores of Galilee. When He called them, they left what they were doing to follow Him (Mt. 4:18-22; Mk. 1:16-20; 2:14; Lk. 5:1-11, 27-28; Jn. 43-51). He wants you to do the same. Will you?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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