53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus.55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
(Mark 6:53-56 NIV)
In our last passage, Jesus had just fed the five thousand, then immediately sent His disciples away in a boat while He dispersed the crowds to their homes.
Jesus told the disciples to head for Bethsaida, on the northern tip of Lake Genneserat. The disciples ran into some strong headwinds and were not making progress toward their destination. Jesus saw their plight from His hillside vantage point and walked out on the water to encourage them. The disciples thought Jesus was a ghost and were scared out of their wits. Jesus spoke to them, identified Himself, then climbed into the boat with them. The winds died down immediately.
Starting in today’s passage, we see Jesus and His disciples ministering again, this time at Gennesaret, just south of Capernaum on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The map below shows the relative locations of the towns around the Sea of Galilee.
There is a question about the timing of verses 52 and 53. Were these two verses in immediate succession to one another (no gap in time), or were they separated by some indeterminate time period?
If the two verses were back-to-back, this would imply that the disciples were up all night rowing against the wind, arriving in Gennesaret bone-tired in the early morning, only to be mobbed again by crowds wanting something from Jesus and from them. This would also imply that these experienced fishermen had gotten blown completely off course, and instead of heading north and east to Bethsaida (where Jesus sent them), they wound up in Gennesaret, which is south and west of their intended destination.
If there is a time gap between verses 52 and 53, this means that Jesus and the disciples did make their way to Bethsaida, where they were able to rest and recuperate, as Jesus intended. The time gap also fits with the travel description in verse 53 – “When they had crossed over”, implying that they had indeed crossed sides in the lake, not just drifted south and west from their starting point.
In either case, Jesus and the disciples end up in Gennesaret. As soon as they moored their boat, the locals recognized Jesus and brought their sick to be healed.
Verse 55 indicates that the people were carrying their sick family members and friends to wherever they heard Jesus was at the time or planned to be in the future. They hoped to cross paths with Jesus so the sick could touch the hem of his outer robe and be healed.
Mark mentions nothing about Jesus teaching or preaching, only of the crowds’ desire in every town and village to receive healing from Jesus.
What is our attitude toward Jesus? Is our relationship with Him such that we only care what we can get from Him? Or do we give Him our ourselves, as we would our best friend, expecting nothing in return?
We are all guilty (to some extent) of being needy toward the Lord. May we stop and offer Him our time and attention, our love, and our worship. He knows our needs and promises to meet them; His heart, however, desires our affections offered freely to Him, just as He first loved us.