I am always fascinated by what I learn each day from reading the Bible selections. Some simple realizations belie the fact that I ever heard the word geography in elementary school! It struck me this morning as I was picturing the gospel scene (MK 6:53-56) – again about Jesus and the disciples in a boat crossing the sea – that all seas are not created equal. Since the Sea of Galilee, variously known as Kinneret, the Lake of Genneseret and Lake Tiberias, has a total area of 64 square miles (166 sq km) it would indeed be possible for people to follow “to the other side” – unlike the journey if they were traveling the land around the Mediterranean Sea, for example. (I might as well laugh at myself; humility is good for the soul.)
The other sentence that gave me pause today came next. “As they were leaving the boat,” the writer reports, ” people immediately recognized him.” If they had never before encountered Jesus, I wonder what it was that separated him out from the others in the boat. Had they heard physical descriptions that set him apart? Was he dressed differently? (Not likely) Did he let the disciples moor the boat while he sat and waited? (I doubt that too.)
I remember an evening at a retreat near New York City that included a Zikr – a Sufi prayer of remembrance where participants chant the names and attributes of God. Since part of the prayer of the week was Christian chanting, this was an opportunity to expand our experience of other similar forms of prayer. It was a wonderful opportunity for me and others to recognize how beautifully devotion to God can be expressed in different forms. The evening was led by a sheikha. This leader of the Muslim prayer circle was a surprise; I didn’t know women were allowed this title in the Sufi world. There was no question of her identity, however, when she arrived with her entourage. Her brilliant energy filled the room with light and joy and welcome to her world. Her close connection to the Divine was evident in every word she spoke, in how she treated her disciples and her kind instruction to those of us who were “first-timers” to this experience. It was a memorable evening and she was the most memorable part of it. No wonder people wanted to be close to her.
I think I understand from experiences like this why the crowds “scurried around” gathering their sick, bringing them to Jesus on that day. Just “touching the tassels of his robe” was enough. I hope I would have been one of those to recognize him then, even as I strive every day to recognize him now…