This scripture guide is adapted from the Summer Settings sermon guide Lakes and Streams II. For more Summer Settings sermon guides, click below.
Summary of the Text
Have you ever spent a few years away from a place, only to return and find that nearly everything is different? If you like history, architecture, or history of architecture, then there are lots of Twitter and Instagram accounts that show changes in neighborhoods and cities over the course of decades. Most of them are probably bots, but it’s fun to see what they can come up with.
If you grew up in the Old Testament and then were suddenly transported to the New Testament, one of the changes that might surprise you is that all of a sudden a bunch of people were hanging around the Sea of Galilee. Or, they were at least talking about it a lot more. There are a couple of Old Testament mentions of the villages in the region of Galilee, but the lake itself was more commonly referred to as a boundary area that had a city of refuge for murderers (Joshua 21:32).
During the intertestamental period, however, the Greeks and Romans came through and really spruced the place up nicely, even giving some of their names to the villages and the lake itself (Sea of Tiberias). Over a couple of centuries, the area had become home to an industrious mix of people from different backgrounds. The ability to make a living on the lake had even led many Jews to get into boats and start fishing. Incidentally, these were also Jews who had learned how to live alongside their Gentile neighbors, which would come in handy.
Enter Jesus, who in Mark’s gospel wasted no time in targeting the area for his first recruiting visit (though John’s gospel suggests this was after Jesus got Andrew from John the Baptist in the transfer portal). In fact, Jesus had just come from downstream, where people had been going out to the Jordan River to see John for baptism and preaching on repentance and forgiveness of sins (flashback to Naaman in the Jordan last week). Right from the start—especially in the case of Mark—it is clear that fresh water will be central to Jesus’s ministry.
There was still some danger with the water—storms and waves and the like—but Galilee became a fertile ground for Jesus’s miracles and teachings. It also became a venue for demonstrating his Lordship, visible by lots of people but comfortably away from Jerusalem both in location and in risk. We might be able to resonate with Jesus here. There is a reason that lakes and ponds are not only popular for vacations, but also for retreat centers, camps, and even schools (feel free to cite the “Beach Games” episode of The Office). We can get away to focus, to relax, to gather, to share ideas, and a nice lake communicates calm and some level of liminality, even if it is also a busy place.
The diversity Galilee provided Jesus with a forum for interacting with different people who were used to interacting with different people. In the midst of this, he also communicated his authority over whatever those diverse people might think or believe and whatever footholds the evil one had gotten in their communities. This is why his casting out of the impure spirit in Capernaum is on theme with the calling of the disciples. Jesus had communicated “with authority” and the news spread around the lake.
The impure spirit even did everyone the favor of naming Jesus “the Holy One of God!” While Jesus commanded silence after that, the point was made. News travels fast around a lake because everyone is united around a common source of water, food, and recreation. Now they had a common source of healing, exorcism, weather control, loaves and fishes, and salvation in Jesus. Whatever spirits they might have been following before, Jesus was now in charge.
The freshwater cross-cultural meeting points would continue in the New Testament, notably with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch and Paul (with Silas, Timothy, and Luke?) finding Lydia at the river in Philippi. So, whereas bodies of fresh water had previously been boundaries and dividing lines between contentious kingdoms, they became the unifying places of a new Kingdom that was open to any who believed. With Jesus being the water of life, it should be no surprise that he also offers himself as the gathering place for all peoples and nations.
Allen Thompson is senior pastor at Fairview Presbyterian Church in North Augusta, South Carolina. Allen attended Pittsburgh Seminary (M.Div.) and Fuller Seminary (D.Min.) His wife, Kelsey, is a Marriage and Family Therapist, and they have two children.
Allen enjoys golf, hiking, camping, cooking pigs, ice climbing, and live music. He loves to imagine being in the story and culture of the Bible, wondering how we might have responded to God then and how we can follow Jesus now. As an “ideas” person, Allen is passionate about working with others to find out how God is calling us to use the many gifts and resources the Holy Spirit provides.
Allen holds a Doctor of Ministry (Fuller Theological Seminary) and a Master of Divinity (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary).
From the TPW quote page on diversity
Brenda Salter McNeil
It was the reception of the Holy Spirit that first offered the church hope of a social and spiritual community composed of people from “every tribe and nation” and unified by the centrality of Christ.
Taken from Roadmap to Reconciliation 2.0: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness and Justice by Brenda Salter McNeil (c) 2020 by Brenda Salter McNeil. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
From the TPW illustration page on division
The Solution to Division
The solution to gender, race and social divisions is not to eradicate our differences but to see them in light of Jesus. The Pentecostal movement in the United States in the early twentieth century was astonishingly diverse. Blacks, whites and Latinos worshiped together, and women played an important role in ministry.
They were fond of saying that the “color line was washed away in the blood of Jesus.” This was because they saw their unity in the Spirit. Males and females, whites and blacks, rich and poor-all were conduits for the same Spirit. Equality was discovered not by disregarding differences but by finding the source of unity within their diversity.
Taken from The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love by James Bryan Smith, Copyright (c) 2010 by James Bryan Smith. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com