Updated: Jun 15
This is a picture of the landscape surrounding the sea of Galilee. At 209 metres below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and Israel's largest freshwater lake; about 53 km in circumference and at its deepest approximately 43 m. Around the sea, the hills of Galilee reach nearly 1,400 feet above sea level, and the mountains of the Golan Heights (called the Decapolis in Jesus' time) reach more than 2,500 feet. As such, its geography makes it susceptible to sudden and violent storms. Storms are common when an east wind blows cool air over the warm air that covers the sea. Also known as Lake Tiberias or the Kinneret, it was here that Jesus walked on water, calmed the storm, and called his disciple Peter and Andrew. It's where Jesus fed the 5 thousand with 5 loaves and 2 fish and where the Sermon on the Mount was taught.
What caught my attention during my first trip to the sea of Galilee was not all these miracles. Instead what kept ringing in my mind were the words of our tour guide. He would say “Look, on the other side you have etc …” and he quickly relates to the numerous moments during the time of Jesus when He and His disciple would go to “the other side”.
“On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”
“Leaving them, He again embarked and went away to the other side.”
“Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out.”
“After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.”
But what is on the other side? What I did not know that those simple words probably would have caused a panic attack for the disciples. Jesus had been preaching on the western bank of the Sea of Galilee, namely at the town of Capernaum. In other words, Jesus was preaching to people like himself and his disciples—his fellow Galileans. When Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side”, by which He meant, let’s cross the Sea of Galilee. Back in those days, the region on the other side was a place with people very different from the Galileans. It was Gentile territory, an area called the Decapolis. "So what?" I pondered.
One author posits that in those days, the other side was “populated by Arabs and by people from every part of the Roman Empire, sophisticated types, people who were proud Romans. Even the Jews who lived on the other side were completely different from Galileans. Jews who lived in the Decapolis were comfortable with compromises most Jews wouldn’t have made. They were willing to live among and work among people that Jews considered unclean, maybe even engage in unclean practices like eating pork. There were key Roman units garrisoned there. These people didn’t like Galilean Jews and Galilean Jews didn’t like them; and here’s Jesus saying, let’s cross over to the other side and hang out with them!”
Why would Jesus go to the other side? He did not just ask them to go. He went along with them. In fact, He initiated it. No, He championed it. Let’s go to the other side.
What is your “the other side”? A colleague you just can’t see eye to eye with? A sibling you have turned away from due to some disagreement? A child that has decided to explore pathways you disagree with? A spouse who is in the same house with you but feels like miles apart? A theological or philosophical debate that you are grappling with? Regarding abortion rights or the rights to be married? Or something more nitpicking like the choices of music or movies? Kinds of fashion and accessories to wear?
The other side isn’t just any other side. It's that side that you are uncomfortable and unwilling to sit with. It's that side that you strongly oppose and adamantly reject. That side that triggers your anger and exposes your insecurities. That side, if you look carefully, actually magnifies your true ugly self. Maybe, the other for some of us, and I will speak for myself, is ME that I need to sit with.