We have been looking at Jesus’ Galilean ministry, based out of Capernaum and today we visit the nearby town of Bethsaida.
The apostles, when they had returned, told him what things they had done. He took them and withdrew apart to a desert region of a city called Bethsaida. (Luke 9:10)
Americans who only speak English may not have an appreciation for place names. So many of our town and city names are borrowed from the places where the settlers originated (e.g. Plymouth, New Hampshire), or were named to show loyalty to European monarchs (e.g. Jamestown, Carolina). Some places retain names from the original inhabitants of the land (e.g. Manhattan, Kansas). But some were descriptively named in the language of the European explorers and settlers (e.g. Los Angeles, Vermont).
Similarly, when we look at names in the Bible, they often were named very logically in the language of the time. Bethsaida is Greek for House or Place of the Fisherman. Jesus’ disciples Simon Peter, Andrew, and Philip were all fishermen from Bethsaida (John 1:44).
Josephus described Bethsaida as being on the Sea of Galilee, but there is great debate over specifically where the town actually was located. That’s not unusual for places that existed thousands of years ago. What we do know is that it was on or near the northern shore of the lake, and it was fairly close to Capernaum.
Although it doesn’t mention Bethsaida as the destination, Mark 6 seems to be a parallel passage to Luke 9.
Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. 33 But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. (Mark 6:30-33)
So, it appears that Bethsaida could be easily reached either by boat or by foot. We may not know exactly where this fishing village is, but we do know that Jesus performed a great miracle in its deserted region. In both Mark 6 and Luke 9, when the multitudes arrive, Jesus teaches them all day, and at the end of the day He miraculously feeds 5,000 men with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17).
May we be eager to follow Jesus wherever He leads, not because we seek bread for our bellies, but rather that which springs up into everlasting life.
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Note: all scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the World English Bible which is in the public domain.