I’ve already mentioned that there was plenty I didn’t know before I got to Israel. That rang true from pretty much the beginning of the trip until the end (and is true even now), which meant that we spent a good portion of our time there listening, learning, and searching the Scriptures. What was the significance of these places we were seeing? How did each site fit into the story of Jesus? What had He done here?
I was surprised by the answers a lot of the time as the words I’d read before came to life in front of me. This was most definitely the case when our bus pulled up to another church, right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We’d spent the first few days talking about Jesus’s ministry in Galilee, so I expected more of the same in this spot. (“More of the same.” As if any of this could have been commonplace! Jesus healing people, doing miracles, speaking life-giving words – wow!)
But this was different.
I was staring out at the water as our tour guide explained that this was the site in Scripture where Jesus reinstates Peter. You know the passage. The “feed my sheep” passage. The story where Jesus tells the disciples to put their nets on the other side of the boat because they’re not catching anything. The story where they don’t recognize Him until their nets are overflowing and they can’t haul in their catch. The story where Peter flings himself into the water because Jesus, who had already appeared to them post-resurrection in Jerusalem, was now appearing to them in Galilee. The story where Jesus… He came back.
He came back to the place where they first knew Him. The place where He’d done so much. The place where He’d calmed the storm. The place that was a comfort to His shell-shocked disciples.
He came back. Jesus came back to them, right where they were.
Maybe this wasn’t the point of this visit, and it’s quite possible that this isn’t the greatest point that Scripture is making or that God Himself was making when He returned to Galilee post-resurrection. But I’d never noticed until I was there that Jesus made it a point to appear to them again, far away from Jerusalem, in this place where He’d done so much. A place where the disciples had gone back to their nets, where they were at home, where they could regroup from all that had happened, all that they didn’t understand, and where all that they’d learned would prompt action, awaiting Jesus’s next words.
He restored them at the waters of Galilee, gave them a glimpse of all that was up ahead, and told them simply to follow.
Oh, my heart, as we stood in the waters of Galilee, remembering a Savior who restores us, who prepares us for whatever hardships and joys are ahead, and who goes before us in boldness and strength so that we may follow Him.
And who meets us where we’re at, at just the right time.
He didn’t have to come back to Galilee. But He did. And I felt like He’d come back there again for me, for my heart, as we stood in the very same place where He’d told the disciples to put their nets out once more. What an encouragement, that Jesus knew them, knew what they needed to hear and see for the beginning of their hard ministry.
What an encouragement, that He knows those He calls, that He meets us where we’re at, that He comes back to Galilee for us, and that He lets us follow Him!
Up next… Bethlehem and the West Bank…