The Sea of Galilee is one of the most central areas to the ministry of Jesus during His life on Earth. Nearly 70% of Jesus’ ministry took place near, beside, or even on top of (literally) this body of water.
What is the Sea of Galilee?
Here is what you need to know: the Sea of Galilee is the largest freshwater lake in all of Israel. Yes, it is in fact a lake, even though the Gospels call it a sea. But we will use “sea” and “lake” interchangeably, because let’s be honest, it is known as both.
If you look at a picture of the Sea of Galilee on a map, its shape resembles a harp. Because of this, it earned its Hebrew name “Kinneret”, which means – you guessed it – a harp.
It is also sometimes called Lake Tiberias, and the Bible calls it Lake Gennesaret (or Genezareth) on a few occasions. There are a couple other names too, but we don’t want to confuse you. So, whichever name you choose, it is probably the right one according to some.
Sea of Galilee Facts
The lake is approximately 8 miles across and, in total, is about 64 square miles in size. It sits around 700 feet below sea level.
To the east of it lie the borders of modern-day Syria and Jordan.
To its west is the region of the Galilee, which includes several cities you might recognize. They are Cana, Megiddo, Magdala, Gennesaret and Capernaum, to name a few. And Nazareth is not too far either! So, in His childhood years, Yeshua lived only about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
The Life-Giving Lake of Israel
Lake Kinneret is part of the Jordan River. Which means, the Jordan flows into the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, but it also flows out of the southern tip of the sea.
A popular analogy says, the Sea of Galilee is like a righteous man; because living water flows into it and living water flows out of it.
In contrast, the Dead Sea is likened to an unrighteous man, because though freshwater flows into it, nothing flows out of it. It holds what it receives, and because of evaporation it makes the water undrinkable.
But the Sea of Galilee is also life-giving in a very literal sense. The lake has been the source of drinking water not just for Israel, but also for Jordan! Today, Israel has also other supplies of water (which they also share). But the fact remains that the lake is very precious to both countries.
Jesus and the Sea of Galilee
Judging by the amount of time He spent near it, Yeshua (Hebrew name of Jesus) must have really enjoyed the Sea of Galilee and its surroundings. But the hills and mountains around it mean that its waters were (and are!) often troubled by storms. And Jesus famously silenced them.
On the shores of the lake, Jesus called His first disciples and performed miracles. Also here, He often spoke of the Kingdom of God and fed thousands. By the Sea of Galilee, Jesus shared His most recognized message, later named “Sermon on the Mount”.
Do you want to learn more about the specific locations for these events? Then read on!
Jesus’ Ministry in the Galilee: a List
According to the Gospels, here are some of the significant locations where Jesus ministered to the people near the Sea of Galilee:
Mt. of Beatitudes and Tabgha
This northern point of the sea is where Jesus gave His most well-known teaching. This address is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The Mount on the other hand takes its name from the blessings that Jesus listed at the beginning of His speech.
A site nearby called Tabgha commemorates Jesus feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6). The church in this small parish is famous for its mosaic near the altar. It displays the bread and fish that Jesus multiplied.
Also on the northern shore of the sea, Capernaum is the town near which Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples (Matthew 4). Many see this as the “home base” of Jesus’ ministry.
Here Jesus healed the servant of the Roman centurion (Matthew 8). And also where the paralytic was lowered from the roof and healed (Matthew 9).
Today’s Capernaum holds the remains of a synagogue that dates back to the days of Yeshua’s life on Earth. Somewhere among the ruins of this ancient town could have been Peter’s home.
Located near the northeastern area of the sea, the place became known after Yeshua healed a man there who was born blind. Jesus used His spittle and laid hands on him, giving him sight. This is the same man who first replied to Jesus that he saw men as trees walking (Mark 8).
Kursi or Golan Heights
This vast, mountainous region is also northeast of the sea. As we read in the Gospels, this is where Jesus cast the legion of unclean spirits into a herd of swine. The pigs ran down the banks of the sea and drowned (Mark 5).
This city on the northwestern border of the sea was the hometown of Miriam who followed Jesus. Known better as Mary Magdalene (Miriam of Magdala), she chose to follow Yeshua, after He cast out 7 unclean spirits out of her (Luke 8).
This unique cliff stands nearly 600 feet tall, overlooking the entire region of the Sea of Galilee. Many believe this wasf the most likely location where Jesus shared the Great Commission (Matthew 28).
From this cliff you could see most of the areas where Yeshua’s ministry actually took place.
The River Jordan and Yardenit
You can see the Jordan River and even go swimming in it both north of the lake and south of it. On the southern side of it, you can find a site today that is dedicated to Yeshua being baptized by His cousin, John the Baptist (John 1).
The actual event likely took place much further south down the river. Probably as far south as Jericho. Nevertheless, Yardenit remains a special site for Christians, where they can even get an opportunity to get baptized themselves.
The Waters of the Sea of Galilee
We’ve been talking about the Sea of Galilee all this time, but we cannot wrap things up without specifically mentioning its waters.
It’s important to note that two miracles of Jesus (at least!) happened actually ON the sea. First, as we already mentioned, He calmed the storm. Jesus was in the boat with his disciples when a rough storm broke out. The disciples woke Him up and He restored peace (Mark 4).
On another occasion, Jesus stayed on the coast while His disciples were out in the sea fishing. He walked towards them on water, as described in Mark 6, and Peter boldly stepped out of the boat towards Jesus.
Visit the Sea of Galilee in Israel!
If you’ve ever wondered, “What is the most central location to Jesus’ ministry?” Or, “What area should I visit in the land of Israel?”, think north!
After you land in Tel Aviv and soak up the atmosphere of Jerusalem, you cannot miss out on the Galilee region of the promised land. The area of the Sea of Galilee is just as beautiful today as it must have been in Jesus’ day.
And here’s some extra information you will love: If you join us on a Jerusalem Encounter tour, you will not only visit the Galilee — you will also get a chance to meet the local believers. So sign up today!
Visiting Israel: In the Footsteps of Jesus: Free PDF Download
It is quite exciting to think that while touring Israel you are walking on the same land that Jesus did.
Whether it is the reason why you came to Israel or not, it is worth noting which locations were significant to His life and ministry. God chose this piece of land to send His Son to live on earth. Many archeological findings confirm the locations mentioned in the Bible.
Articles Related to the Sea of Galilee
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes