The sea – and the river stops.
I’ve never been to Israel or the Middle East. If I ever had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land, there is one place I’d like to visit: the Jordan River and its seas. I’d especially like to wade along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
So much of Jesus’ ministry played out along its shores. It was near this sea that He fed the multitudes; here He healed and restored so many people from different walks of life. It was on this sea (that dark, stormy night) that He spoke the words, “Peace! Be still!” – and instantly, the waves were quiet. Here also, somewhere along that thirteen-mile length, He walked on those waters.
I think Jesus must have loved this seaside and this sea. Many memories were made along this sea – by the Master and His disciples. Along this shore, Jesus fixed breakfast for His fishermen friends. I suppose He knew every nook and cranny of this sea. (But then, He made this sea, so of course He did!)
I also think Jesus liked this sea for another reason: it was rich with lush foliage and had plenty of fish. Twenty different kinds swim under those waters, we are told. The Sea of Galilee is Israel’s largest fresh water reservoir.
The other sea – where the river stops.
There’s another sea not so far from the Sea of Galilee. We don’t hear any mention of Jesus spending time along its shores. He chose not to heal people there, perhaps because people didn’t hang around on those shores.
The Jordan River flows south, first into the Sea of Galilee and then even further south into the Dead Sea. The same river flows into both, and they are just sixty-five miles apart.
And that is where the similarities end. The Dead Sea is like the Sea of Galilee in every aspect but one.
It is not geographies or the soil on the banks of the Jordan that change as the river flows south. The only difference is that the Sea of Galilee does not keep the Jordan; instead, it allows its waters to flow through and continue further south. In stark contrast, when the Jordan River arrives at the Dead Sea, the water, the river stops, for there is no outlet there.
So what is the difference? The Sea of Galilee receives the Jordan and uses it to fill its banks, to feed it animals, and to water its shores, thus keeping the foliage lush and green. Children play along its banks, fishermen provide for their families by the generosity of this sea, and old and young alike live along its shores.
The Dead Sea also receives the Jordan, but it has no outlet. The Dead Sea is a larger sea than the Galilean sea. It is 50 miles long and 11 miles wide. Yet it keeps the Jordan within its boundaries.
It is selfish. It does not give. There is no giving nourishment for crops or for others. It becomes stagnant. Nothing can live in the Dead Sea for it lives up to its name: dead. Seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day. It is ten times saltier than the oceans of the world.
Wait a minute, I think, didn’t Jesus say we are to be the salt of the earth?
There’s a sobering lesson here for me. Yes, Jesus did say we are to be the salt of the earth.
Yet the Dead Sea is so filled with salt that nothing can live there. Salt doesn’t make anyone thirsty if they never come near the shore. If it never leaves its safe haven of the sea banks, salt doesn’t heal or purify . Salt doesn’t cleanse if it stays on one large pile. Salt doesn’t give life if it is so compacted that it kills.
Where the river never ends
The Sea of Galilee teaches me that if I want to be alive, vibrant, and beautiful, I must first receive, and then I must give.
On the day Jesus prepared to send His disciples out to preach and to teach, He told them, ‘As you go, proclaim this message: The Kingdom of Heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” Then he tells them why and how they are to do this: Freely you have received; freely give.
Jesus said we have been given so much. All that is ours comes from the Father. We have been given freely. And that is how we are to give.
I wonder, how wide is the opening of my heart? How freely do I give? How much do I hold back?
The Sea of Galilee receives freely from the Jordan. Instead of building its banks to keep the water in, it allows the water to continue on its way, spilling over, rolling and moving further south and back into the Jordan from where it came. The Sea of Galilee gives eagerly and generously, just as freely as it has received.
That is why everyone likes this sea. That is why there is luscious, verdant life.
The Dead Sea hoards. It hides and hibernates. That is why it is dead.
Choosing to be a giving sea
I have a choice to give freely or to horde. To be like the Galilean Sea or like the Dead Sea.
I want to be like the sea that gives hope, that breathes and gives life to a world drowning in sin and sorrow.
There are so many ways to give, and it is something each of us can do. Some are asked to give time. Others are asked to give money. And some are asked to give both time and money.
All of us are asked to give love and mercy. We are asked to give grace.
When we have received so freely, how can we not then give? We should give so the river never stops flowing.
For a sea that gives, the river will never end. That’s how I want to be spent. Will you join me?
Unless otherwise noted, photos credits go to Pixabay.com
This was first posted on this blog six years ago. I need this reminder from time to time.