THE STORY OF YESHUA
by miriam berg
The Jordan river is only about 135 miles long, running
nearly north and south. It rises on the slopes of Mount
Hermon, the tallest peak in the Anti-Lebanon range with a
height of 9,200 feet. It first flows through a body of water
named Lake Huleh, which is four miles long and three miles wide.
50 miles south it flows through the sea of Galilee, which is 695
feet below sea level; and sixty-five miles further on it ends in
the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth's surface. Its name
means "descending", because of its sharp drop in elevation
throughout its length. It twists and turns so that it actually
flows nearly three times the overland distance.
The eastern side was occupied during tribal times by the
tribes of Manasseh in the north, Reuben in the south, and
Gad or Gilead in the central part between the sea of
Galilee and the Dead Sea. Gilead became famous in ancient
times for its soothing balsam resin, from which the expression
"balm in Gilead" comes. This central region was known as Perea
in the time of Yeshua. The book of Genesis refers to older tribes
which were driven out when the Israelites entered, including a
tribe called the Girgashites, from which comes the name Gergesa,
a village on the eastern shore of the sea of Galilee. By the
time of the exile, however, the tribes had disappeared, and the
eastern regions were intermixed with other peoples. The cities
in the region in the time of Yeshua had formed an independent
league called the Decapolis, meaning "the ten cities."
After preaching again on the plain of Gennesaret, Yeshua
decided to cross over the sea of Galilee to the eastern
regions. We don't know why he wanted to do this; perhaps
he wanted to tour the region as he had toured Galilee. But
while they were sailing, a great storm came up, and the boat was
in danger of sinking. The disciples feared for their lives, and
they awakened Yeshua. They told him that they were perishing,
but he chided them for their panic:
Be calm; why are you fearful? Do you not
have faith in God?
He might have added, Did not even Job say, "Though he slay
me, yet will I trust in him"? But shortly afterward the storm
abated, and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. The
disciples were astonished; and all the men aboard whispered to
each other, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and
the sea obey him! And the story became exaggerated in time, so
that the disciples imagined that Yeshua had said "Be calm" to
the winds and waves, rather than to them.
Soon after they arrived at the village of Gergesa. This was
a small fishing-village on the eastern shore of the sea of
Galilee. It could not have been Gadara, as Matthew says,
because that village was 10 miles to the south of the sea of
Galilee, or Gerasa as Mark says, since that city was even further
south. Nevertheless, so soon as they had landed, they were
accosted by another madman, who lived among the tombs, crying
out, and cutting himself with stones; this man had many times
been bound with chains, but he always broke the chains and
escaped. He ran up to Yeshua, and screamed at him, "Get out
of here, you holy man; in the name of God, do not torment me."
For Yeshua was fixing him with that look he had when he was
confronting mentally disturbed persons. And the man's screaming
gradually subsided; but his great cries panicked a herd of
sheep grazing on the hillside, who rushed headlong down into
the sea and were drowned.
The shepherds too were frightened, and ran into the city
and told everyone. Soon after, the residents of Gergesa
were all gathered around the tombs, where the man was
now clothed properly and sitting calmly at the feet of Yeshua.
They were all astonished; and the story began to be told that
Yeshua had ordered the demons which had possessed the man
into the herd of sheep and into the sea. And years afterward
it was said that it had been a herd of swine that had perished;
but there were no herds of swine in Judea, because of the Mosaic
law against eating pork.
Then the villagers began to beg Yeshua to leave their city;
they were frightened at the sheep stampede, even though
the man had been cured of his madness. Yeshua acceded to
their plea, and entered again into his boat. Then the man who
had been cured came up to him, and wanted to go with him. But
Yeshua would not let him, and told him to return to his house
and to tell all his friends how his madness had been removed.
So the man went back, and began to tell in all the ten cities of
the Decapolis on the eastern side of the Jordan that Yeshua had
So this was one exorcism which had an unexpected result:
Yeshua was not able to continue his preaching in the
eastern regions. But apparently he acquiesced with
grace and style; whatever his plans had originally been in
crossing over the sea, he cancelled them, and returned over
the sea back to Kephar-Nahum.
Once he returned, however, Yeshua found a great multitude
gathered on the beach; Luke tells us that "the multitude
welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him." We can
imagine them all cheering as his boat moored on the shore. Then
he was confronted by another demand for a healing: a man named
Jairus, described as a ruler of the synagogue, came and begged
him to come and cure his daughter who was at the point of death.
This shows us again that not all the Jewish religious leaders
were opposed to Yeshua, at least not to his powers of healing.
Matthew says that Yeshua arose at once, and went with him; and
Mark and Luke add that the crowds thronged after him.
On the way, another remarkable incident is said to have
occurred. Yeshua felt that he had been touched, and not
in the casual way in which people in crowds brush against
each other, but in some way such that he knew that he had been
intentionally touched, as if the person wanted his attention.
Looking around, he could not tell, but he asked,
Who touched my garments? for I know that
that person hopes for some help from me.
The disciples were amused, and pointed out that the crowd was
squeezing close about him, and how could they tell which of the
persons had brushed against him. But then a woman came and
threw herself at Yeshua's feet, and told him her story. She
had been afflicted with an issue of blood for twelve years, and
neither physicians with their herbal medicines nor the rabbis
with their prayers and rituals had been able to cure her. But,
she declared, she had been healed immediately when she had
touched his clothes. Gazing at her, Yeshua said,
Daughter, it is your faith which has cured you;
therefore be grateful, and go to your home in peace.
Then they arrived at the house, where friends and relatives
had gathered to mourn, and some were mourning already.
Yeshua told Jairus not to fear. Then he put everyone
outside, and took Simon and Yakub and Yohan, and Jairus and
his wife, and they went child's room. He said to Jairus, "She
is not dead, but only asleep." Then he took hold of her hand,
and after stroking it gently, and speaking some soothing words
softly enough, she came to her senses, and rose up and walked.
Mark tells us that she was twelve years old. Jairus and his
wife were amazed; but Yeshua insisted that they should not tell
anyone about this. He also reminded them that they needed to
give her something to eat, since during her unconsciousness she
had not eaten at all.