Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Hiking Trip

My small group is reading and discussing a book about Simon Peter. Our most recent meeting focused on a trip that Jesus, Peter and the other disciples made from Capernaum to Caesarea Philippi. The only information about the trip included in the gospel was part of one conversation that the men had while they were there. One of our members was puzzled that there was not any more information about this trip. Did they travel to that location just to have that conversation? I do not believe so.

The authors of the Gospels were writing at a time when it was assumed that the readers would understand what hardships a trip like this entailed and what Jesus and the men who traveled with him were doing along the way. The twenty-five mile trip was not a convenience free hike on the Appalachian Trail and would have lasted a number of days. There were no restrooms or trail markers. The hikers travelled light with no compass or map. The knapsacks for a few necessary items were not ergonomically designed and technical hiking boots were not available. Perhaps they carried some food and certainly they all had a homemade water container so necessary in Israel’s climate. The trails were not groomed and finding the best way would sometimes be a challenge.

We know that Jesus was an itinerant preacher and the purpose of this trip was undoubtably so He could talk to the people they met along the way. There were a few settlements in the area where Jesus would gather a small group together to tell about his ideas. If they were fortunate, they would be invited by a local for a meal or shelter for the night. Probably some nights they ended up sleeping on the ground and eating whatever food they had carried with them. The gospel writers thought the readers understood all of that and therefore believed it was unnecessary to include in the narrative. They would walk a few miles each day looking for people and then Jesus would spend the rest of the day visiting the sick, playing with the children and explaining his understanding of the kingdom of God.

Whenever Jesus was traveling with Peter and the other men who were his disciples, He was always focused on what would happen after his death. He knew that although his spirit would continue, his church was totally dependent on the actions of his disciples. His conversations with Peter and the others were to reinforce what he had been teaching them so they could carry the message after He was no longer on earth with them. The reason Jesus called Peter Rock was because He knew that Peter and the other men had to be the Foundation of this new church.

The conversations that have been included in the Gospels were also limited by the writing implements of the time. Papyrus and ink were very costly and only a privileged few could obtain them. That made it necessary for the gospel writers consider carefully what to make a part of the record. Details about a hiking trip were not included, only details about Jesus’ life journey.

As a modern Christian, I know that being familiar with the context of the Gospel narrative is important to my understanding of the life of Jesus. The hiking trip in this story about Peter was not in a car with a restaurant at the end. Jesus and his disciples traveled to spread the Good News.

Alice Crippen

Marco Zoppo, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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