Situated west of the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret was a fertile region that included a town that was also named Gennesaret. That is the setting for today’s passage, and commentators note that the landing of Jesus’ and the disciples’ boat there meant that the winds of the storm mentioned in Mark 6:45–52 likely altered the original course of the ship. The reason for the commentators’ opinion on this point lies in the fact that Gennesaret was on the other side of the Sea of Galilee in relation to Bethsaida, where the disciples were initially headed (v. 45). While en route to Bethsaida, the great storm redirected the disciples, and they ended up in Gennesaret.
If Jesus and the disciples had any hope of remaining anonymous in Gennesaret, it vanished as soon as they started traveling through the region. Mark tells us that upon recognizing Jesus, the people from the area brought to Him their friends and family members who were ill. The suggestion is that many of those taken to Jesus were gravely ill, for they could not even get out of their own beds to travel to our Savior themselves (vv. 54–55).
Even though many of the residents of Gennesaret had not seen Jesus before, they could identify Him because word of His healings had gone out beyond Nazareth, Capernaum, and other places where He had ministered. His growing fame encouraged people to come to Him for help, and the news of His ministry was reaching even Jerusalem, as 7:1 makes plain. Certainly, this made the religious leaders fearful of a popular uprising against Rome, helping to explain why they were so opposed to Jesus. In any case, the residents of the region of Gennesaret saw in Christ only a beacon of hope. They trusted that they would be healed even if all they could do was touch the fringes of Jesus’ garment (6:55–56). That is a reference to the tassels observant Jews placed on the edges of their clothing as reminders of the commandments of God (Num. 15:37–41), and that Jesus wore them demonstrates His concern to obey the law of God.
Healing by touching Jesus’ garment recalls the story of the woman with the perpetual issue of blood, and like her, the people in Gennesaret probably had some superstition mixed in with their faith (Mark 5:24b–34). Nevertheless, the power of faith is not found in its purity but in its object, and in trusting Christ the people were healed (6:56). Once again, Jesus met the needs of suffering people when they came to Him for help.