Of course, the boat ride and along the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee had been a spiritually rewarding experience as you realize that according to the Holy Bible, most of Jesus’ ministries and miracles occurred along the shore of this freshwater lake.
Indeed, it was around the Sea of Galilee, which is known as the lowest fresh water lake on earth, where He gave more than half of his parables. While its Biblical significance to the Christian world is unquestioned, the lake continuous to be a literal source of life to the nation of Israel as it serves as the primary source of water for the Jews and Arabs who live in the Holy Land.
Now back to the food.
As your mind swirls and heart flutter as you take in the religious the significance of being actually in the lake where Jesus stilled the storm and walked on water, you also begin to wonder what it is that He, Mama Mary and St. Jesus and the Disciples ate as they lived and preached in Capernaum along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
Of course by now, we who are on pilgrimage here have already ate more than our share of the unleaded bread and we are curious what could the fish be. Our tour guide Abet – a Palestinian Arab-Jew – only increased the excitement by telling us that we are going to eat a “surprise dish” known here as the “St. Peter’s fish” at the end of our hour-long boat-ride and Bible-reading at the Sea of Galilee.
And as the anticipated dish was served, you can imagine our surprise to see the familiar “Tilapia” cooked fried and looking exactly like the one and of the same size we are eating here in the Philippines. Our guide then tells us that Biblical scholars believe that this is the same kind of fish that our Lord Jesus Christ multiplied. This was probably the fish they ate in the Last Supper!
This is also the same Tilapia that that Egyptian Queen Cleopatra, the Pharaohs, Moses and the Israelites probably ate when they were living in the Goshen area of Egypt as Tilapia also abounds in the Nile River.
Indeed, fish and fishing are an integral part of Jesus’ life and teaching. In the “Daily Bible Study” website (http://www.keyway.ca/htm2002/20020616.htm), author Wayne Blank listed Biblical references to fishing and fish and no doubt the Tilapia played a key role in it.
Wayne Blank listed them thus:
- Jesus miraculously calmed the storm from a fishing boat (Matthew 8:23-26)
- Jesus spoke many of His Parables to the crowds while He stood in a fishing boat (Matthew 13:1-58)
- Jesus once miraculously paid His and Peter's taxes with a coin taken from inside a fish (Matthew 17:27)
- Jesus miraculously had the disciples make a huge catch of fish, so great that their nets were filled to overflowing (John 21:1-14)
- Jesus ate a piece of broiled fish with his disciples after His resurrection from The Tomb (Luke 24:42-43).
Reflecting on the Biblical importance of Tilapia, I can only smile as I recall our family now really taking a liking to this fish which is being generally looked down upon in the provinces as a poor man’s food.
Growing up in Zamboanga City, fishes like the Norwegian Pink Salmon, Tanigue (Spanish Mackerel), Malasugi (Sword Fish, Blue Marlin), Lapu Lapu (Grouper), Maya Maya (Yellow fin/ Tuna), prawns, squid etc. were always the stars of the show during family meals. They are of great abundance there and come so cheap. I don’t recall eating Tilapia much in my childhood.
It is no wonder that when we serve Tilapia here to relatives from Mindanao, you cannot see that much excitement in their faces. Mind you, even my driver – who hails from Mindanao – would rather eat canned sardines than touch the cooked Tilapia in our house.
When I was a reporter for the Philippine Inquirer, a billionaire congressman who later became a senator even earned taunts from media for showing up late for a dinner and for serving them Tilapia-bashed dishes. Some of my media colleagues found the whole event “insulting.”
As for me, I have learned to love the crispy goodness of fried Tilapia and its delicious meatiness when cooked steamed.
But the trip to Sea of Galilee only served to increase my appetite for the un-appreciated Tilapia – truly something to thank God for!