June 27, 2016
Rest Location: Kibbutz of Ein Gev on The Sea of Galilee
Sites Visited (Chronologically):
1. Mount Arbel
2. Tabgha (Catholic Church of the Primacy of Peter)
In the time when Jesus walked, the land surrounding Galilee was rich in culture. The Kindgom of Herod The Great had been divided amongst his sons. Herod Antipas ruled Galilee and Perea as client states of the Roman Empire. The capital of his Kingdom, Tiberius, sat along the western shores of this great body of water. Decapolis was a Roman region of ten cities, occupied predominantly by Pagans. The Sea itself is a fresh body of water, large enough to be treacherous to a fisherman but small enough to be chaotic and uncomfortable between people groups like the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans. It was here, amongst all the world views and the resulting chaos that Jesus chose to cultivate His people and deliver His ministry.
The cities of Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaeda form a geographical triangle along the northern shores of the Sea. From Capernaum to Bethsaida, stretch a mere six miles. It is within this triangle that Jesus delivered 90% of His ministry. Five of Jesus’ disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Phillip were from Bethsaida. They fished along the northern shores where Jesus often visited to spread the Word of God. It was along these shores where Jesus asked the disciples to drop their nets and follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). It was at Bethsaida where, at the astonishment of His disciples, Jesus multiplied the five loaves of bread and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands (Luke 9:10-15).
In the Synagogue of Capernaum Jesus preached His message of repentance (Matthew 4:13), Jubilee (Isaiah 61) and commanded over impure spirits (Mark 1:21, Luke 4:33-35). Jesus performed miracles, one after another, demonstrating His power to heal the sick and bring takum olam (Hebrew for world reparation) to earthly chaos. His teachings flew in the face of the Pagan value system, where rich and beautiful were considered most holy. He showed His people that the outcast came first, even before the leader of the synagogue (Luke 8:40-56).
At Mount Arbel, Jesus would retreat upon high to pray to His Father alone. From here He could look out, beyond Magdala (the hometown of Mary Magdalene) over the Sea of Galilee. He could see Capernaum, He could see Bethsaeda. Jesus could see His disciples rowing, scared by the treacherous waves buffeting against their boat in the storm (Matthew 14:22). It was from Arbel that He approached them, walking across the worldly chaos embodied by the Sea so feared by the Jews. It was at this place that he chose His twelve, He interceded for them, He watched over them as He watches over us during the storms in our lives.
The Arbel Cliffs hang over the sea of Galilee, and its natural caves were used as shelters for rebels against Herod, fortress during the revolt against the Romans and was fortified again in later periods. The ruins of a Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine villages lie below the cliffs and on its south-western side.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples along the shores near Tabgha, where He cooked a meal for them. He called out to them and upon realizing who He was, Peter swam ashore to greet Jesus. It was here that Peter had denied Jesus, but it was here that Jesus reaffirmed to Peter that He believed in him (John 21). We must ask ourselves, how many of us are getting out of the boat to follow Jesus? We must ask ourselves, Is Jesus my Rabi? He chose me, but am I His disciple?
Be not afraid of the chaos, He says. I go before you, always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest (Deut. 31.8)