Israel Study Tour with Calvin Theological Seminary

January 3-15, 2016

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This picture and place stuck a chord in my heart

Light flashed through the room for a moment then darkness descended again. Grant, my roommate, had accidentally hit the light switch in his sleep. This brief blast of light was a harbinger of things to come. When we woke we discovered that a thunder storm was hovering over the waters of Galilee and its surrounding hills. After breakfast and a short drive we found ourselves at Capernaum, one of three towns were Jesus performed many of his miracles and where Peter resided. We strained to hear Victor's presentation over the torrent of rain cascading down onto our flimsy tent covering. As we wandered around a fourth century synagogue, built on the runs of the original first century one, it was easy to imagine the stir that Jesus must have caused when he performed miracles, opened scripture to them, and later proclaimed judgement on them because of their unbelief. After silent reflection in the eight legged, Franciscan church that hovers directly above Peter's humble home, we headed off to see a first century boat preserved in the mud of the sea. While no one knows who's boat it was, it was fun to imagine that Jesus or the disciples may have seen or sailed in it. Like the disciples and countless generations of fishermen before and after them, we too headed out onto the stormy sea, through in a much larger boat. The waves rocked us as we headed away from shore and brought images of frightened disciples to mind. We had a few good laughs as we struggled to keep our footing on the wet deck. Later, after an unsuccessful fishing demonstration, which I thought I was filming but forgot to hit the record button, and some singing and dancing aboard the boat (no small feat with the rocking boat), we headed to Magdala.

Capernaum

Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.

Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.

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Magdala, for me, was the most moving site thus far. It is one of the best preserved first century Jewish towns yet discovered. Our guide Jennifer, from Chicago, helped bring the site alive. With her help, we stepped back in time and imagined Jesus conversations with Mary Magdalene, the bleeding woman, and those who may have listened to him in the synagogue. The church located on the sight pulls its color scheme from the vibrant reds and pinks of the frescoes that remain in the town's synagogue and it has six different chapels. It's pillars are all inscribed with the names of New Testament biblical women, bar one. This pillar is reserved for the names of all Christian women, for they are also pillars of the faith who uphold the church of Christ. The chapel on the lowest floor is set up in the style of the synagogue and contains a beautiful oil painting of the hand of bleeding woman reaching between people and touching the bottom of Jesus' cloak. At the point she touches it, there is a sparkle of light. This picture and place stuck a chord in my heart, causing me to once again ask that I too could have faith like this woman. After we sang the doxology together I remained with a few others to pray. I struggled to know how to respond to the deep emotion that welled up from inside. I considered following the example of another person who had laid face down in reverence for the lord in the chapel. At any other time seeing that act would have felt strange but in that place and moment it felt wholly appropriate.

The rest of the day was spent slogging through rain and mud as we visited the Mt. of Beatitudes and the likely site of Bethsaida. As we returned to our hotel, the kibbutz Nof Ginosar, and the Sabbath begins, it was good to reflect and pray that Jesus would continue to bring us closer to him. There is so much more that could be said but I will conclude with this; to God be the glory for the great things he's done, for sending us Jesus, our savior, His son. Praise the Lord. Amen.

Capernaum

Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.

Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.

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