Israel Study Tour with Cornerstone University

Jan 3-13, 2016

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Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?

Josh Carpenter writes:

Zachariah Jok Char
The tour of the third day started at the City of Qumran were the Dead Sea scrolls was found in 1948. Before lecture from Professor Greer, I saw several old bath holes on the ground with signs saying “Ritual Bath.” There were seven of those signs around the area. After the lecture, I learned that the Dead Sea Scroll is almost similar with Masoretic text, the Old Hebrew version. The three books of Psalm, Isaiah, and Deuteronomy talk about the coming of Messiah the king of the Jews. I think the early people of Qumran were thinking that Messiah would come to deliver them out of the power of Roman kingdom. They were tired of being oppressed as slaves and mistreated in their own land. They were trying to do something that will make God pay attention so that the YAHWEH could hear their crying out and their suffering.

Seeing several ritual baths in Qumran gave me an idea that may be the people of the area where trying their level best for messiah to be borne by one of their virgin daughter or the women who clean their sins out of those ritual bath. The second thought was that, may be they want to make God happy so that the Messiah should be born soon so that he would overthrow the Roman kingdom out of their land. Finally, the people of Qumran thought that they are God’s chosen tribe among the nation of Israel so they did not think that messiah would be born in the village of Nazareth, where people were not clean in the eyes of YAHWEH. I believe the people of Qumran were surprised and astonished when they heard the good news about the birth of Jesus in the City of Bethlehem. I believe the people of Qumran did not believe that Jesus was born 2000 years ago. They may be among those who are still waiting for Messiah to come.

The ritual bath was a Jewish tradition to clean away sins so that God could re-bless them again. But if Jesus saw them, I believe he would tell the people of Qumran that it is good to clean their heart instead of body by ritual bath with a cistern’s water. The heart’s ritual bath is the most important and that is what God wants. Jesus would want to tell them the same message of Paul: let your heart be circumcised by the Holy Spirit, but not physical circumcision. I believed, God do not care if I do not take shower, even though I could smell bad, that would not prevent me to get eternal life. If I clean my heart then the spirit of God dwells in me. The People of Qumran could keep their hearts clean instead of their physical body with ritual bath.

Qumran

10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a “dead-end street” and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live.

The site was excavated by Catholic priest Roland deVaux from 1953-56. More recent excavations of the site have taken place under the direction of Hanan Eshel.

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Sarah Hampton writes:

The Sea of Galilee
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew. Simon and Andrew were fishermen. Jesus said unto them, “ Come and follow me, for I will make you fishermen of men.

Simon and Peter became disciples of Jesus Christ and they went about teaching and healing people throughout Galilee.

Here, Jesus is proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. As He was teaching in the synagogues, the news spread quickly about His manner of teaching and the miracles that He performed.

He healed people all across the region of Jordan. People came from all around to have their loved ones healed, and to hear His teaching about the transforming power of the Kingdom of God.

One commonality among those who heard His teaching was their faith and belief in Him. Jesus showed compassion and love to all. It didn’t matter if you were Jew or Gentile.

Jesus , through His ministry, touched and changed the lives of many. The love of Christ is the main ingredient in transforming our lives. Jesus is sharing the good news of an eternal life in God’s kingdom.

The scriptures tells us that “ large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordon followed Him” (Matthew 4:25) .Our Lord and Saviour crossed racial barriers, uniting all of God’s people.

Jesus was not concerned with your race, nationality, or economic status. His mission was to preach, teach, and prepare His disciples to be fishers of men, which means changing lives for Christ. God is compassionate, and if we follow him, He can transform our lives.

Jesus gave the disciples and the people hope. Hope in an eternal life with an Almighty God. We too, should have hope in Christ. He is able to do all things and He is true to His promises. He promised us eternal life with Him. We have the victory through His son, Jesus the Christ who died for our sins and was resurrected with all power in His hands.

Being fishers of men is what discipleship is all about. Changing lives for Christ. Transforming our minds through our faith and belief in Him. Being who God want us to be, a Community of baptized believers. Loving our neighbors as God intended. God is love, and we cannot love God if we don’t love one another.

In conclusion, Jesus has already paid the price. God loved us so much that He did not want to live without us. We should always pray and seek God’s guidance, especially when we find it hard to love people that are not like us, and that don’t look or act like us. It is impossible to love God and not love those you interact with daily. That was Jesus’ message to His disciples, the Jews, and the Gentiles.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee is fed by the Jordan River, rainfall and springs on the northern side. More properly designated a lake, the Kinneret (the OT and modern name) is 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. At its deepest point the lake is only 150 feet deep. The rabbis said of it, “Although God has created seven seas, yet He has chosen this one as His special delight.”

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Gabe Hartfield writes:

Size Matters Not
John 1:46, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"

Today we visited several places including Beth Shan (Scythopolis), Nazareth, and the Sea of Galilee. While looking at each of these sites we were invited to consider how Jesus interacted with these areas.

The first place we came to is called Beth Shan or Scythopolis. When our group arrived there we walked up a hill and saw a few ruins at the top, which were interesting but not that impressive. But then we inched our way toward the edge and saw below us the remains of a massive city. It was a surreal moment. As we walked through the city we saw a column of pillars, an ancient sewer system, something like a country club, and many other architectural feats. They wanted to flaunt there magnificence. In fact, they even had an amphitheater. Even with so much discovered, the tour guide explained that they still do not know how large the size of the city is. It is part of a larger region of cities called the Decapolis. In this region, the traffic of Scythopolis likely consisted of thousands of people. All of this city's splendor made me wonder what kind of important and powerful people must have lived there.

Beth Shean

Located 17 miles (27 km) south of the Sea of Galilee, Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, “If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean.” It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.

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About 30 miles away from this city is a village called Nazareth. When we got there, I was surprised to see how small it was. Our tour guide gave a ballpark estimate that around 450 people lived in Nazareth. It had small vineyards and presses, potentially stables, places for carpentry, and a local synagogue. It seemed like a quiet country farm town, sort of like 'Smallville'. One man named Nathaniel once doubted that anything good could come out of this trivial seeming village. Our tour guide gave an interesting insight about the place. He explained that olive trees have small sprouts that come out of their sides and that the Hebrew word for these sprouts is where the village gets the name Nazareth. The ironic thing is that something good did sprout out of this seemingly insignificant town. It is the place where Jesus grew up.

Nazareth

Situated inside a bowl atop the Nazareth ridge north of the Jezreel valley, Nazareth was a relatively isolated village in the time of Jesus with a population less than two hundred. Today Nazareth is home to more than 60,000 Israeli Arabs; Upper Nazareth is home to thousands more Jewish residents.

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Later we visited the Sea of Galilee, which is near both of these previous locations. This sea is most famous for the narrative where Jesus and the disciples decide to cross over to the other side. Jesus falls asleep on the ride and a storm descends on the boat. The waves started pouring over the boat and the disciples panic. They wake Jesus up shouting at the son of the carpenter, "Don't you care!" But he is more than just a carpenter and he does care. Jesus got up and with a word silenced the storm. Though he came from a small town he showed his power over great things.

They finally reached the other side, and no, they were not greeted by Adelle. Instead they were confronted by a man who was demon possessed. Again, Jesus showed his power over great things by casting the demons out. And of all places, this event happened in the Gentile region of Decapolis. The Scripture doesn't say if Jesus ever went to the city of Scythopolis, but his ministry was in he same region including events such as the healing of this demon possessed man, calming the sea, and later feeding the 4,000. These great works of Jesus are subversive and challenge popular notions of the time such as that great kings come from noble birth. An individual's significance does not come from being born in palaces or impressive cities. God chose for his son to have a humble beginning in Nazareth. I am grateful that this trip has allowed me to see this contrast. How tragic it would be if we made the mistake of judging someone's potential based on where they come from?

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