Homes and Hometown
Is it really already Friday? Gosh the time is flying and we are all happy that we still have another week to go. We started today with devotions on the shore of the Sea of Galilee...pinch me, I have to be dreaming. What an honor to stand where Jesus and the Disciples stood and sing.
We are now in the region of the Galilee and it is very lush and very green. The local crops are primarily bananas, mangos, and avocados, but olives are a very prominent crop here too.
The first stop of our very busy day was the city of Corazin. What first struck us was the color and appearance of the rock. We were surrounded by volcano rock from an eruption that happened 4.5 million years ago in the mountains of the Golan Heights, which is also the region we are in today. The excavated ruins of Corazin are made of black lava rock and we got a first hand look at the remains of a synagogue and how a town was constructed. We learned that in Bible days synagogues were built in the center, or heart, of a town and houses were constructed all around it. Homes were built around a common courtyard and generally consisted of four rooms. Rooms were added on as sons married and brought their new wives into the family. The parallel is that Christ should be the center of our lives...not just a priority in a list of priorities, but rather everything should revolve around Him.
The synagogue at Chorazin is a typical “Galilean” style synagogue. These synagogues are characterized by 1) a basilical shape with three hallways separated by two rows of pillars; 2) three doorways and the central one is the largest; 3) benches around the interior walls; 4) a stylobate to support the weight of the arches.
Our second site was a trip to the city of Qatzrin. We gathered in a room of one of the excavated Jewish homes and Pastor Terry read the story from Mark 2 about the paralyzed man being lowered into the house where Jesus was, so that he could be healed. Jesus saw the great faith of the friends who were so bold as to lower their paralyzed friend and healed the man. The setting was one small living room and perhaps 2 or 3 dozen witnesses, but the miracle was powerful and the news spread. The message was clear: are we that faithful? Are we that bold? Do we act in faith? Those men knew that Jesus could heal their friend and they acted boldly. They could not heal their friend but did what they could and let Jesus do the rest.
The ancient Jewish farming village of Katzrin was built around a spring, which still flows. Although there were standing ruins on the site, archaeological excavations have increased the number of accessible ancient buildings. An ancient synagogue was discovered in 1967 and excavated between 1971 and 1984. Other parts of the village were excavated beginning in 1983. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed on their ancient foundations and furnished with replicas of household goods and tools
Yehuda and Terry taught us much about the culture of Jewish life in Bible days. Of course there was no electricity (no television, video games, etc.) and family life was everything. The word, "Insula" was introduced and is the concept of extended family and family life. It was common for multi-generations to live together. Story telling was common place and often how history and life lessons were taught to the children. Families were very close. There was no such thing as privacy and the need for 'accountability partners' just did not exist. Transparency was paramount in people's lives. Terry's lesson centered on the verses in John 14 where Jesus said to 'Let not your hearts be troubled...in my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?' Jesus used metaphors to teach. The people understood that heaven would be like an extended family (Insula) and they would be surrounded by family that loves them.
We then visited an olive factory and learned more about how olives are harvested and how olive oil and other olive related products are made. We got to taste the best olive oil produced in the world! It was fantastic!!
It was then time for lunch and we were treated to the best falafel so in Israel! And then for dessert we ate delicious ice cream. Thank you Yehuda for taking us here!! We left there full, happy, and ready for more touring. Our next stop was Tabgha.
Tabgha is a small area on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We learned more about fishing in this area and that it is primarily done with nets. This lesson came from Luke 5, which refers to the Sea of Galilee as the lake of Gennesaret (it is also sometimes referred to as the Sea of Tiberias in the Bible). In this passage, Jesus teaches the crowd from Peter's boat. When he finished, he said to Simon Peter to put out his nets into the deep for a catch. Being a fisherman and not having had any success earlier in the day, Peter knew that this was not the time or place to try to catch fish. Nevertheless, Peter said '...but at your word I will let down the nets.' God rewarded his faithfulness and their catch filled not one, but two boats till both almost sank. Our take-away was just that....God rewards faithfulness. Even when we don't understand or can logically think that something will happen, we trust God and remain faithful.
Two miles west of Capernaum is what Josephus referred to as the “well of Capernaum.” Undoubtedly a popular fishing spot of the locals because of its famous “seven springs,” Heptapegon (today the name has been corrupted to Tabgha) is the traditional location for several episodes in Jesus’ ministry.
We then headed to Capernaum where we saw what is strongly believed to be Peter's family home. Knowing that Jesus, Peter and the Disciples spent much time there was so moving. All of it has been moving, but today especially. On top of Peter's house, the Catholic Church built a church in the shape of a fishing boat over these ruins and it has been very tastefully preserved. We also saw next to Peter's house the remains of the synagogue that appeared to be consistent with the time of Peter's house (again, synagogues were built in the center of town and the houses were built all around them) and then the remains of yet another synagogue built over the remains of the original synagogue. Yehuda taught us that the grounds of a synagogue can never have another type of building built on that ground except for a synagogue; it is considered to be holy ground.
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.
At 4pm we arrived in Bethsaida. This is another very significant site as it was the birthplace of Peter, Andrew & Philip and it is the setting of the miracle where Jesus fed the five thousand (Luke 9: 10-17). This miracle no doubt impressed upon the Disciples that it was much like the miracle God performed in the dessert when He fed the Israelites who wandered in the dessert for 40 years by providing them with manna. Pastor Terry also spoke about Matthew 11:21 where Jesus refers to Bethsaida and how woeful it will be if there is no repentance. We talked about these two passages and how Jesus' miracles are like signposts to us. We see His mighty works and finally understand that He is who He says He is and we trust him and obey.
The northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is a fertile plain where the feeding of the 5,000 likely took place. Israeli maps and excavators currently locate the New Testament city of Bethsaida at an ancient ruin known as “et-Tell.” The excavation team, headed by Rami Arav, is insistent that this site be identified with ancient Bethsaida. Others suggest that Bethsaida may be better located at el-Araj near the lakeshore.
Our last stop of a long but wonderful day was at the Mount of the Beautitudes. We walked out to where it is believed that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount and we're stuck by its beauty. It has a lush, vast green hillside on one side and then overlooks the Sea of Galilee on the other. Of course, we could imagine the thousands of people all over the hillside listening to every word and then Pastor Terry read to use the Sermon on the Mount 5: 3-12. Wow! Can it get any better than this? I don't think there was a dry eye on the mountain.
As a group, we decided to walk down the mountain instead of riding the bus. Hmmm...not our best decision, but 25 minutes later we all said that we earned our dessert that we knew we've have later! What a fantastic day!!!
Mount of Beatitudes
The so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. The alleged discrepancy between Matthew’s version being on a hill and Luke’s being on a level place is easily reconciled with observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides. Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of this event, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill. Some of Napoleon’s men placed it on the nearby Arbel mountain.