Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
It’s not every day that you wake up next to the Sea of Galilee, and yet…here we are! This morning, our team awoke to the sound of waves from the body of water that Jesus actually walked on. It is absolutely surreal! We are absolutely loving our time here in Israel, and this is certainly no exception.
This morning, we started out on the shore of the Sea of Galilee for a devotion that established well the theme of the day, then headed out for our first site. Stopping in some rolling green hills, we followed Matt’s consistently mysterious and sunnily authoritative call of, “Let’s go!” to a place overlooking the Sea of Galilee, a place we shortly found out was the Mt. of Beatitudes. Both appropriately and poignantly, we then walked through the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven and life the way he intended for it to be lived. From the Mt. of Beatitudes, we rode to Tabgha, a site right on the shore near where Jesus called Simon Peter and Andrew to be disciples. Here, we talked about several different Sea of Galilee moments, including Jesus calling Peter (in multiple gospels), and Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Our next stop was the archaeological dig at Magdala, where we learned about the fishing market, synagogue, and lifestyle of those who lived at one of the most important fish-salting locations in Israel. After Magdala, we made a stop for some local “fast food” of falafel and pita (I can only wish that fast food in America included such things), then headed toward Mt. Arbel. After hiking up the side of the very green slopes, dotted with yellow flowers and cows (who oddly didn’t seem to mind the sharp steepness), and essentially rock climbing a bit, we arrived at the top and settled on a point overlooking the sea. Now, Mt. Arbel isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Scriptures, but it is a strong candidate for references to “the mountain” that Jesus prayed on, where he prayed all night concerning who he would call as a disciple, and where he gave those disciples the Great Commission. We spent our time on the mountain discussing both mountains and prayer.
Mount Arbel (Hebrew: הר ארבל, Har Arbel) is a mountain in The Lower Galilee near Tiberias in Israel, with high cliffs, views of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, trails to a cave-fortress, and ruins of an ancient synagogue. Mt. Arbel sits across from Mount Nitai; their cliffs were created as a result of the Jordan Rift Valley and the geological faults that produced the valleys.
Perhaps one of my favorite themes of the day was that of “repentance.” Now, I don’t normally stand on street corners shouting at people, but hear me out on this one. Jesus called people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Often, we hear repentance defined as turning from sin. However, that’s not the real picture. Repentance is more than a “turning from”; it’s also a “turning to.” It’s turning from one thing to another, forsaking one thing in order to embrace the second. As we were on the Mount of Beatitudes, the concept of what repentance actually means started to really take hold of my mind. Since the beginning, since we as a people ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, we have played the judge. We have rejected the way God has asked us to live life – simply that of trusting him, of faith and obedience – and in so doing, have rejected him. It’s silly, really, when you think about it – me, a created thing, acting as if I know what the One who created me knows, acting as if I know everything, essentially. When I try to decide how to live without trusting Him, that’s exactly what I’m doing. So as we walked through the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus describes the Kingdom that He has now made available to us, on the mountain from which he proclaimed that, it was a sweet reminder to me of what it is God intended life to be, which I so often attempt to take into my own hands. What a gift, to be able to read the Sermon on the Mount from where it was said, surrounded by flowers, grass, and the Sea of Galilee.
Wow. Today was an incredible day. As Matt continues to remind us, “it’s not every day that you wake up next to the Sea of Galilee!” Thank you so much for praying for us; we would love your continued prayers as we continue exploring the Holy Land and seeing what the Lord has for us here!
Normally, I’d say “peace and blessings,” but as it were…shalom and blessings, y’all!
By Alex Leggett