Miriam gave The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry’s Up to Jerusalem tour a wonderful compliment this morning. She said that our tour has a thoughtful sensitivity to the Jewish people. She then explained the different sects of Judaism. The Ultra Orthodox Jewish men often wear black coats and peyas (side curls). Wearing a Kippah or a yarmulke can identify the Orthodox Jewish Men. Both Ultra Orthodox and Orthodox keep kosher and won’t ride in cars on Shabbat. Conservatives are the middle of the road Jewish people. They observe some of the Jewish traditions. Then Reform Judaism focuses on ethical aspects of Judaism but not much else.
The boat ride on the Sea of Galilee began with the unfurling of the American and Canadian flags and the playing of both National Anthems. The morning was amazingly beautiful as we set sail. The crew of the ship played How Great Thou Art. Which brought a wonderful response from everyone aboard.
Jim Showers shared devotions on the Sea of Galilee which is such an important place. Almost 80% of Jesus’ ministry took place right here. In Matthew 8:23, he taught that Jesus needed to get away, probably because He was physically exhausted. He fell asleep in the boat and suddenly a storm arose. The disciples awoke Jesus because even these seasoned fishermen were afraid for their lives. Jesus calmed the storm just as He has down for us, many times. Jim shared his testimony regarding cancer, which was of course completely unexpected; his storm in life had arrived and he had no control. We suddenly realize we are not in control when these unexpected storms or situations arise. Jesus’ disciples were sailors, they knew the Sea, but they were afraid. Jesus challenged them “where is your faith?” In Jeremiah 17 the prophet writes that cursed is the man who trusts literally in his arm, but blessed is the man who trusts and rests in the Lord. Jim shared Philippians 4:6 and Romans 8:28 which says “all things work together for good.”
After our devotional the crew demonstrated how to fish from the boat like they did in the days of Jesus. Then we were taught how to dance the hora – did mention we were still on the boat while dancing!
After our boat ride we traveled to a forest near Tiberias where we planted pines and cypress trees. We also had an additional “team member” assisting us in the forest. Pastor Steve Wesco brought his drone to the forest site. It was great to watch him control the flying device and to see how high it was able to go. I’m sure he secured some excellent pictures of the tour group and the work that that had done.
Our next stop was Nazareth Village, a recreation of ancient Nazareth as it was in the days of Jesus – right in the heart of modern Nazareth! On the way to Nazareth we passed through Cana of Galilee where Jesus did his first miracle. It was also the home of one of Jesus’ disciples, Nathaniel. Pastor Steve read the Scripture of Jesus’s reading the Scripture in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30).
Today, Nazareth is a modern city (primarily a Muslim) of over 75,000 people, in Jesus’s day it was a town of about 400 people. Despite living in Nazareth, God used a tax by Caesar to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where the Bible declared that Jesus would be born (Micah 5:2).
On the property of Nazareth Village (run by Arab Christians), we saw a 400 year old olive tree. They also planted almond trees in the area. We were reminded of Jesus’ instruction on sheep as we saw the sheep and the shepherds. We saw a replica of a tomb, a wine press, and terrace for growing grapes. A watchtower was necessary for watching over your fruit to protect it from animals and thieves.
Grapes, wheat, barley, figs, olives, pomegranates, dates, and honey were all found in the area. They showed us an olive press, which was really amazing. I loved the donkey walking around in order to crush the olives. There are three pressings of olives: First is for first fruits - virgin olive oil, second for food, medicine, cosmetics, the third is for oil lamps. As we traveled on through the small village we saw a weaver, carpenter, and a synagogue.
We took some time in a synagogue that would’ve been about the size and style of one in Jesus’ time. Our guide reminded us that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue upset the Jewish people so much because they didn’t understand who he was because of false expectations. The world today has false expectations of what is needed to clean up the mess.
After lunch together at Nazareth Village, we headed to Capernaum. I shared devotions in a beautiful setting that I learned was actually created for the Pope’s visit. We looked at Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man that was let down through the ceiling of the house Jesus was speaking in at Capernaum. I shared some thoughts on Jesus’ comment to the religious leaders, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:4-6).
Capernaum was where Jesus began His Ministry. The Byzantine Christians believed that they had found a home that had a church built around it they also found “spiritual graffiti” declaring this as Peter’s home. Peter was born in Bethesda but he moved to his mother-in-law’s home in Capernaum. In these homes there was often a small room where they stored things. They also could add on to homes when a child got married. He would add on to his parent’s home. (This is very similar to the Amish culture.).