Another day, another sunrise... this one over the Sea of Galilee. Today was all Galilee, all New Testament, and we began with an hour-long boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Our dear friends from India, Pastors Sabya and Sarita, shared a bit for us on the subject of light and dark, they treated us to a (sadly fruitless) netfishing demonstration, and we had the privilege of worshipping together in song out on the water where Jesus walked.
The modern boats take off from in front of an Ancient Boat museum - and the one housed inside is truly ancient, having been dated back to and sunk in the first century. It laid at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee, covered in mud (which protected it from the oxygen which would have disintegrated it), until two fisherman accidentally discovered it and the incredible excavation began. Incredible because how exactly does one excavate something which will start to crumble when oxygen touches it? Turns out, the answer is to have a team of people constantly spritzing it with water. My favorite part of the story was how they coated the entire thing in spray foam (as one does to insulate an attic) and floated it down the Sea of Galilee to where a crane could pick it up and put it on shore. Then they spent another 8 years spraying it to protect it from oxygen. Bottom line: in the first century, boats like this were expensive. Most fisherman just waded into the water and cast their nets. There was likely only a few dozen boats like this on the Sea of Galilee in Jesus' time, so there's a good chance Jesus was in this particular boat before it sank when the Roman hand of retribution reached Galilee in late 66 AD.
Next was our visit to two sites at Tabgha: possibly the Feeding of the 5000, and the Primacy of Peter. I love visiting this site because of the insight its location - even its name - offers to the "miraculous catch of fish" story in John 21. The name, Tabgha, is an Arabic pronunciation of the shortened version (Tapego) of the ancient name, Heptapegon which means "7 Springs." It's a fun challenge for our English-speaking mouths to pronounce, and I walked up to four of our number today with the camera and said "Say Tabgha!" I enjoyed the faces they made in the attempt and I'm sure you will too. :)
But back to the 7 springs. You'll have to come here (or to one of our Blue Gospel Scripts shows) for the full story, but it boils down to how the greater miracle that night in John 21 was that a group of professional fishermen caught no fish all night on their home turf. The geography and biology of the spot mean it was The Place and The Time to catch fish, but they couldn't seem to until Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples there on the beach at what's now called Tabgha. The "nothing" was the miracle. As Dave said, "blessed are those who believe not just while catching nothing, but because they've caught nothing."
Our guide Dan helped me reach a deeper understanding of Jesus' love for me by helping us empathize with Peter... Peter, who had failed three times in Jerusalem to acknowledge Jesus around the "fire of coals" at Caiphas' house... Peter, whose clothes were full of the campfire smell and had to walk home breathing in the scent of his failure... Peter, who had then failed to do his actual job... his comfortable, familiar probably lifelong routine. I was reminded Jesus redeemed not only Peter's three denials with three affirmations, but was so compassionate as to rewrite Peter's scent memory as well, so now the smell of a charcoal fire wouldn't always reek of failure. Our Jesus is that personal.
The photos are of the two different sites at Tabgha - the Primacy of Peter Church (the huge rock inside the church is thouht to be where Jesus cooked breakfast), and the Feeding of the 5000 (the rock under the altar is preserved as the place where Jesus stood to feed the multitudes).
Next we went to His chosen ministry center, Capernaum, a border passage city where the Empire collected taxes and where a Roman garrison was stationed... in short, a bustling "actual town" with many people (compared to the surrounding fishing villages). Dan said it's logical to assume Jesus was the Rabbi in the synagogue here (as they chose the wisest voice to do the teaching). Given Mark's written record of Jesus' many miraculous demon-casting-outs and healings in the city, Dave said Capernaum is either especially fraught with problems and that's why Jesus chose to start His ministry here... or it's a typical city and Mark wanted his readers to know what they're up against. The excavation is impressive, though only a small portion of the city, but what's immediately striking is the huge glass-bottomed "Millennium Falcon"-shaped church built over the remains of what was likely the place where Jesus stayed in Capernaum. It doesn't exactly blend in with the city's ancient basalt stone construction, but the measures the builders took to preserve the archaeological find are really impressive.
By contrast, our next stop, the tiny village of Chorazin, was not a bustling anything. We had the place to ourselves for a delicious picnic lunch (and as a side note, these are one of the reasons we tour with GTI), then visited the synagogue which they've started re-excavating since our last visit here in April! At Capernaum, Dan told us the visible layer of the synagogue was the city's attempt to "beautify" it in later centuries, but they dug down to the basalt stones and found the 1st-century remains. At Chorazin, they've started doing the same thing. We also sat in the remains of an insula (a city-block-size multi-generational family dwelling), which gave us a visual for what Jesus' original audience would have pictured when He said "In my Father's house there are many rooms."
Finally, we joined the first real crowds of the day the Mount of Beatitudes. Here, (or at least somewhere in the general vicinity, though the landscape and acoustics do support this sort of site) Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Dan and Dave encouraged us to find a quiet spot somewhere in the beautiful surrounding gardens to read the entire Sermon for ourselves.
Finally, I had another "never thought I'd get to do this" moment when Zandy and I went out for a sunset swim in the Sea of Galilee. So grateful to be here!
Featured Signature Tour
Sep 3-14, 2023
Experience Israel for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.