Galilee Boat, Mt Arbel, Lunch Falafel, Mt. Beatitudes, Capernaum and Kursi (Susita – Naked Demoniac at the Tombs)
As I sit listening to the birds sing next to the Sea of Galilee, I am struggling to find a way to express all that God has done on day 5 of our Israel trip. I am again reminded of the limitations of our English language, because God has, not surprisingly, surpassed my ability to fully express His goodness. I will do my best to paint the best picture of where we traveled, but also the spiritual impacts that I received from the Lord today.
First thing in the morning, our trusted leaders, Ronan and Alon, took us to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. We walked from the land of Israel onto the lake of Galilee– well, on a boat that is. As we began to sail onto still waters, we all stared out in wonder and amazement, imagining our King commanding the storm to hush, and walking on the water. Something that Pastor Matt highlighted was that, while the storm was raging on and everyone in the boats fought and feared for their lives, Jesus only woke when His disciples called out to Him. The storm did not wake Him, but the cry of His disciples did. Then He commanded the storm to be still, and they obeyed! The other boats did not know what Jesus had done, but all they saw was the storm cease. The heart posture we should hold is one that is earnestly and actively aware that God is working, even if we cannot directly see it. To finish, we danced and rejoiced together as one family, because Jesus and all that He has done was worth celebrating.
Our next stop was Mount Arbel. Here is a place where Jesus Himself potentially walked/climbed to retreat and be alone with God. The view overlooked all of Galilee and all of the cities where Jesus would act (including the Via Maris and Capernaum). All I kept thinking about was the fact that I was seeing the exact same view that Jesus had once seen. And as I sat staring out, I realized that He was sitting right next to me, staring at the view alongside me. Jesus was once here in flesh, but now He is here in Spirit.
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.
After stopping near Magdala for authentic and delicious falafels, we headed over to the Mount of Beatitudes. It was amazing to be on the same mountain that Jesus gave His infamous sermon. One of our team members, Brandon, beautifully spoke on the Sermon on the Mount and explained how everything comes to pass. Out of all of the kingdoms that have been built up here on earth, the only one that has stood and will stand forever is the Kingdom of God. And just as Jesus taught the hundreds that gathered around Him, we must not worry about the things in this world, but rather, focus on the will and the purpose that Jesus has called us to.
Magdala, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, was a prosperous fishing village at the time Jesus was active in this region. The ruins of this Roman village is now enclosed within a wall. The archaeologists uncovered the remains of the village dating from the time of Jesus, and a Byzantine monastery. A mosaic floor featuring a fisherman's boat was found at the place.
We traveled to Capernaum, which to me was the most impactful sight. On all other sites we visited, we knew that Jesus was there, but with no surety on where His feet stood. Here, at the synagogue of Capernaum, we knew exactly where He stood. We saw where Peter’s house stood and how far (barely 75 feet!) Jesus walked to heal Peter’s mother-in-law. In Peter’s house, which eventually became a first century Christian church, inscriptions were found in various languages, professing that Jesus was the Son of God and accounts of things He had done. The only thing I could utter through tears as we collectively sang How Great Thou Art, was “my King…”
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.
After this amazing and Holy site, we went to Kursi, near Susita which was where the demon-possessed man/men ran down to Jesus. As Jesus walked down the path from the boat dock (which we saw remnants of), an insane, naked man ran down the mountain. In one instance, Jesus changed everything. He freed the man of torment and planted the seed for ten cities to know Jesus. Like Pastor Matt said, “It is amazing to see what Jesus can do to a life that is given to Him.” He is freedom, He is healing, He is redemption, He is Peace, He is our Rock, He is our Hope, He is our Joy, He is our purpose, He is our provider… I wish I could begin to describe who He is.
To end this particularly lengthy blog post, we ended the day where it began- the Sea of Galilee. But this time, we were standing waist deep in the water, praying together as the sunset. One of our team members Trevor, and I, publicly declared our faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized. The beautiful thing about this scene was that, because the waves were crashing so heavily, we all had to huddle together as a team, holding on to each other for support as we prayed for one another. Jesus was bringing us even closer, physically and spiritually as we lifted one another up in prayer. We, along with all of heaven, rejoiced as we emerged from the water as new creations.
Written by Danielle Levine