Maybe Jesus’ footprints are gone all along the northern shorelines of the Sea of Galilee, but his “faithprints” were everywhere we looked today. Faith seemed to be a common theme throughout our day, but I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised given we spent our day at sites once frequented by the Messiah himself.
Our day started out with breath-taking views from the peak of Mount Arbel. Ken challenged us to take the call to follow Jesus seriously using Acts chapter 4…a scripture God has put on his heart. Acts 4 reminds us those who followed Jesus may have been “unschooled, ordinary” men, but their time with Jesus had given them an authoritative courage that would change the world.
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 Mount Arbel, we made our way down to the shoreline area called Tabgha. Here we were able to imagine Jesus walking the shoreline calling fisherman to leave their livelihood to follow him. What is amazing about this shoreline is it provides us with bookend stories of Jesus ministry with his disciples. It starts with their calling and ends with a miraculous catch of fish and Jesus looking Peter in the eye and asking him, “Do you love me?” We imagined that same question being posed to us.
Dan, our guide, reminded us that 70 percent of the words Jesus spoke were here and around the area of we would be spending today and tomorrow. Our next stop emphasized some of the most important words that Jesus would speak..it was the Mount of Beatitudes. We were able to see the aptly-named Church of the Beatitudes, a beautiful Byzantine-era church and be challenged as our guide, Dan, highlighted Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
These historical encounters with Jesus were only getting started as we made our way to our next stop, Capernaum. Here, we were able to see the original ruins of a synagogue that was possibly graced by the presence of Jesus. If that wasn’t enough, we looked upon what was, in all probability, the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. More than likely, this was a place that provided early believers with a secret place to worship, but may have housed Jesus at times during his ministry.
Our next stop, Magdala (home of Mary Magdalene), allowed us to see a beautiful church with dedicated chapels each highlighting a special moment in Jesus’ ministry. Told through the artistic brilliance of beautiful mosaic design, we were reminded of many of the ways that Jesus changed lives in the region. One such story was about a young lady in Magdala who had suffered for 12 years but was healed as she humbly touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. Joy Dyer shared the woman’s story and reminded us that we must seek Jesus with humility and not hoping for validation, but trusting that Jesus’ grace and healing is always validation enough. If sharing this story in this place wasn’t special enough, we also stood on the very stones of the first century port in Magdala…a port that Jesus would know well.
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.
Our day ended as we crossed the Sea of Galilee. We have all been on lots of boats in many places, but as our sailors stopped the engine and the sounds changed from modern day motors to the sweet solitude of a Galilean breeze, we let our minds wander to thoughts of this Jesus of Nazareth walking toward us on the water. We wondered if we would have the courage of Peter to take a step of faith outside the boat. Would the buffeting waves catch our gaze? Would fear interrupt our faith? Those questions are difficult to answer, but one thing for sure, Jesus would be there to rescue us.
We know this for sure. Because we followed his “faithprints” all day long.