In the Galilee
We’re definitely not in the desert anymore. In the Galilee, we are surrounded by endless green land and tree farms as far as the eyes can see. This morning, we gathered to have our devo and worship. We sang The Lord’s Prayer, and after we did, as if it were planned, the sun was just beginning to peak over the mountains behind us. It was stunning and just the start of all of the other beautiful scenes we were about to see.
Today was jam-packed.
This morning we began on the very shore where Jesus once walked, fished, and spent time with his disciples. In John 21 we read of when Jesus reappeared to the disciples after his resurrection. We stood in the traditional place where that interaction occurred and where Peter was reinstated. It was surreal to say the least!
Up next, Capernaum! Here we saw where Peter’s Mother-in-law lived among many other homes where people once occupied. There stood a beautiful synagogue made of limestone that had so much fine detail in its construction. This synagogue was built with the help of the centurion we read about in Luke 7. Tourists from all over the world were among us during our time at this site. While observing the interior of the synagogue, we could overhear a Christian group from brazil singing a beautiful song of faith in Portuguese.
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.
We moved on down the road to see another ancient synagogue in Chorazin made up of basalt stone. It was here that we caught a glimpse of communal living in ancient times where the whole village was in close quarters at all times. Terry explained to us the difference between that time in history vs what we now experience in America. Back in those times, everyone did life so close together like one big family. There was much intimacy, but hardly any privacy. We all know that in modern day, we love our privacy and prefer to keep our walls up when it comes to relational intimacy. The challenge from this idea was to remember how important it is for the modern church to operate like a family - Where people come as they are, ask for help, and aren’t so against letting people in and becoming fully known.
The synagogue at Chorazin is a typical “Galilean” style synagogue. These synagogues are characterized by 1) a basilical shape with three hallways separated by two rows of pillars; 2) three doorways and the central one is the largest; 3) benches around the interior walls; 4) a stylobate to support the weight of the arches.
There was a ton to soak in there. Luckily, it was time for lunch! We caught a brain break and enjoyed some AMAZING falafels at a local restaurant.
Post-lunch, we hiked up Mount Arbel to look down (a rather large cliff) to see a grand view of where the ministry of Jesus occurred in the Galilee. The Bible tells us that Jesus often withdrew to quiet places to pray. So, in the same way, the entire group took time to spread out, be still, and spend time on our own in 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.
After the short hike down the mountain, we made the trek over to the traditional place of the mount of beatitudes where the greatest sermon ever told was given: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). We were standing along a large slope which acts as a natural amphitheater where thousands could gather to hear the words of Jesus. Here, Cliff Sanders spoke to us from the point of view that the Sermon on the Mount is not necessarily a list of things to achieve or incorporate in our lives, rather, Jesus is laying out what is available to those who are poor, mourning, pure, oppressed, etc… They will be blessed.
We ended the day on the edge of another cliff (The Cliff of Gadarenes) where Jesus healed the demon-possessed man by sending the impure spirits out of the man and into swine that grazed nearby (Mark 5). All we know from the scriptures is which side of the sea of Galilee this occurred and that there was a steep drop off where the swine rushed down into the sea. Yehuda explained that the only place on the east side of Galilee that has a cliff is in the exact place we stood.
Once again, today we saw geography line up with history, which lines up with the Bible. We’re excited and expectant for another 7 days of walking where He walked and hearing what He has for us during the remainder of our time in Israel.