Walking Where Jesus Walked
Hello, family and friends of the Northway GTI Tour! My name is Kelsey, and I'm so excited to write today's blog. We had another full day in the Holy Land, and I'm grateful for the chance to tell you all about it. Today, we all felt blessed to have the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked and learn from our amazing leaders!
Mount Precipice in Nazareth:
We started the day in Jesus' hometown - Nazareth - on Mount Precipice. This gave us a great opportunity to talk about where Jesus grew up; as you may know, Nazareth was Jesus' home from when he was ~5 years old until he was ~30 years old. Mount Precipice was a great location for our group, because it provided us with a great vantage point of Nazareth, and it is connected to the story in Luke 4. Shea talked us through the details of the text by highlighting that after Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 and clearly states that he's the Messiah, many in his hometown were angry and drove him out of the town. The text says in verse 29 that they took him to the "brow of the hill" - which could have been where we were standing, Mount Precipice. Amazing! Jesus' own town didn't want him, so he relocates his ministry to Galilee - which is where we went next!
Before I continue telling you about our next site, I just have to *note* that the people of Israel are SO excited to have us here. There was a man with a cart of food and drinks that came to Mount Precipice for the first time in 15 months, because he heard we were going to be there. So sweet!
Although Mount Arbel isn't explicitly stated in the Bible, it is believed that many significant Biblical moments happened here given its proximity to the Sea of Galilee. Shea emphasized that it's believed Mount Arbel was a place Jesus retreated to pray to the Father (Luke 6:12), and he said, "Intimacy and dependence were the hallmarks of Jesus' relationship with God." What a great example for all of us as we pursue our own relationships with God! We were given ~30 minutes to retreat and be in prayer on Mount Arbel, and it was such a special time for all of us to do what Jesus did where he did it.
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.
A fun *bonus* from Mount Arbel is that we had the chance to do an adventurous hike down the mountain which involved scaling along the side of the cliff - ahh! I definitely had to pull out some of my rock climbing skills! The good news is - there were no injuries, and we all had a great time! It was a great opportunity to see and walk the land. And after successfully descending down the mountainside, it was time for lunch! We had some delicious, authentic falafel - yum!
Sermon on the Mount:
Our next stop is where it's believed that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Brett did a great job of walking us through the text in Matthew 5-9. He highlighted how Jesus made it his ministry to preach, teach, and heal which is explicitly stated in the bookends of Matthew 5 and 9. We walked through the three sections of the Sermon on the Mount, and Brett highlighted how these verses are about how we live as ambassadors for Christ. We all had the unique opportunity to read a section of the text, so we can say that we read the Sermon on the Mount where it's believed that Jesus originally spoke it. Awesome!
Mount of Beatitudes
The so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. The alleged discrepancy between Matthew’s version being on a hill and Luke’s being on a level place is easily reconciled with observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides. Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of this event, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill. Some of Napoleon’s men placed it on the nearby Arbel mountain.
Next was Capernaum, and we learned A LOT at this site. Shea, Matt, Mike, and Ronan all gave great talks, because there is SO much to say. I've summarized the key takeaways below, but before I get to those details, I should say that we were very fortunate, because we almost had the whole site to ourselves (apparently that's unheard of) - normally there are a bunch of tour groups walking around, but we were fortunate enough to have plenty of space! What a unique experience!
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.
Shea kicked off our time by talking about how this is where Jesus called many of his disciples. Mark 3 states that Jesus called who he wanted, not who he needed. And those 12 people were called to know Jesus and make his name known. That's what we are called to do, too! That moment was really amazing for me to reflect and think about how because of the discipleship of many believers before me, I'm able to sit here thousands of years later and be a believer in Christ. It's truly incredible to think about how the good news of the gospel has spread from Capernaum to so many places around the world - including those in Dallas, TX!
Grace & Forgiveness:
Matt did a great job walking us through John 21 and emphasized how everything Jesus did was purposeful. After he rose from the dead, he met some disciples (and Peter, specifically) on the same beach where he originally called him, and he was burning a charcoal fire next to him (which was burning next to Peter when he denied Jesus for the 3rd time) to give us a beautiful picture of how his grace and forgiveness abounds over any shame we may feel. Although Peter was likely feeling shame and embarrassment in that moment knowing he had denied Jesus, we see that Jesus' love for him is unconditional as he asks him 3 times, "Do you love me?" What a great reminder for us to know that even when we stumble and feel shame, Jesus meets us in our shame and offers us forgiveness. Praise God for that!
Bread of Life: Finally, Mike preached near the actual structure of the synagogue (Shea and Matt preached near the Sea of Galilee), and he emphasized how this is one of the few places we can feel confident a story in the Bible happened here. John 6:24-59 is when Jesus says that He is the bread of life, and verse 59 explicitly states, "He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum." That's where we were!!! What?! The way we know that is because there is still basalt (black stone) from Jesus' day that shows the outline of the synagogue. This location was extra special for me, because it was really cool to be in a spot where we can be so sure that Jesus preached there!
Sea of Galilee:
Lastly, we finished the day on a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee. It was a stunning evening with the sun glistening on the water. And we started the boat ride how all great boat rides start - by lifting the American flag and singing the national anthem - ha! (That was pretty random, so I had to throw that in here.) While on the boat, we discussed the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6) and how the disciples didn't even recognize him at first (they thought he was a ghost) which is shocking considering he had just performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000! Shea made a great point that we often have "repeat episodes" of doubt happen in our lives, too, but Jesus is in the business of making himself known to us. He will sustain us through the storms of life!
Then, we had some fun on the boat and finished the night with a little dance party. Ronan taught us a traditional Jewish song and dance, and we had a great time! From there, we went to a restaurant right on the Sea of Galilee where we had some delicious fish. Some people even had "Peter's fish" which was served as a whole fish (head, tail, etc.). I wasn't brave enough to try it, but it looked interesting! I can say that the fish fillet was delicious. We finished the day by coming to our hotel - or should I say resort?! We are staying at an amazing resort that's right on the water of the Sea of Galilee! It is stunning - we are so blessed!
I hope y'all enjoyed reading about our day walking where Jesus walked. There were SO many great moments where the Holy Spirit was at work in our hearts, and I pray that reading about it was encouraging for you, too.