Jordan / Israel Signature Study Tour

September 2-14, 2023

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Day 06 - Jesus the Master Teacher : Chorazin, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha, Mount Arbel, Ancient Boat (Ginosar), Galilee Boat Ride

 

Shalom! We woke up to a humid, 90-something-degree day in Galilee and enjoyed our morning devotional on the beach.

 

We then took a short drive to Mount Arbel. Mount Arbel is located on the western side of the Sea of Galilee and, from the top, provides an incredible view of the region.

 

At the base of the mountain, our group split in two. About half of us rode up with our driver while the other half made the hourlong climb. We met at the top and spent time talking about the site.

 

Mount Arbel, though never mentioned in the Bible, is possibly where Jesus gave His disciples the Great Commission.

 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20, NIV)

 

It’s also likely that Jesus came up to Arbel to pray. The Gospels often mention Him retreating to a mountain and, while there are hills in Galilee, there are few proper mountains.

 

So, following in the footsteps of Jesus, we took time alone to go and pray. It was a sweet and needed experience.

 

From there we went to Capernaum – the place where Jesus resided during His ministry. It was here, in this city, that Jesus healed the Roman centurion’s son, the man with the withered hand, and the paralytic whose friends tore through a roof to get him to Jesus.

 

Jesus taught in this synagogue. Well, not exactly this one, as it post-dates Him. It is, however, built on the foundation of the first-century synagogue which is still visible today.

 

We saw what archaeologists have reason to believe was the home of Peter and, perhaps, the very room where Jesus stayed.

 

Our stay in Capernaum, however, was relatively short for how much time we could have spent there, but the heat and the crowds were making it difficult for us to settle down for a lesson, so we made our way north a couple miles to the ancient town of Chorazin.

 

Chorazin, along with Capernaum and Bethsaida, was part of “the Triangle.” That is, three towns populated by religious Jews – those that were seeking to keep God’s law, studying the Scriptures, and awaiting the Messiah.

 

There is no story in the Gospels that places Jesus in Chorazin, but we know He was there because He actually rebuked them for their unbelief after the miracles He had performed there.

 

Chorazin, however, provides us with two incredible teaching opportunities – one on insula and one on synagogue.

 

The word insula is actually Latin and literally means “island.” The word refers to the common space in a multi-family home.

 

See, in ancient times, children didn’t move out of their parents’ home at a certain age. Rather, as the family expanded, so did the home. When, say, a son was getting married, he would spend the yearlong betrothal period adding a room onto his father’s house for his new bride. Families, then, didn’t operate as separate units, but as a cohesive community.

 

The picture of insula helps us better understand Jesus’ vision for eternity in the family of God.

 

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3, NIV)

 

There’s an old translation of this passage that seems to suggest that we’ll all get our own personal, private mansions, but that’s not what the original language implies. It implies that we’ll get a room in the insula – among a community with God as our Father and every other believer as our brothers and sisters. We’ll live alongside one another in love and service. It’s an incredible picture of God’s restoration of all the relationships that were broken at the Fall. He’ll bring us back together – to Himself and to one another. I can’t imagine looking any more forward to that day.

 

We also talked about synagogue worship. The synagogue arose during the exile, when the people of Israel were no longer able to worship at the Temple. Though they didn’t have the Temple, they still had the text. So, reading, memorizing, studying, and interpreting God’s Word became the primary form of worship. And the Jewish people would do so at the synagogue.

 

We walked through the different elements of the synagogue and noticed how often Jesus uses synagogue language (to be fair, usually in the context of rebuking hypocritical leaders).

 

We made a brief stop at the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount (or, the Mount of Beatitudes). Randy gave us a beautiful reflection on the Beatitudes and then allowed us time to walk the site and reflect upon Jesus’ words for ourselves.

 

A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee provided a restful end to a busy day.

 

It was incredible to be out on the water. We could look north and see the shore where Jesus first called Peter and Andrew to follow Him. We could look east and see the region of the Gerasenes, where Jesus healed a man possessed by a legion of demons. We could look west and see Arbel, where we had earlier climbed just, perhaps, as Jesus had.

 

While we were on the boat, we read the story of Jesus walking on the water – this water. Peter, with great faith and great courage, got out of the boat and began walking on the water, too.

 

We tend to be astounded at Peter’s faith and courage – and then equally astounded at how quickly his faith and courage failed him.

 

The original Jewish audience, though, would have been astounded not by Peter but by the other eleven disciples that didn’t get out of the boat.

 

We talked about how being a disciple is not just knowing what the rabbi knows, but being what the rabbi is and doing what the rabbi does. Peter acted entirely consistently with the heart of a disciples. The other eleven, however, were content to sit back and watch.

 

We left reflecting on the question of whether we are disciples of Jesus (who want to know our rabbi and be like our rabbi) or merely students of Jesus (who just want to know more information about Him).

 

We’ll make our way through the Jezreel Valley tomorrow and then settle into our Jerusalem hotel for the rest of our time in the land.

 

A handful of our group seem to have recovered from whatever has been going around, but for others the stomachaches, dizziness, and exhaustion just seem to be lingering. We’d appreciate your continued prayers!

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