All around Galilee
We started today with a GREAT hike up and down Mount Arbel totaling about 3 miles. The highlight was sitting at the top of the mountain reading and reflecting on what this mountain meant to Jesus. Several times in scripture it is recorded that Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray, to appoint his disciples, and to teach. One story was especially powerful. After Jesus went up on the mountain to teach the disciples, he told them to go ahead of him in the boat to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. While the disciples struggled to row the boat, Jesus remained on the top of the mountain and prayed for them. This story took on a new meaning as we sat on top of the mountain looking down on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus could look down at the disciples rowing in the boat from where he sat, he could see the town he had told them to sail to, and he could see how the disciples were being blown in the opposite direction. Jesus prayed over them as he watched them struggle but he didn’t stop there, he walked out to them on the water and took them to the destination they could not reach themselves. What a powerful image to look down on the Sea of Galilee and see this story unfolding in our minds.
After hiking down the mountain, we went to Tabgha and sat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As we looked out at the water, we read about Jesus calling of Peter and Andrew. It was on the shore of this small fishing town that Jesus called out to them to leave their nets an follow him. It was in this town that Jesus called out to James and John to follow him and they left their nets and their father to follow him. In was here in Peter’s hometown where Jesus re-instated him after he denied Jesus three times. I can just picture Jesus sitting on the shore of this small town asking Peter, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.” Sitting in that place picturing these moments in our minds, it almost felt like we were there watching them happen.
Two miles west of Capernaum is what Josephus referred to as the “well of Capernaum.” Undoubtedly a popular fishing spot of the locals because of its famous “seven springs,” Heptapegon (today the name has been corrupted to Tabgha) is the traditional location for several episodes in Jesus’ ministry.
From that beach we walked about fifteen minutes up onto a mountain overlooking the water. As we sat under a tree we opened the Bible to Matthew 6 and began to read the Sermon on the Mount our loud on the very mountain where Jesus first spoke these words. It was a very moving experience. We all spread out all over the mountain and reflected on what the words Jesus spoke here meant to each of us. Several students have said that this has been the most meaningful and powerful moments of the trip this far. It was truly moving to just read the words of Jesus in this place.
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.
As if that was no enough, we continued on to Capernaum, the place that Jesus chose as his “ministry headquarters.” This is the place where Jesus did the vast majority of the teaching and ministry. There were a few powerful things about this city that resonated with us. As we stood just outside of the synagogue in the place where the synagogue school was, we read about Jesus teaching in the synagogue. Although we were not standing in the actual synagogue where this happened, the current synagogue was built on the foundation of the one he would have taught in. To think of him teaching and the religious leaders being blown away by the authority that Jesus taught with while standing in this place was like watching it happen first hand. Then just a stone’s throw away we walked over to “Peter’s house.” Tradition holds that this was either Peter’s house or the home of his mother-in-law. That isn’t even the meaningful part though, inside the house the found carved into the wall several things about Jesus dating back to the time just after his death. It is very likely that we were looking at one of the very first house churches.
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.
To end our day we boarded a boat to go out onto the Sea of Galilee. We started this day talking about Jesus watching the disciples struggle to row across the water, it only seems appropriate that we would end the day with that same image in our head as we road across the water.
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