Holy Land Study Trip - Around Galilee
It continues to be such a blessing and thrill to wake up in the morning and realize that I am still in Israel. This particular morning our group woke up only to be within walking distance of the Sea of Galilee. The view was beautiful as the shores stretched to Tiberius in the distance. My roommate, Deb, and I have continued to reflect on the different things God is showing us in this land. It is hard to grasp the reality that our God in Heaven became a man and walked on the very land that we are able to visit in these two weeks. It is not a simple task in visiting Israel, for there is so much at stake for us, as we take on the responsibility of understanding the importance of different sites as well as learning what the significance is of this knowledge in application to our hearts. Today, I was very much aware of Jesus speaking to my own heart and my response to His words is what matters, not what knowledge I am able to store up.
Our tour today of the Holy Land included a visit to Chorazin, a stop at the Jordan River and a view of the Mt. of Beatitudes. We spent a few moments by the Seven Springs or Tabgha, took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, made a walk up to an outlook point on the Arbel cliff and then a hike down the mountain, had a look at the Plain of Bethsaida, and our final stop place was at Capernaum.
On our visit to Chorazin which is north of the Sea of Galilee we were able to see preserved remains of a synagogue from the Hellenistic period identified to be such because of the Medusa, found in Greek mythology, which was carved into some of the stones. We snapped photos on the seat of Moses, as that was the place where the teacher of the law sat as his students gathered around to hear him instruct them in the Torah.
The Jordan River is found in many passages in Scripture, and we were able to view this famous river ourselves this morning. After visiting the Jordan, our next stop which left a mark on my mind was the Mt. of Beatitudes, where it is believed that Jesus spoke to a great multitude of people and then He delivered the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7 to His disciples. It is amazing to see the geography of the land and to try to understand how Jesus was able to speak without a modern microphone to so many people. The level place described in Luke 6:17 helps us pictures where Jesus situated himself allowing His voice to carry across the hillside and the hill behind him creating a sort of sounding board that allowed his voice to be projected in the same direction as the people. I was most struck by Dr. Bookman's reminder that Jesus could and does personally tap my most sensitive spiritual nerve. As Jesus spoke, His teachings did not gravitate toward things that made people feel good about themselves, but He would pierce the heart with the truth of God, and in the end leave a man with the choice to follow Him or reject Him. Thinking about this today caused me to wonder how I treat God's calling on my heart- do I reject Him or accept what He has to say? Is my heart changed, or am I simply a walking encyclopedia with a heart of stone? I pray that our hearts would be changed by Jesus!
Sea of Galilee
The ride out on the Sea of Galilee was absolutely wonderful, as the boat we were on belonged to the only group of believers running boats on the Sea. We were blessed to hear the boat operators sing familiar worship songs to us in Hebrew and English as we surveyed the land surrounding the Sea. Tears were brought to my eyes as I contemplated how the Lord was able to bring all of us together today into one accord to worship Him. His grace extends so far and wide that we are able to worship and fellowship with people all over the world, and specifically today in Israel! Awesome blessing!
Much thought was given today at our final destination of Capernaum where Jesus lived. We saw another synagogue from the 4th century which was preserved and sits on a 1st century synagogue base. There were also remains of parts of the community, with one house believed to be Peters'. Capernaum is a sort of strategic point on the map because of its centrality and the many roads leading out of the north through this city, giving Jesus the advantage of having many people to view His miracles and hear Him teach. Jesus had moved His family from Nazareth to Capernaum with the knowledge of Capernaum's strategic location and the benefits living there would have for His ministry on earth.
While I could probably write and write about the sightings today in Israel I will end with saying that we do have a choice to accept what Jesus said or to reject Him, thinking that our own strength (which ultimately God gives us anyway) is enough to take care of our spiritual selves. The problem with the people who heard Jesus teach them was that they were not ready to hear that He could be their Savior; instead, they simply wanted Him to save them from what they couldn't get away from: Rome. It will be sad to see how many times we have failed to be humble before Jesus and realize the very air we breathe is not of our own makings. Jesus Christ came to Israel, lived, completed His ministry, and purposefully died for all of mankind's sins while victoriously rising on the third day, defeating death. As we continue this week, I am sure the Lord will speak to us through the many places that reflect His ministry and give us a clearer picture of the happenings found in God's Word. Such an amazing grace He gives us as we traverse God's chosen land!