I really don’t know where to begin in describing our trip to Israel a few weeks ago. It was an amazing trip, and I’m SO glad we decided to go. We went with some other couples from our newlywed Sunday School class as well as our teachers and their 3 kids. We left Birmingham early Friday morning July 12 and flew to Atlanta. Then from Atlanta we flew to JFK airport in New York. After several hours of layovers, we didn’t actually fly out of the US until midnight. Israel is 8 hours ahead of our time at home, and we flew all night (for 12 hours). By the time we landed in Tel-Aviv, Israel, it was around 5pm Saturday July 13 their time. We took a 2 hour bus ride to our hotel in Tiberias (off the Sea of Galilee), arrived just in time for dinner and then pretty much went to bed for the night.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
The next morning we got up bright and early and drove over to the Mount of Beatitudes. This is a mountaintop northwest of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount to the multitudes of people who had been following him. It says in Matthew 5 that when Jesus saw the multitude of people he went up on the mountain, sat down and began to speak. Here he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of Heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God…” These teachings are what is referred to as the Beatitudes. And like most sacred locations in Israel, there was a temple built on the top of this mountain. Most places we went to that historians and archeologists have determined are actual sites where Biblical events took place, certain religions have built churches/temples/chapels on the sites.
Next we drove back down the mountain to the banks of the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea of Tiberias). Historians believe this is one of the location where Jesus appeared to his disciples (after the resurrection). John 21 explains that a few of the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee trying to fish but with no success. Jesus appeared on the bank, and called out to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they did this their nets were filled with fish. When the disciples got to shore, Jesus invited them to have breakfast with him. He asked Simon Peter, “do you love me,” to which he responded, “yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then instructed Simon Peter to “feed my sheep.”
So we walked down to the shoreline and stepped foot into the Sea of Galilee. The water was so pretty and clear along the shore. Instead of sand, there were tons of rocks/pebbles along the shoreline. We picked some up and brought them home 🙂
Next we walked across the street and up the side of a mountain to a small cave. I cannot remember for the life of me who wrote about looking up from the Sea of Galilee and seeing Jesus and his disciples gathered together in a cave. But someone did.
Next we headed to Capharnaum (Capernaum). This was one of the towns Jesus lived in as an adult. He was born in Bethlehem, lived some of his childhood years in Nazareth, and then lived in Capernaum for a while as an adult. He performed many miracles here and taught in the synagogue. Simon Peter also lived in Capernaum, and (as I said before), there is a modern day church built above the remains of Peter’s house and a 4th (or 5th) century church. It’s octagonal shape is what indicates it was a church.
These are remains of houses in the city of Capernaum. In Mark 2: 1-12, we learn that Jesus was in Capernaum and many people found out and went to hear Him speak. Some men brought their paralytic friend in hopes that Jesus would heal him. They couldn’t get in the doorway, so they removed a portion of the roof and lowered the paralytic into the room with Jesus. Because of their faith, Jesus healed him. These accounts likely took place in one of these houses…
The black stones along the lower foundation are from the original synagogue which would have been in place during Jesus’ time. The white stones are from another synagogue built to replace the older one later in time (4th century AD).
At most places we visited, our tour guide Andre would sit us down under a shady tree and teach us about the significance of the location. He would explain historical facts to us as well as Biblical facts. He would refer back to Scripture and use archeological facts to back up events from the Bible. Just the thought of finding a shady spot under some trees to do our little talks felt so similar to things Jesus would have done with his disciples and followers. It is hot in Israel and the sun is brutal. Finding a shady spot to sit and listen to Jesus would have made so much sense.
After Capharnaum, we drove to a spot for lunch and a boat ride out on the Sea of Galilee. Stay tuned…