Again, there was so much to take in on this our second full day in Israel. This morning we visited the remains of the ancient city of Dan (though were not totally convinced that the remains were all that ancient) where we saw the headwaters of the Jordan River. We took a beautiful walk through this, now, national park.
Next, we stopped at Caesarea Philippi, which, interestingly enough, is different from Caesarea. To be honest, I wasn’t feeling great by the time we got there so I may have missed a few things but in essence there is a HUGE rock there that is simply stunning if you are into rocks. By “rock” I mean basically an entire hillside of solid rock, complete with a huge cave. It was here that Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16:15 “Who do you say that I am?” After Peter replies “You are Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 16:18 “Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. . .” I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t mean the physical rock that we were looking at but it sure makes for a cool analogy.
One of my favorite stops of the day was at Capernaum. Here we saw remains from the old city of Capernaum and the synagogue where Jesus healed the man possessed by a demon. The story about this is in Luke 4:31-37. The remains we saw were actually built on top of the original synagogue from the time of Jesus but was very cool. There is also a church there close by that was built so that it basically hovers above the remains of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. If you keep reading in Matthew 4 down to verse 41 you’ll see the story of how Jesus left the synagogue and went to this home and healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law and continued that day healing many people. We had a time of prayer and scripture reading at this site which made the whole story just come alive.
We ate lunch by the Sea of Galilee. I still have to pinch myself to believe that I’m really here. Some of our team members chose to have what is referred to as St. Peter fish for lunch. Our guide said it tasted a lot like tilapia but even better. This was no filet of fish, by the way. We’re talking whole fish, complete with head, tails and bones. I actually ordered chicken but due to my still somewhat upset stomach really ended up only eating the pita bread that came with the meal. It may be the mainstay of my diet while I’m here but I figure if the Israelites can live on manna for all those years that they wandered about in the desert, I can go a week on pita bread with no serious side effects.
After lunch, we went to the spot where Jesus taught what are now referred to as the Beatitudes. Let me just tell you that in Matthew 5:1 where is says Jesus went UP THE MOUNTAINSIDE, they aren’t kidding. It’s not like the Rocky Mountains but it’s not just a few steps up from the beach either. It was a beautiful area that is maintained by the Catholic church. I’m pretty sure it looks nothing like it did in Jesus’ day but still it’s easy to see where Jesus might have stood and taught to the masses who gathered around on the mountainside.
There was so much that we enjoyed today but I’d have to say the highlight for both John and I was at the end of the day when we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It wasn’t what I’d call stormy but still there was quite a breeze and the waves were a bit choppy. While we were on the boat we read the story of Jesus walking on water found in Matthew 14:22-32. I was a bit overcome with emotion as I gazed out on the choppy water, knowing it would have been much worse on the night when Jesus walked out on the stormy sea. And then, I began to wonder if Jesus just stepped over each wave or if he kind of jumped from the top of each wave to the next one. (Sometimes I worry about the way my brain works.) No matter how he did it I just don’t think I’ll ever forget how the sea looked today and how Jesus desires for me to keep my eyes on him when I feel like I’m sinking under the waves that this life brings.
After dinner tonight we actually went out and waded in the Sea of Galilee, now were watching the Vikings/Packers game, and tomorrow morning we’re going to get baptized in the Jordan river. What an wild sequence of events, huh?
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back at you tomorrow. I hope you don’t mind the rather lengthy posts. Besides updating you, it helps me process the day. Shalom.
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