Sunday, and Monday went by very quickly! We spent these days in the region of Galilee.
We began Sunday morning with worship on the beach by the Sea of Galilee. We sang, prayed, and heard from a man named Azar who was works at the Bible college in Nazareth. He shared about his story, and the work the college is doing, asking us to pray for him, the students of the college and the whole Christian community in the region.
After worshipping in the shores of the sea, we headed out to the Golan Heights, a section of present day Israel that was annexed from Syria in 1974-5. From our overlook we could see in to Syria, including nearby towns, and a UN base that was right on the border. At the overlook, we were closer to Damascus than to Jerusalem. It was sobering to look at such beautiful landscape and think of the horrors committed there in the recent days.
Our next stop was the Temple of Pan, Banias. There were ruins of a number of temples from a number of periods. The temples we saw were dedicated to Greek and Roman gods. One site was a place of human sacrifice, which is one of the reasons it is referred to as the Gates of Hell by Jesus as he’s talking to his disciples in Matthew 16:13-20. It was amazing to see how Jesus took a pagan temple, a place of horror and redeemed it, announcing to his disciples for the first time that he is the Messiah.
After that we headed to Tel Dan, a fantastic archaeological site where we saw the Abrahamic gate. This is a gate that Abraham himself would have entered through!
We finished Sunday with the Church of the Beatitudes and the Church of the Multiplication. As we drove up to the church of the beatitudes we saw a natural amphitheatre like setting that would have worked perfectly for Jesus to deliver the Sermon on the Mount.
It was a packed day, a day where we were reminded of the state of our world, but a day where we were shown, wonderfully, the love of Christ.
Monday was another packed day.
We began the day at Capernaum. We saw incredible ruins of homes there, including what is traditionally believed to be Peter’s house. It was incredible being in the place where Jesus spent time with his disciples and called them to follow him.
From there we headed up to Nazareth. We visited the church of the Annunciation, commemorating the angel announcing to Mary that she was to give birth to Jesus. It was an incredible building with art from all around the world depicting Mary and Jesus.
We next visited Nazareth Village. It was, jokingly referred to as Medieval times for the Bible. We ate a “traditional” meal of hummus, bread, chicken, and apples with a delicious date spread. The village was set up with a working farm, a carpentry shop, a weaver, and a replica of a synagogue. We heard the passage from Isaiah read that Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth from Luke 4:16-30.
We headed from there up Mount Precipice, which also plays a key role in the Luke 4 reading, it’s the spot where the crowds wanted to throw Jesus off the mountain and stone him, until he got away. The other amazing thing, was, from the top of Mount Precipice, we could see Mount Tabor, the traditional spot of the Transfiguration. That’s one of my favourite stories of Jesus with his disciples, and to see this mountain so clearly was amazing.
Our last stop was in Magdala, a tiny village on the Sea of Galilee. Recently (2009) they uncovered the remains of the town. Most striking was the discovery of the synagogue, quite likely a place where Jesus taught.
It was another incredible day focusing on the life and public ministry of Jesus. One of the most surprising things for me, personally, was the landscape. I tend to think of Jesus and his disciples trekking through flat desert-like land as they travelled between towns. The land is hilly and quite lush. Being here and travelling around to all these towns certainly gives me a better perspective as I read Scripture.
My apologies for the lack of pictures in this post. We’ll edit at some point and add some, but the internet has been spotty, so it’s difficult to get pictures up.