February 12, 2015

Day 2 in Israel: The Galilee and cradle of Jesus' ministry

Greetings Friends,

Today was another powerful day around the Sea of Galilee. I keep pinching myself when I walk out of my room and am fifty feet away from the lake where Jesus walked and taught. I've had some amazing quiet time just sitting on the shore by myself, visualizing Jesus and his disciples and the crowds listening to Him teach and placing myself in each scene. God has a way of speaking to me in those moments that is fresh and new and very rejuvenating.

The weather was not great today. It rained most of the day until our last stop. I realized when I started the day that, even though we we're going to locations that I had been to on my previous trip to Israel, today would be different experiences and it was unfair to try and replicate whatever nostalgic recollection I had of my precious time here. That was a helpful attitude to carry with me today.

That being said, I partly got my wish. While I wouldn't classify our boat ride as a 'storm', when we took our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee this morning it was raining quite hard. It was much easier to imagine just how frightened the disciples would've been in a storm in a boat much smaller than the one we were in. We were able to visit a museum in Magdala (where Mary magdalene was from) which is a fishing port on the west side of the Sea. There they have discovered a 1st century fishing boat that would've been the same kind the disciples and Jesus used to travel around the region. It's a great discovery and a cool museum.

Our boat ride was full of people from all around the world and we sang songs in English, Hebrew and Ethiopian while on the boat...very cool.

After the boat ride we headed north to the northern end of galilee and the mount of beatitudes. It is a beautiful site where u can very easily imagine Jesus given his famous, "Blessed are those who..." Sermon from Matthew 5. After that we headed down the hill to "Peter's Primacy" one of my favorite places where Jesus had breakfast with Peter after his resurrection in John 21. It is a tranquil spot on the sea where you can easily visualize Peter and the disciples fishing and catching nothing until Jesus showed up. Inside a small chapel there is a rock venerated as the place where Jesus and Peter had breakfast. Again, it was great to visualize the restoration of Peter in this place. Inside the chapels and churches here you have to be silent so it is a wonderful time of quiet reflection between guides and your buses.

We continued on to Carpernaum, the home base of Jesus' ministry in the region. Here there are 1st century remains of Peter's house where Jesus stayed and the 1st century synagogue and city where Jesus preached and lived. It was so cool to stand in the middle of a place where we know without a doubt Jesus walked and lived. It is like visitng the hometown of a friend, where you inevitably learn more about who they are and why they are that way because of where they lived.

After this we had a special lunch. I'm normally not a big fish eater but I couldn't pass up a chance to eat fish from the Galilee, St. Peter's fish. Over on my Facebook page there's a great picture of the fish and the fun I had eating it.

After lunch we swung briefly by a spot on the Jordan River where many people are baptized. But, it was a bit cold and no one in our group was being baptized, and since we had seen the fresh beginning springs of the Jordan the water there looked less appealing.

Our final stop was a new one for me on this trip: Bet Shean. Here they have just recently excavated a HUGE Greek and Roman settlement from the first few centuries after Jesus. It is a huge excavation that I didn't know was here so it was very cool to see. At the far end of the site is a large hill where the biblical city of Bet Shean was located. It is famous as a place where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were displayed after being defeated at Mt. Gilboa three miles away. While it was quite a climb it was WAY worth the effort. It had beautiful views of the roman city, the Jordan Valley and the country of Jordan off to the East. Thankfully the weather had cleared up at this point and so we could see a long ways.

We finished our day with a drive through the Jordan Valley, such a lush, green area where cows and sheep were grazing and Date Palm and Mango orchards were in abundance. Back at our hotel I was able to watch the sun set while sitting on the shore of Galilee. I had about an hour to myself to sit, pray and read through all the Gospel stories that take place in this region. It is so cool to read God's word and look up and see where it actually took place. It is an amazing feeling.

Tomorrow we leave the Galilee and our first hotel and make our way to Nazareth, Megiddo, Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea. I am looking forward to tomorrow, but only after a solid nights rest. I have been able to FaceTime Kealy and the kids and that has been really nice. They are doing well!

Until tomorrow!


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