Today was full of visiting the places that were significant to Jesus during his life and ministry. We diviated from our schedule and fit more things in today than planned, so don't necessarily get distracted by the color coding on my map from home.=)
Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee
After breakfast in Tiberias, a boat met our group on a small jetty attached the back of our hotel and gave us a ride on the Sea of Galilee. It helped put in perspective what daily life around the sea may have been like during the life of Christ. This boat ride was easily one of my favorite activities of the day, and one of the members of our group asked if we could do that every day we are here! One of the boatmen demonstrated how fishermen in the first century would cast their nets and haul in a catch, even though we were unsuccessful. Several of Jesus' apostles were fisherman, called by Jesus to follow him and become fishers of men instead. From the boat Barry and Gus pointed out the various towns and locations we would soon visit.
Visiting Kibutz Ginosar - Ancient Boat Museum
After spending some time by the north-eastern shore of Galilee, the boat turned north and docked at a museum run by a Jewish family who in 1986 discovered a boat from the first century when a drought lowered the level of the sea and revealed the vessel (they first found several nails, which indicated there may be other items of interest to find). They recovered the vessel and moved it to it's current location, where it is on display to the public. It is very likely that Jesus would have traveled across the sea in boats identical to this one. The way they uncovered, moved and preserved a vessel almost 2,000 years old is amazing. I would encourage you to go to their web site and learn more about the process they used to preserve this piece of history.
Church of the Beatitudes
The bus met us at the museum, and we traveled north and east around the shore to the Church of the Beatitudes, the traditional location of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). A church building, along with two buildings to accommodate guests, are constructed on the spot. The gardens on the property were beautiful, and several times I was reminded of things Jesus taught in his sermon. As some small birds flitted around a bush and then took flight, I couldn't help but think of Matt. 6:26 where Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
Wading in Galilee at the Church of the Primacy
When we left the Church of the Beatitudes Barry and Gus were able to squeak in a stop to The Church of the Primacy, the traditional location where some religious groups believe that Jesus appointed Peter the first pope, based on their understanding of Jesus' words in Matt. 16:13-20. So, on a large rock next to the sea a church building was constructed to commemorate this traditional site.
One of the reasons we stopped here is that at the base of the building you can wade into the Sea of Galilee! Our group went down to the water and joined the other tourists by rolling up our pants and hobbling over the rocks with our tender feet into the refreshing sea. Tiny fish nibbled at toes, we picked up small rocks and saw tiny, black snails.
Capernaum, Jesus' Home Town
If you remember, when Jesus began his public ministry he read from the prophet Isaiah in his home synagogue in Nazareth, declaring that his neighbors were witnessing the prophecies of Isaiah being fulfilled through him! When they understood that his ministry included Gentiles, they sought to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus escaped their murderous ambitions and subsequently moved to Capernaum, where he resided for the majority of his time as he taught and performed miracles in Galilee (Luke 4:16-30; Matt. 4:12-17). Because Jesus spent so much of his time in this town, it has great archaeological importance. There are so many things to share from our stop here! However, I will focus on "one" photo, which is actually a composite of two. One of the buildings that was discovered is traditionally thought to be the home of Peter! It is unearthed and visible. To protect this site, yet still make use of it, a church building/super-structure was built above the excavation. The building has a glass bottom in the center of it so you can also see down into the house underneath. The picture you see here is a picture of the church building on the top, and Peter's house from below. You can see one of the beams above the house which provides support for the building above.
Rising nearly 1,300 feet on the western side of the Sea of Galilee is Mt. Arbel. The valley that runs along the northern side of the mountain terminates at Magdala, where Mary the Magdalene is from. The valley also contains the historic road, the Via Maris (the way of the sea), which runs right along the base of Mt. Arbel, nestled between Arbel and the Mt. Nitai. During the build-up to the destruction of Jerusalem, sometime between 67-69 AD, many Jews were killed by Romans when they were removed from the mountain caves they were hiding in and then thrown from the cliffs of Arbel.
From the top of Arbel you can look north and east and see all the towns and sites we visited today. Magdala, the Kibutz Ginosar Museum, The Church of the Primacy, The Church of the Beatitudes and Capernaum. To the south you can see the city of Tiberias. To the west you can see the Horns of Hittim. To the east you can see the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee, which during the life of Jesus was the Gentile side of the sea.
Until recently, there weren't any significant archealogical finds in the area of Magdala. In 2009 that all changed! A religious group that had received permits to build a pilgrimage house in Magdala unearthed a unique artefact they named "The Magdala Stone", which in turn led to the discovery of the 7th known first century synagogue and the buried town of Magdala itself! It appears that sometime after the Roman hostilities in the late 60s AD, a mudslide from Mt. Erbal completely covered the town! The entrance to the marketplace, which had been barricaded with stones and pieces of column, was still blocked off when the archealogists uncovered it. Intact tile mosaics are still visible in the floor of the tabernacle. Some of the color on painted walls of the tabernacle have been preserved! A stone in a study area of the tabernacle with channels in each end to help hold a scroll was still present. For me, this stop was one of the highlights of the day. The gospel tells us that Jesus taught in the synagogues around Galilee. With Magdala so close to Capernaum, it is highly probable that Jesus once walked through these synagogue walls, on these tile floors, read from the scrolls stored there, preaching the good news of the kingdom to those willing to listen! I'm going to break my self-imposed restriction of one photo per location, because this one was amazing.=)
And this is what traveling all over the northern side of the Sea of Galilee will do to you!;)
Thanks for indulging me tonight! God bless you, and hopefully we'll be able to share more after our travels tomorrow!
Jeremy & Anna Dehut