Israel Journal COLLEEN TINKER
NUMBER 4 — FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2008
Sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, and Bethsaida
Today was overwhelming. Besides being VERY full, it was a very emotional day. Right now it's 5:31 PM in Israel; we've just returned to our hotel, and we have an hour and a half until dinner. Both Richard and I are totally exhausted—but in a really good way!
The day began with a short jaunt to a harbor where we boarded a "Galilee praise boat". This particular boat is the only one of the Galilee fleet owned by a Christ-follower. The owner is a musician who performs internationally besides running the praise boat.
As we boarded the boat, the sun had not yet driven away all the morning mist. The Sea of Galilee is a quite a bit below sea level, and the temperatures are fairly warm and it's somewhat humid. It was comfortable this morning—shirt-sleeve weather—and the lake was totally calm. The eastern shore was not quite visible in the mist, but the sun was shining. The boat owners were playing Michael W. Smith's "Worship Again" CD, and we climbed aboard to his singing "Breathe".
For some reason finding myself on the Sea of Galilee, seeing the hills around it, seeing the sun and the morning mist just as Jesus and the apostles had seen it countless times, totally overwhelmed me. In fact, it seemed to overwhelm the whole group.
Before we began moving, however, because we were Americans, they raised the USA flag and played the "Star Spangled Banner" before we left the dock.
After they loosed the moorings, they put the Michael W. Smith music back on and just let us "be". Many simply sat and stared at the sea; some of us climbed onto the bow and took pictures, fighting tears. Eventually we all sat down and just remembered what we knew of Jesus and the Sea of Galilee. I kept thinking of His calming the storm and retreating to pray near the lake.
Finally the music stopped, and Gary Inrig stood in front of us and said he wanted us just to experience being quiet on the lake, and they cut the motor. In absolute silence the boat floated in the calm water, and the exquisite beauty of the water and the green trees near the shore, the dry Mediterranean hills rising above the valley, and the city of Tiberius gleaming in the morning sun on one hillside was inexplicably moving.
I realized that Jesus had looked at those hills, and He had prayed for the people He had come to save. He had prayed for His disciples and for Himself, and He had asserted His authority over the elements He created: water, wind, and the laws of physics—when he calmed the storm and walked on water.
Gary finally opened his Bible and taught the passage from Mark and John where Jesus calmed the storm on the lake as the terrified disciples cried for help. Here is a synopsis of his main points:
Storms are an inevitable part of life.
Storms come even when Jesus is in the boat. The disciples were in that boat in obedience to Jesus' command—not disobedience—yet the storm still came.
Storms come to expose our lack of faith and trust. The disciples were expert fishermen and sailors. That storm revealed the place where their expertise could not manage. The storm was out of their control, and they were afraid.
Jesus said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" I don't sense my true lack of faith until the storm comes.
The storms don't just expose us, they reveal the Lord. Suddenly the disciples understood Jesus in a new say. "Who is this man, that even the winds and the waves obey him?"
Storms enlarge our vision of Jesus. Jesus had told the disciples to go to the other side of the lake. They actually got where Jesus told them to go—they just didn't get there the way they expected to get there!
After Gary spoke, the boat owner, Daniel Carmel, and his keyboardist led us in some worship songs. He specializes in taking well-known worship songs and translating them into Hebrew. We sang three songs, and I can't remember the name of the first one right now, but the last two were "Our God Is An Awesome God", and "Amazing Grace."
Beatitudes and Peter's Commission
The combination of being on the Sea of Galilee singing worship and praise was simply overwhelming. But we came back to shore, and we had to be off to the next thing. We went to the Mount of Beatitudes. It has been made into a "shrine" with a really beautiful basilica which is run by an Italian order of nuns. While we were allowed to go into the church and even to take pictures, the highlight of that stop was standing under a tree on the hill above the basilica while Gary recited the Beatitudes and the verses following them as well. Hearing those words spoken in the warm sunlight with the Sea of Galilee visible was moving. I became more aware than ever that no matter how we try to enshrine the "holy", it falls flat.
Only God is holy, and He reveals Himself through His own Word. Seeing a lovely church and beautiful grounds is great, but it is the word of God delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit who reveals Jesus that makes truth and reality come alive.
The next place we visited was also dominated by a church—this one Orthodox—but again, the power was not in the church or the relic of stone inside that marked the traditional spot where Jesus ate for the last time with His disciples after His resurrection. Rather, the reality of Jesus' last meal with His disciples came alive as we stood on the rocky shore of Galilee while Gary read us and taught on the passage where Jesus called Peter to his work of feeding His lambs.
After the three questions, "Do you love me?", Peter finally said to Jesus, "You know all things. You know I love you." Gary pointed out that Peter realized his own sinfulness fully when he realized Jesus' greatness. It was not in Jesus (or anyone else) pointing out his sin that Peter fully humbled himself and repented; it was by realizing Jesus' greatness and true glory that he recognized his own sinfulness.
I dipped my hand into the warm Galilee water, and I found two perfect shells among the shore rocks which I'm taking home with me. Jesus has allowed me to see what He saw, but the overwhelming reality is that He is not more with me there than He is any other time. He is consistent. I am the one who ebbs and flows with Him!
The account of Jesus asking Peter if he loved him occurred at the end of the surprise breakfast Jesus prepared for the disciples. They had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Jesus appeared on the shore, but the disciples couldn't yet identify Him through the morning mists (easy to understand after seeing the huge lake in the early morning). When the disciples responded to Jesus' telling them to cast on the right side, they caught a net full of fish. Then they recognized Him.
Jesus had already prepared a fire and bread was laid out. He just needed some of their fish to finish breakfast. This was the third time He had appeared to His disciples after the resurrection.
We visited the site of Capernaum—a city which is no longer inhabited. It was at Capernaum that Jesus demonstrated His Messiah-ship and His authority over the powers only God controls: it was there he first cast out an evil spirit, it was there he taught in the synagogue and everyone was astonished because he did not speak as the scribes and Pharisees but as one having authority; it was there that he healed Peter's mother-in-law, and it was at Capernaum that he raised Jairus' daughter from the dead.
Jesus demonstrated his authority over the powers of darkness, over Scripture, over the realm of physical health, and over the power of death. Yet the people were hardened, and Capernaum was one of the three cities about which Jesus cried, Woe to you, Corazin and Nazareth and Capernaum—if the miracles performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Gommorah, they would have believed. How much worse it will be for you than for them.
The ruins of a Jewish synagogue are being excavated in Capernaum, and there are also the ruins of a foundation of a house that archeologists speculate may have been Peter's house.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant near Capernaum that specializes in Galilee fish. We ate a salad bar (Israel-style with typical salads consisting of finely-cut lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, various kinds of cabbage, roasted vegetables, and always the inevitable hummus and pita bread). The main course was a whole tapia-type fish, breaded, roasted, and served with the head still on it. We had a lady at our table who hailed from Louisiana, and she dug in and showed us how to flake the soft fish right off the bones. It was both delicious and interesting…very different from the meals we eat at home!
Last stop: Bethsaida
The actual site of Bethsaida has been recently discovered, and an archeological dig currently is going on there. The Valley of Bethsaida has been identified for years, but now there is an actual site known to be the home of the real city. Again, this place is beautiful and evocative. The trees and the afternoon sun warmed the stone foundations behind the roped off dig areas, and there was a shelter on the side of a hill where we could sit and gaze over the valley toward the Sea of Galilee.
Bethsaida is where Jesus healed the blind man in two stages: the first time He spit on his eyes, and the man said he could see people walking around like trees. Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes again, and then he could see fully. Gary told us that theologians have speculated for years over the reason for that two-part healing, and it seems likely is was a demonstration of the disciples partial understanding of who He was—demonstrated by Peter's identifying Him as the Son of God—but not fully realizing who He was until after the resurrection. Further, this partial understanding represented the Israelites' situation as well. Also, Bethsaida is where Jesus fed the 5,000.
The Sea of Galilee will always be a significant memory for me; the Lord Jesus was so gracious to be so powerfully present with us all on that boat this morning. He let us know how real and close He is, and He made His own word come alive and was in the worship we sang to Him. Jesus is real; He is alive; He became a man not primarily to be our example but to take away our sin.
We are alive in Him because He came and lived in these dry hills and hot summers and performed His ministry mostly in the area of Galilee.
It makes me so happy to be able to share these experiences with you, my brothers and sisters, who have also been rescued by God from your own deep bondage. The freedom we have in Jesus is the freedom from our sin and from the curse of the law. We are free to call God our Father, and we are free to approach the throne of grace without fear.
In Jesus, we are free indeed.
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