After waking to the sound of bird songs at the kibbutz where we were staying, Becky, my roommate, turned on the television to see what was on. She found a channel that had an exercise program. The group was outside in a lovely area. Then they showed the instructor’s mom coming to class on a camel! As they continued with their lunges, stretches, and such, every so often they would superimpose the image of the camel watching the class! We had a lot of fun with that.
The Mount of Beatitudes
Our first stop for the day after breakfast was the Mount of Beatitudes Church. This area along the Sea of Galilee has natural features that make it a great amphitheater allowing a speaker’s voice to be carried over a large area. The hills leading to this site were filled with wildflowers.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was likely presented in this area. You can read His words in Matthew 5-7. As He talks about God’s standards for holiness, it is clear that there is no way we can measure up. This is why His death on the cross is so significant. He lived a sinless life that fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law and gave Himself as a sacrifice for us so that we might have eternal life!!
Upon leaving the church area, we proceeded to Tiberias to embark on a Galilee Worship Boat for a wonderful song service. Daniel, the pilot of the boat, was raised in Israel by a Jewish family. He piloted boats for many tourists and as he listened to their messages and heard their worship, God worked in his heart and he became a Messianic follower of Yeshua, known to us as Jesus. His full story is on the website for the Worship Boat tours, which he owns. We had a lovely worship service out on the lake and had time for contemplation. If you are interested in hearing his music, here is a YouTube playlist.
On the lake, it was amazing to consider that Jesus had been on those same waters. That this is where he called Peter to walk out on the water in the midst of the storm (Matthew 14:22-33). It is also where Jesus calmed the storm in Matthew 8:23-27. While the waters were calm on this day, it was so incredible to imagine what it would have been like to be with Him on these very waters.
Speaking of Jesus on the boat, when I was in Israel with my husband in 1986, we stayed at Kibbutz Ginosar. Just prior to our visit, two men there had discovered a boat buried in the sand that has been dated back 2000 years, to the time of Jesus! After all this time, a museum has been erected there at the kibbutz. It houses the boat and has many details about its history. Their website tells more of the story of the boat.
Two times in Jesus’ ministry it is recorded that he took a small meal and multiplied it to feed thousands. In Matthew 14:13-21, it is recorded that He took five loaves and two fish and fed 5,000 men (not counting the women and children) with it. It is believed by some that this is the site of that miracle and there is a church here commemorating that.
There were also two recorded instances of miraculous catches of fish in the New Testament. The first occurred when Jesus called Peter to follow him (Luke 5:1-11) and the next time was at the end of His ministry, after the resurrection when the disciples had gone fishing (John 21). It is believed that the location for both of these events is Tabgha, now housing a church celebrating both events.
As a side note, while we were here, there were a couple of monks wandering around, keeping people respecting the holy place. One was wearing sunglasses and the other was talking on a cell phone. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with either of these things but it felt so out of place because as they were dressed in an “unworldly” manner, they should not have been using such modern devices. 🙂
This town is the site of much of Jesus’ ministry. It is also reported as the town that Peter lived in. Many miracles were performed here. And yet, Jesus cursed the town of Capernaum, along with a few other towns) because of the unbelief of the people. In fact, he said that it will be better for Sodom at the judgement than for these because the people there would have repented if they had seen the miracles (Matthew 11:20–24). It is, therefore, no coincidence Capernaum remains a ruin to this day.
It was here that we spent some time with introductions of the group, learning how we each ended up on the trip. One of the couples, a pastor and his wife, had never dreamed they would be able to come. And then, right before the deadline for getting funds turned in, his church told him that they wanted him to be able to experience Israel firsthand and offered to pay for the trip! Another man, a former CNN cameraman and producer, commented that when his wife invited him to come, he decided to come because he thought it would be nice to be in Israel without bullets flying at him! (I really enjoyed hearing his stories on this trip.)
There are remains of a synagogue here, though it is believed to be dated after the time of Jesus. They also believe they have located Peter’s house. This is supported by the evidence of at least two churches that have been built on this site, one as early as the first century. It was interesting to find out that there are portions outside the walls of the area belonging to this church that are basically ignored. Once the house of Peter was located, and the synagogue, they didn’t feel like they cared about anything else.
One of the things that I noticed at the various places where we saw ruined cities is the smallness of the houses and how close together they all are. None of the cities were very large, at least not the parts that have been excavated.