What an amazing day in the Holy Land! We spent the day around the Sea of Galilee. This is the area where Jesus and the Apostles spent the bulk of their time. There is so much to see in this region that we decided to stay for a couple of days. Even then we won’t even come close to seeing everything we want to see.
Our day started off with a visit to Magdala. This was the place where Mary Magdalene lived. Recently, a first century synagogue was discovered. Since this was an area that Jesus hung around, one can assume that at some point Jesus may have been in that little synagogue. It is amazing to think that you are in a place where Jesus may have walked. A real WOW moment, indeed.
Another amazing discovery here is a home – a home of someone well-to-do. It is believed that this may be the home of the synagogue official, perhaps a man named Jairus. Jairus’ story is very near and dear to Michelle and I, and upon seeing a small chapel dedicated to Jairus in the Magdalene Spirituality Center, I was brought to tears. Below is a picture of what may have been Jairus’ house.
Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes. This is where it is believed that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. It is very lush at the top of the mountain, with beautifully maintained gardens, a church and retreat center. There are beautiful views of the Sea of Galilee. So far on the trip we have been able to have some fairly private time at each of the sites, avoiding most of the large crowds. This was definitely not the case at the Mount of Beatitudes. It was very crowded, with pilgrims from around the world visiting. One thing you’ll notice when visiting Israel – there are tour buses everywhere!
Next was a short drive to Capernaum. This was where Peter lived and it was Jesus’ adopted hometown. There is now a large modern church built atop what may have been Peter’s home. Much of the town of Capernaum has been excavated and it is fascinating to see how folks lived in the first century.
One of the neatest things about Capernaum is the synagogue. If you’re familiar with John 6, you know that it was in the synagogue in
Capernaum that Jesus gave the Bread of Life discourse. On the site are the remains of a synagogue from the fourth century, built on top of the synagogue where Jesus gave the Bread of Life discourse. Here are some pictures of the synagogue and surrounding area.
Everywhere we go there are Scripture passages that go through my head. While in Capernaum I’m naturally reminded of the Bread of Life discourse. But I also thought of when Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and when the paralytic was lowered through the roof of a home so that Jesus could heal him. You can really picture these stories ?happening when you’re standing near where they really occurred. It is truly an awesome feeling.
I’ve always felt a great spiritual closeness with St. Peter. That’s why the next place we visited was so special. There is a sign on the side of the road which says “Primacy of Peter.” Turns out that this is the small beach where Jesus, after the resurrection, asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” This has always been one of my favorite Scripture stories. So while I was on that beach, I felt myself repeating over and over Peter’s response to the Master – “Lord, you know that I love you.” A tearful moment, indeed.
Finally, to wrap up our day, we took a ride on the Jesus Boat. The Sea of Galilee is filled with boats that are filled with tourists taking about a one hour ride on the Sea. Our boat had just a few people in it, all Americans. Of course, the Scripture passage that comes to mind is that of Jesus walking on the water. But you can also imagine Peter and his brother, James and John and the others out doing a little fishing. When I first saw the Sea of Galilee, I thought is was rather small – just a decent sized lake, really. But when you’re actually in a boat, it seems much larger.
All in all, it was a wonderful day filled with moving experiences. Soon we’ll be heading back to Jerusalem. Something tells me I’ll have a lot more to share!