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Notes from the Sea of Galilee
On February 15, 2014
Thursday, February 13, 2014 – The entire day focused on Jesus’ ministry around the Sea of Galilee. The sites we visited have been traditionally recognized by pilgrims and researched by scholars.
Church of the Multiplication- the site where Jesus fed the 5000. Mosaic on the floor of the church commemorates this. Our guide explained that archeologists have studied the area and found that there are many naturally occurring amphitheaters around the Sea and confirmed that it would have been possible for a man to address a crowd that size. After a brief tour and devotion inside the church we walked to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and celebrated Eucharist. Our worship was made even more poignant by the windy weather which created white capped waves on the water. It was easy to see why the apostles would have been frightened when their boat started taking on water & imagine their relief when Jesus calmed the water. The experience was enough to bring tears to your eyes.
The Church of Peter’s Primacy (also known as Mensa Christi which means the Table of Christ). This is the site where Jesus commissioned Peter to “Feed my lambs and look after my sheep.” A church has been built around the rock on which Jesus and Peter were standing when this occurred.
Kursi – Jesus exorcised the demons from a man and the demons transferred to the herd of swine standing nearby. The swine then ran away from the surrounding crowd and into the sea. The Christian church on this site was built in the 6th century and the ruins visible today were discovered during a highway project. In addition to the walls and columns, workers uncovered many beautiful mosaic tile floors, a baptistery and an oil press and some skeletons (which confirmed that it was a Christian church). Today the site is part of an Israeli national park.
Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee
Due to the high wind on the west side of the Sea, the launching point for our boat ride was changed to the opposite bank. Our drive to the new point took us on a road which bordered the Golan Heights, the buffer area between Syria & Israel. We arrived at Kibbutz Ein-Gev, on the southeast side of the Sea. Once afloat, we were surprised when the boat crew raised the American flag & played the national anthem to start our trip. Our cruise around the sea was lovely and upon our return we travelled to another kibbutz. There we ate lunch and toured the museum which holds the hull of a fishing boat dated to the time of Jesus. It contains 12 different kinds of wood, indicating a long working life and many repairs.
The Mount of the Beatitudes
This is the site where it is believed that Jesus delivered the message found in Matthew 5:1-12….”Blessed are the…” Today the site is maintained by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary as a retreat center with over 100 rooms for guests. The spectacular gardens and view of the lake provide a tranquil place for pilgrims and those on a spiritual journey. Everywhere we have travelled, we have encountered other groups worshipping in a variety of languages. At this stop, a group of pilgrims filled the sanctuary with their beautiful voices and reverent worship.
Our last stop for the day was Capernaum – Jesus’ second home after being forced to leave Nazareth. The excavations here were the most extensive we have seen. They have uncovered what is thought to be Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. This building was later expanded to include worship space and other churches have since been built on that site. Today, the Roman Catholic Church has a glass bottomed church directly over the site so that the ruins are visible to worshippers. On the same site, we were able to view the ruins of a late 4th century “White Synagogue” which was built on the remains of the “Synagogue of Jesus”.
Almost every hour throughout the day, someone would say “I can’t believe I’m here” or otherwise express wonder. Visiting the sites of Jesus’ ministries along the Sea of Galilee has made the Bible come to life for us in a new way. It’s amazing to think that we have another 7 days of “I can’t believe….” experiences.
Tagged with: Grace in the Holy Land