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Posts Tagged ‘Mount of Beatitudes’

In 2014 we were fortunate to travel to Israel with a group from our church.  I enjoy learning about history and I am an avid student of geography.  Visiting the places where Jesus lived, walked, and taught was a dream come true.  And while I have studied the bible for over 30 years, being there made it come alive in a new and vibrant way.  This was just before the Arab uprising which stopped travel for several days.  As we progress through Holy Week for the next several days I will share pictures and stories from that trip.  To set the stage for Holy Week I will concentrate upon the trip prior to our Jerusalem visit today.

The three days prior to Jerusalem were spent in Galilee.  We visited Capharnaum, where Jesus was based through His time of ministry, as well as many traditional sites such as the Mount of Beatitudes, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Church of the Primacy of Peter where Jesus commissioned Peter to “Feed My sheep”.  An over-riding impression of Galilee was peaceful.  It was easy to picture Jesus walking through this land, ministering to people, healing, delivering, and teaching.  Galilee is fairly rural.  In Galilee the land is dotted with small villages surrounded by lots of fields and open spaces.  It is different from the US where rural often means a single farm surrounded by it’s fields.  I don’t remember seeing any homes remote from others.

When visiting places of historic consequence, I like to imagine what it was like at that time in history.  That means you often have to look past a lot of what has been added as well as seeing through the revisionist history.  Fortunately in the Holy Land you have two major benefits.  First, there is much about the land that has not changed dramatically.  Being such a highly contested area, there has been much ebb and flow to who is in charge, but not a tremendous amount of development that has significantly changed the land.  One of the most significant changes is that modern horticultural techniques have made the land bloom and grow more prolifically than ever, however this has not resulted in significant development and growth… at least not in Galilee.  Along the Mediterranean Coastline, yes, but not so much in Galilee.  The second reason it is perhaps easier to get the feel of what it was like 2000 years ago is that we have the most accurate living document from antiquity to consult when we read the bible.  The bible is far and away the most widely published and read document in history.  And unlike all other ancient documents, the bible can be compared to extant manuscripts from the first century showing the accuracy of what we read today.

One small detail.  I will refer to the Sea of Galilee by its traditional name from the scripture of Sea of Galilee.  However it is technically a fresh water lake.  Water flows in particularly from the snow melt and springs of Mount Hermon and it flows out by way of the Jordan River.

 

CAPHARNAUM

Matthew 4:13 tells us that Jesus moved to Capharnaum.  It was in this area that Jesus called Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, James, and his brother John.  (Matthew 4:18-22).  It was in this area that Jesus got into a fishing boat and taught the people as they lined the shore.  From this shoreline Jesus would climb into a boat with His disciples and travel to different places around the lake to teach, to heal, and to get away for quiet time with the Father.

Jesus' home during His ministry years.

Jesus’ home during His ministry years.

Ruins in Capharnaum.

Ruins in Capharnaum.

One of the stories set in Capharnaum is found in Matthew 8:5-13.  A Roman Centurion comes to Jesus asking for healing on behalf of his servant.  The Centurion’s faith in Jesus is so strong that Jesus is “amazed.”  (See verse 10)

Aviel, our guide, provides background on the ruins of the synagogue we are standing in.  Archeologists put the timing of this synagogue to around the 1st century meaning it is possible this was one of the places Jesus worshipped and taught in.  The construction cost was likely funded by a wealthy Roman centurion.

Aviel, our guide, provides background on the ruins of the synagogue we are standing in. Archeologists put the timing of this synagogue to around the 1st century meaning it is possible this was one of the places Jesus worshipped and taught in. The construction cost was likely funded by a wealthy Roman centurion.

The shore of the Sea of Galilee in Capharnaum.

The shore of the Sea of Galilee in Capharnaum.

 

MOUNT OF BEATITUDES

On a sea side hill about a mile from Capharnaum is the commonly accepted location of the Mount of Beatitudes (See Matthew 5-7).  A small church was erected in that location and visitors like ourselves come to walk where Jesus walked and see what Jesus saw.  We were there in early spring and everything was nice and green.  We were told that the beginning of April moves into the dry season and shortly browns and tans would be the predominant coloring.  As you can see, it was fresh, colorful, and alive.

 

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View southeast from the Mount of Beatitudes.  Mount Arbel is the peak just left of top center.

View southeast from the Mount of Beatitudes. Mount Arbel is the peak just left of top center.

View west from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View west from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View eastward from the Mount of Beatitudes.

View eastward from the Mount of Beatitudes.

 

Church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

Church on the Mount of Beatitudes.

View up to the church on the top of the hill that is the likely location of the Mount where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, including the beatitudes.

View up to the church on the top of the hill that is the likely location of the Mount where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, including the beatitudes.

 

CHURCH OF THE PRIMACY OF SAINT PETER

The Church of the Primacy of Peter sits on the water’s edge on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, a little below the Mount of Beatitudes.  This location is believed to be the same one described in John 21.  This makes sense since it is only a mile or two east of Capharnaum where the disciples would have likely headed after Jesus’ crucifixion.

Reading John 21 again, I am struck by how Jesus responds to the disciples, especially Peter.  First Jesus sought Peter and these other disciples out after they had gone back to Galilee.  Jesus had told Mary of Magdalene to tell the disciples He would see them again in Galilee.  In my mind I suspect they had “hung out” for a little while before they resorted to what was familiar to them – fishing.   Second He met them where they were and He met their immediate need.  An entire night without any success was instantly turned into overflowing success immediately following obedience to Jesus’ command.  Third He feeds them.  Notice that He already had fish and bread ready for them when they came ashore.  Finally the way Jesus restores Peter is telling.

Peter denied Jesus three times.  Jesus asks Peter three times does he love Him.  With each response I can sense Peter’s growing desperation to assure Jesus of his devotion.  I can’t prove it, but I believe that Peter carried with him a large burden of guilt because of his denial of Jesus.  There are not a lot of activities that are recorded in all four gospels.  When they are they are vitally important in God’s message to the church. Peter’s denial is one of them.

When Jesus forgives us, our sins are literally transferred to the ledger of “debt fully paid”.  We do not ever have to go back and pay that debt.  This is hard for some people to accept though.  As proud and brash as Peter was, it is likely that his sense of guilt was strong and would hinder the plans Jesus had for him.  Jesus’ three questions and three directives were directly aimed at demolishing the foot hold the enemy had in Peter’s life through that guilt.  Finally Jesus speaks prophetically to Peter to let him know that he will again face a choice to deny or follow Jesus and this time he will follow to the very end.

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The Primacy of Peter chapel.

The Primacy of Peter chapel.

Inside the chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Inside the chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Statue symbolizing Jesus reinstating Peter into leadership in the church.

Statue symbolizing Jesus reinstating Peter into leadership in the church.

The outside chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter.  We enjoyed a wonderful quite time as a church here.

The outside chapel at the Church of the Primacy of Peter. We enjoyed a wonderful quite time as a church here.

Having Church on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on the grounds of the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

Having Church on the shore of the Sea of Galilee on the grounds of the Church of the Primacy of Peter.

 

JORDAN RIVER

The place we visited on the Jordan River and had baptism was within a mile or so from where the Sea of Galilee empties into the Jordan River which flows the 75 or so miles south to the Dead Sea.  We were told that the lower Jordan River is fairly polluted due to the heavy use of the lower Jordan River for agriculture, but I don’t have any confirmation of that.  As you can see by the pictures it was a beautiful location.  The Jordan River below the Sea of Galilee for most of the year is a small, meandering stream rather than a large flowing river.  I find it so like our Lord to take a small and relatively insignificant river and infuse it with eternal meaning as the site of John the Baptist’s ministry and Jesus’ baptism.  The same is true of Galilee in general.  There are no large and prosperous cities.  The people seem to live quiet, modest lives.  It is such an understated place for the God of the universe to perform the vast majority of His earthly ministry.  But that was His plan and purpose.

Pilgrims coming up out of the Jordan River.

Pilgrims coming up out of the Jordan River.

The baptism site at Yardnit on the Jordan River in Galilee.

The baptism site at Yardenit on the Jordan River in Galilee.

Jordan River downstream from Baptism location.

Jordan River downstream from Baptism location.

Pilgrims awaiting the baptism at the edge of the Jordan River

Pilgrims awaiting the baptism at the edge of the Jordan River.

 

TIBERIUS

We stayed two nights Tiberius, the city built by Herod Antipas during this time and named after the Roman emperor.  For a time it was the capital of Galilee.  While much of Galilee was decidedly Jewish, there were Roman cities built during these years such as Tiberius and Sepphoris.  These cities were built from the excessive taxation of the local citizenry and strove to create a Roman feel in the backwoods province of Galilee.  These were pagan cities of the foreign rulers built to impress upon the local population the dominance of Rome and perhaps bring the influence of Roman culture.

View north from our hotel room in Tiberius.

View north from our hotel room in Tiberius.  I never was sure what that flare was, but it reminded me of Jesus teaching that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:14)  About four hours after this picture we were on that Mount which happens to be just under the city shining in this picture.

Tiberius from our hotel.

Tiberius from our hotel.

View back at Tiberius from out on the Sea of Galilee.

View back at Tiberius from out on the Sea of Galilee.

Demonstration of the traditional "fishing" on the Sea of Galilee.

Demonstration of the traditional “fishing” on the Sea of Galilee.

One of our tour boats on the Sea of Galilee.

One of our tour boats on the Sea of Galilee.

The fishing fleet returning at days end to Tiberius.

The fishing fleet returning at days end to Tiberius.

The hills north of the Sea of Galilee

The hills north of the Sea of Galilee

Remnants of the morning shower that rolled across Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee at daybreak.

Remnants of the morning shower that rolled across Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee at daybreak.  It was so cool to wake up to this flash shower that quickly rolled down off the hill above Tiberius and onto the Lake.  It reminded me of the stories of Jesus calming storms such as the one found in Matt 8:23-27.

 

Over the next few days I will share a few other pictures and stories from Israel.  One of my biggest take-aways from the trip was that the Lord who is powerful beyond comprehension chose such a quiet and relatively non-descript area to send His Son.  We are talking about Jesus’ entire life and ministry spent in an area the size of New Jersey.  Today over 2 billion people all around the world call themselves Christians.  Amazing!  But that is not all.  Wherever you are, whatever you have done the same God who chose this unlikely piece of land to fulfill His amazing plan is asking you to be His and to allow Him to use you and your life for His glory.  He wants to pour His life into and through you just as He poured His life into and through Galilee 2000 years ago.  And just like He is not through using this Holy Land in His plan, He is not through using you either.  That is awesome beyond words!  Thank you Lord God Almighty!!!

Be blessed today and be a blessing.

 

 

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