Lower GalileeJune 4, 2015 in Israel
We had some extra time to sleep in this morning, so I set my alarm for 6:30, thinking I'd get caught up on some sleep. It's 5:45 and I'm wide awake. I hate it when that happens.
Yesterday we spent some time exploring lower Galilee. This doesn't mean the southern side of the Lake of Galilee, but rather a place that's lower in elevation from upper Galilee, a mountain range to our north. It's mainly around the north side of the lake even though it's called "Lower." That might be hard to visualize, but there it is. We started the day with a boat ride across the Sea (Lake) of Galilee (I guess this is a must do for tourists). There was actually a pretty cool moment when the boat guy stopped in the middle of the lake and played super old, super cheesy worship songs and our whole group lifted voices and eyes to heaven in praise. It was another one of those moments, you know? Being a part of the "the church" on the Sea of Galilee, singing praise to the Creator in the middle of the lake. Even though our voices echoed off of nothing, we were heard.
We disembarked on the north side of the lake and made our way up to Capernaum. This is the town that, on a few occasions in the gospels, is called "Jesus own town" and his "home." It is likely the home of Peter and his family. It was here that Jesus healed the man lowered by his faithful friends through a broken ceiling. The conversation of the day was a converasation about authority. "By whose authority" angry men ask. Jesus taught by an authority that certainly wasn't given to him by the Jewish leaders of the day, so they want to know. We know who gave Jesus the authority to speak, but that's because we witnessed the transfiguration along wih Peter and John. They hadn't, so it was a legtimate question. Jesus answered the question by doing what only God could do: forgive and heal a lame man and send him walking back through the thick crowds.
Mt. Arbel is a high and very rocky mountain that juts up into the skyline on the west shore of the lake, near the town of Tiberias. I'll post pictures when I have my computer back. You can see it from the north and east shores. It doesn't necessarily dominate the skyline, but it stands out in sharp relief because of its craggy and imposing appearance. When our professor said, "We're going up there!" I got pretty excited. Mt. Arbel is an important site to modern Israelis because it was the site of another Jewish revolt where Roman soldiers had to work long and hard to oust a group of rebels holde up in mountain caves and on sides of cliffs.
For Christians, the site doesn't hold specific Biblical reference, but our professor made a strong case that two important, geographically undetermined events happened here. He believes that both the sermon on the mount and the Great Commission happened on this spot. As we sat on top of the 1200 foot cliff, it was not hard to picture Jesus looking across the lake to Hippus, a Roman city that appealed in its worldliness, set high on a hill and saying, "No, YOU, oh, Israel, are the city on the hill." It's not hard to picture him looking down at the village of Magda (home of Mary Magdalene on the west shore of the lake) and telling people, "You are the salt of the earth." (Magda was a town that specialized in the preservation of fish). It's not hard to picture him looking down at the International highway from these heights and using it to tell his disciples that they were to take the gospel to all corners of the earth. I have loved watching as Jesus took the things that surrounded Him and taught theology to his friends.
That's what I have loved so much about this experience. There isn't much out here in Lower Galilee that is "high church," with airs and pretentions. Jesus became more of a man to me out here. Like a real flesh and muscle man. I think back home, I have a better grip on the God-side of Jesus. I can picture him floating above the water and healing people. But Jesus didn't float everywhere. He walked on caloused and dirty feet. It's no easy hike to the top of Mt. Arbel. You don't get to the top without sweating and panting.
You don't walk these hills and swim these seas without getting the scent of human all over you.Read more