May - June 2015
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  • Day31

    Lighting up Jerusalem

    June 6, 2015 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 70 °F

    Our final night in the city. We leave at 5:30 to catch our flight back to the states. This light show has been all over the Old City for the past few nights. Sorry for the bad cell phone photos. :)

  • Day30

    Returning to Jersualem

    June 5, 2015 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 59 °F

    Last field day of the trip. Tomorrow, we return to Jerusalem for one final exam, then one more free day and then we’re off to the airport to return home. I can’t wait to see Carol and Sam and all my friends, but my heart is heavy thinking about leaving this place. It’s been such an important trip for all of us here. Carol’s been telling me “You need to go, you need to go,” and I knew that I did, but frankly, I didn’t know that I needed it this bad. It is not an overstatement to say that I will never read my Bible the same again. As I mentioned the last time I posted, it put flesh and muscle on Jesus, and all the humanity that gets erased from our Bibles comes pouring out in this beautiful country.

    Let me share a little insight in that vein from yesterday. Judeans (people from area around Jerusalem) saw Galileans (people from the area around Galilee) as unsophisticated people with imprecise language and suspect religious commitment. Perhaps something equivalent to our modern-day “redneck.” As I said yesterday, the area of Galilee is the place Jesus called home. If you think about that, it changes the way you would read so many previously unnoticed passages. Think of Peter standing around the fire as he denies Jesus. “We can tell you’re from Galilee because of the way you talk.” Do you hear it? As you read through the gospels, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear this pattern repeated over and over.

    Remember Nathaniel who says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” At first blanch, it might look like he holds the same condescending attitude toward Galileans, but Nathaniel is from a small town, (Cana) not too far from, nor too different from, Nazareth. It almost seems as if Nathaniel subscribes to the label that had been placed on all the Jews from that region. Self-deprecation is part of his vocabulary, and he seems to own the prejudice.

    If that’s the case, then Jesus not only had to overcome general disbelief in the true nature of His calling (namely Messiah), but he also had to overcome a prejudice that saw him as a lower-class citizen.

    When you walk through the streets of a Greco-Roman Decapolis such as Sephoris or Beth She’an, and you see the beautiful marble columns, the paved streets, incredible mosaics, public latrine system, shops, water, 7000 seat theater, you can just hear the Roman way of thinking screaming for your attention. “Come here, let us show you what we are capable of!” And you jaw drops as you walk through their spectacular cities and entertain yourself with their offerings.

    And then there’s this dirty Shepherd, hailing from hickville, stirring up a ruckus. He only has a few friends and doesn’t last very long. He ends up dying on a cross. Maybe you heard of him. Or maybe, you didn’t even notice.
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  • Day29

    Lower Galilee

    June 4, 2015 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 86 °F

    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.
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  • Day28

    Sea of Galilee

    June 3, 2015 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 93 °F

    Almost no time this morning except a quick run-down of where we went yesterday. Reflections will have to come later. Hazor, Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Ridge (OT Bashan) and then on to Azeka (I think... or is it Aphek? The names start to blend a little bit..) where I write from. By far, this is the most luxurious site we've been to. We're right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, complete with a beautiful man-made, white sand beach (reminiscent of Herod?). We were all swimming and having fun last evening, then went back down for a night swim around 10:30. Swimming at night on the Sea of Galilee? It's more like a Hawaiian vacation!

    Which is why I'm glad we get another night here. :)

    More later. I've got a boat to catch.
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