By Steve Carpenter
What a beautiful place we are staying–a guest house overlooking the beautiful Sea of Galilee!
We began our day with a walk down the Mount of Beatitudes, along a path through the fields pondering some of Jesus’ parables en route to a cave where he may have retreated to pray. We reached the chapel of the Primacy of Peter located on the site where Jesus restored Peter by asking him three times “Do you love me more than these?” Kevin led us in a reflective exercise as we pondered Jesus’ words for each of our lives.
From there we traveled a short distance to Capernaum, the village which Jesus called home during his active ministry as recorded in the Gospels.
It was exciting to be in the place where Jesus and Peter lived and ministered. We saw the ruins of Peter’s house with a Byzantine Church built above it. From Capernaum we made a quick stop at Chorazin (Korazim) National Park, one of the three cities Jesus condemned in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13 There we saw the remains of a Jewish Synagogue. Kursi National Park was next on our itinerary. There we saw the ruins of a Byzantine Church built in the fifth century C.E. on the probable site of Jesus’ healing of the demoniac. You’ll remember Jesus cast the demons out and they entered a herd of pigs which ran into the lake and drowned. The church floor is an intricate mosaic design which have been amazingly preserved. It is the largest known Byzantine Church in the Holy Land.
We continued on our way, circumnavigating the entire Sea of Galilee, with a brief stop at the Jordan River baptismal site on southern end of the lake. Many are baptized there, although it is most likely that Jesus himself was baptized by John further to the south. The Church of Multiplication (Heptapegon) was our next stop in the city of Tiberius. This is the place where Jesus feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. There is a beautiful church built over the rock where many believe Jesus placed the bread, blessed it and gave it to the people.
Our final stop was the Church of the Beatitudes, located on the Mount of Beatitudes on the same grounds where we are staying. What a wonderful experience to reflect on what Robert called “the most radical sermon ever preached.” As most of you know, the Beatitudes are especially important to Mennonites. There we reflected them (Matthew 5-7) before ending our day with Vespers led by Robert. He included a very unusual Arabic song called “The Drink Sent Down” which includes the thought provoking line “We proudly wore our borrowed clothes before we saw our naked secret.” Such are the sites we visit and the mysteries we ponder on our pilgrimage through the Holy Land.
p.s. Yesterday we left Nazareth, stopping in the ancient Roman city of Sepphoris where Jesus may have worked. There we sat in an ancient 4,000 seat amphitheater and saw the beautiful “Mona Lisa of Galilee” mosaic.
From there, we explored and had lunch at the 700 member Lavi (Lion) Kibbutz, an impressive complex begun in tents in 1949 which now boasts a beautiful hotel, farm, and furniture factory. After a drive to Galilee we climbed the cliffs of Arbel where we saw a spectacular view of the sea below. We not only saw the Sea, we sailed upon it and Sue conducted a brief memorial service for her late husband James F. Harding and scattered his ashes on the water.
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