Today we began our exploration of the area where Jesus chose to focus nearly his entire ministry: the north end of the Sea of Galilee. This so-called "sea" is really a gorgeous fresh-water lake some 14 miles long and 5 miles wide surrounded by fertile hills and dramatic cliffs. When you come here from the barren heat of the desert or the constant hustle of Jerusalem, it is not hard to see why Jesus would choose this place to center his mission.
Our first stop for the day was in the ancient lakeside city of Capernaum where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to follow him. Archaeologists have discovered evidence identifying the actual house of Peter and Andrew where Jesus cured Peter's mother in law and healed the paralytic who was lowered through the roof. When we read words in the Bible like "house" and "family" we automatically think of the nuclear family. In the biblical context these words are actually describing an extended family made up of a number of nuclear families, multiple generations, and people of non-blood relationships as well.
We looked into the extended family house where Jesus made his home and pondered the words he spoke when his mother and siblings tried to come and take him back home to Nazareth: "Those who do the will of God are my mother, and sisters, and brothers." We all agreed that learning to develop this kind of a missional extended family is a key component of being a disciple of Jesus and learning to live the kind of life that he lived.
After we left Capernaum we headed to Tabgha, a lush beach with seven natural springs where Jesus is believed to have fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish. In addition to visiting the reconstructed Byzantine church with the famous fish and loaves mosaic commemorating the miracle, we also gathered at an idyllic open air chapel on the edge of the lake for a Communion service. There Mike Breen taught on the power of God which is released when we offer up the broken pieces of our lives and place ourselves in his hands.
After a delicious falafel and ice cream bar lunch in the world's smallest restaurant we headed up the hill above Tabgha to the beautiful site of the Church of the Beatitudes overlooking the lake. There we reflected on the upside down values of the Kingdom of Jesus demonstrated and proclaimed, asking God to shape us by these same, non-worldly values.
At that point we split into two groups with one going back to our lakeside guesthouse to swim and rest while six of us drove to the otherside of the lake and explored the extensive ruins of Hippos (Susita), one of the cities of the Decapolis from the time of Jesus. The massive public buildings and grand paved boulevards, point to the wealth and grandeur of these pagan cites at the time of Jesus. Since this area was contested territory between Israel and Syria, the slopes surrounding Hippos were laced with mines, so we stayed to the path as John Lovell demonstrates in the picture below!
We finished the day with another great dinner on the veranda of the Peniel Guesthouse over looking what has to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world ... we are truly blessed to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus!