Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Israel - March 3, 2010

March 3, 2010

The day started very early, in that I am still struggling with the time change. I slept decently and rolled out of bed around 5:30. I semi-share a balcony with a couple from FBC Newcastle (Jerry and Peggy) and we visited and watched the sun rise over the mountains on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee. It is hard to believe that I would ever wake-up to a sight that Jesus witnessed most days of His life. It is about 55 degrees and we just visited about the majesty of this moment. Breakfast was large and interesting. I have had the privilege of enjoying foreign cuisines on occasion and this one was one of the better. Since the breakfast included the availability of cheese and milk, there would be no meat (except for salmon and tuna) available for this meal. This hotel is kosher.

We met on the bus at 8:00am with Keith leading us in a song and I led a devotional from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:33). Our day will be busy including many sights in the area. Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Gennesaret, Mt. of Beatitudes, Feeding of the Five Thousand, Capernaum, Lunch of St. Peter’s Fish, Baptism in the Jordan River, drive through Cana on the way to Nazareth.

The boat ride was a perfect start. It became overcast and evoked emotions of Jesus calming the Sea. Our boat operators said that they were the only Believers operating on the Sea, and they were very enjoyable. We took some pictures, listened to details about the surrounding area and simply soaked in the thought of being on the Sea of Galilee were Jesus called His disciples to be “Fishers of Men.” We saw a large mountain that was the scene of a rebellion uprising against Herod. We were directed to see Magdala (the home of Mary Magdalene).

After stopping on the sea, we saying some congregational hymns and listened to a couple special music songs. This set the stage to consider being on the Sea that Jesus calmed. I had the wonderful privilege of sharing a message from Matthew 14:22-33. I spoke concerning the “contrary” things in life and the faith required to keep Jesus at the center of our focus. This is one of those moments that I will never forget. After this, we continue the ride and listened to a demonstration and teaching of net casting and Jesus’s influence. Our boat operators sang a couple Christian contemporary songs with a couple verse of each in Hebrew.

We landed at Gennesaret where Jesus and the disciples landed after He and Peter walked on water. There we got to see the remains of a 2,000 year old boat that was excavated in 1986 after the water level of the Sea dropped. It represents the exact type of vessel that Jesus and His disciples would have used. Very cool!. I also bought a Teleet (prayer shawl).

From here we travelled throughout the country side where Jesus and the Disciples ministered in Galilee. First on the list was the location near where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). Italian Franciscan Nuns operate a church at this location known as the Mount of Beatitudes. Interesting note I learned before we came, this church was commissioned by Mussolini. How ironic! Many of the sights that Christians want to see in Israel have either a church built on top of them or immediately next to them. This is both good and bad. It means that sometimes these sights are not what you would expect, but it also means that they have been protected and persevered. From here a quick ride to the Church of the Heptapegon (Seven Springs) where the supposed rock is kept that Jesus blessed the loaves and fishes that he used to feed the 5,000 men (plus women and children). It was one of my more favorite churches to see today.

Still not to lunch yet…
Next we went to Capernaum. This is Jesus’ second home and the place where he first started calling his Disciples. Capernaum is the home of Peter, James, and John just to name a few. This town is in complete ruins, but it is very interesting to see much of these artifacts and historical monuments. The Synagogue and Peter’s house were very special. This was also were Jesus healed the woman with the hemorrhage and then raised the daughter of Jarius. I read this Scripture and our guide Hezi explained some insights.

Lunch arrives and it is “St. Peter’s fish.” This fish is unique to the Sea of Galilee, it is what Jesus and the disciple would have caught and feasted on. This fish was served whole (only the skin and guts were absent), and it was served with a coin in its mount. This represented the story of when Jesus commanded Peter to catch a fish only to find the money necessary to pay their taxes in its mouth. The fish was good (much like Tilapia); however, I don’t like having to work so hard to eat when I am that hungry. The bones where hard to pick around.

From here we travelled to the Jordan River called Yardenit. This a commercial location where people can “renew” their Baptism. For us, this doesn’t replace our original baptism nor nullify it. It is simply an opportunity to participate in Baptist in the same river that Jesus was Baptized (Matthew 3.13-17). We rented robs, towels, and a bathroom (yes, you have to pay for a bathroom to change in). I baptized eleven including Bro. Keith Butler. He in turn baptized me. What an amazing thought to be in the river where Jesus was baptized and the Spirit descended and the Father spoke (there’s the Trinity). We finished just in time for 500 John Hagee followers to show up and get in the river. Wow!

The next two stops included long bus rides, and we surely needed them. We drove through Cana while I read the first miracle account of the water to wine. This was on our way to the city of Nazareth where Joseph was from and where Jesus grew up. The city is divided into a Jewish side and a Muslim side. We first arrived at the Mount of Precipitate. It was here that Jesus was ran out of town and nearly thrown off a cliff after prophesying of His Messianic personhood. Remember, he simply walked through their midst on his way, leaving behind Nazareth to continue to minister. Next we went to the Church of Annunciation. Here a Catholic church is built on the location where they believe the Virgin Mary’s house was, and where she received the message from the angel Gabriel. It was interesting, and there were some more ruins, but it is hard to look past the strong Catholic traditionalism and pageantry.

All of this was just day one, and we are exhausted. There is such a strong spiritual exertion and fulfillment. I have a lot on my mind, and I hope to be able to express all that I am feeling in words soon. Still trying to process it.

Lord I love You, Thank You for letting me know You more!

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