REFLECTIONS ON ISRAEL || sailing the Sea of Galilee
[January 3rd, 2011]
The day began with Erik and me hanging with Dad on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The sun rise, the steady breeze, the hundreds of sea birds, and the sweetness of fellowship with the two men from whom I’ve learned the ways of Jesus made this a most memorable start to the most memorable day of the trip.
We arrived at the Galilee Boat Museum for a boat ride on the infamous lake. Before we did, they ushered us into a room that contained one of the only boats found and excavated from the beach along the sea. It is believed to be from the early 1st century. We walked out to the boat. Along the way, some guy named Tim LaHaye walked by with a group going the other way. You may know him as one of the authors of the Left Behind series, a popular novel series that tells a fictional, imaginative story based on one view of Revelation. Various comments were made from folks in our group about Tim Lahaye, since we all have various insights and conclusions about Revelation and competitive dislikes with those who disagree. Seems strange all the divisiveness caused by a book that reminds and unites together all the people of God around a secure hope for eternity.
The boat we sailed on was much like you might imagine a wooden fishing boat to be. Except that it could hold over 40 people sitting all around the deck. We sailed out on the sea, Erik and Dad and I sitting together at first taking in the fact that the three of us were sitting together sailing on the Sea of Galilee. The scene was breathtaking, and the thought of all that happened on this 8 mile by 13 mile body of water is both staggering and sobering. The engines were turned off out in the middle and we coasted a bit, so that we could reflect and worship together. We certainly did reflect, but not before Erik and Dad did their best Titanic impersonation.
Philip, a pastor from New Orleans, shared a devotional on the sea while we drifted. Here’s a brief summary. Very meaningful. It resonated with so much of what I believe Jesus and His ways to be about. Jesus, as a man empowered by the Spirit, got Himself into trouble with the religious leaders of the day because of the stark contrast of how He lived out the ways of the Kingdom, the “will be,” in the midst of those who lived to keep their positions and prestige in the Roman kingdom, the “right now.” When people see the “will be” in the “right now,” they long for the One who showed us and now empowers us to live “on earth as it is in heaven.” We reflected and sang “Our God Is Mighty to Save.” As we returned to the dock, we were serenaded by the skipper and crew with Hebrew folk music and even did a folk dance. It was fun.
We next arrived at the Mount of Beatitudes. It is actually difficult to write much about this experience. I am so taken by the teachings of Matthew 5 to 7 that I had much anticipation for this site. My friend Rob shared a few thoughts with the group. His brother-in-law Robert (confusing huh?) then led us in singing the song “Blessed Be Your Name” (You Give and Take Away). It was a moving moment for Erik and me. This song was a sustainer after Mom and Dad’s accident and when Mom was taken on. To be singing it on the hillside where Jesus talked about forgiveness and security in light of the past two years’ experiences for both of us, we were deeply moved. By the way, the flowers there are still dressed better than I imagine King Solomon to have dressed.
We stopped at Korazim next. It is now ruins of a community that gave us insight into the type of village that Jesus would have frequently visited. We learned there that “living water” is water that is always available to you rather than water that once-for-all quenches your thirst (makes John 4 make more sense). This came up because of the very well-kept ritual bath there and what it symbolized for the Jews. Men would bathe there for renewal. Women for renewal of life after a menstrual cycle. We learned that at each harvest time, the whole village would travel together for pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This happened normally three times a year – during the fall fruit harvest for the Feast of Tabernacles, during the spring harvest or beginning of barley harvest traveling with animals for Sacrifice for Passover, and during the summer harvest and beginning of 1st fruits for Pentecost. The fact that the whole village would go together made more sense of why Joseph and Mary lost Jesus when he was 12 years old. They would have thought he was just hanging back with friends or something and moved along. I guess it truly took a village to raise a kid.
There was a well-kept “Seat of Moses” there, as well. It was a place where those who often thought too much of themselves would sit, based upon the fact that Jesus spoke against those who typically sat there. The Synagogue in the ruins at Korazim was amazing to behold. For the first time, it clicked to me that the people sat around the room and allowed for kids to run around with them and listen and families to interact as they would worship and read from the scrolls. Everyone was quiet when the Torah was read. There were personal prayers offered, some singing, and conversations all around. Sounded more like our church family, which made me want to keep moving more and more toward this conversational atmosphere which we already have developed.
We headed from Korazim to a roadside lunch spot for, you guessed it, schnitzel. I actually thought it was really good. We just had it every day.
After lunch, we stopped at the place called “The Primacy of Peter” (John 21). It is believed to be the place where Peter had the breakfast with Jesus that would initiate Peter’s restorative healing following his denial of Jesus and would change the course of the direction of his life as the early leader of the Way of Jesus. David Lema, director of the Miami Center of the New Orleans Seminary, shared a both hilarious and heartfelt devotional as only a Cuban could (I love David). On that spot now sits a rebuilt chapel with a heritage back to the 4th century. The Catholic tradition points to this site as the place where Jesus charged Peter to be the leader of the early church and thus the 1st Papal figure. We looked over David’s shoulder as he was speaking toward the water on which Peter and the actual Head of the Church walked. He mentioned the movie “The Shoes of the Fisherman” as a must-see for us as we reflect back on this day.
We walked down to the shore there. Erik got their first. So much is on all of our minds, from the surreal setting we were in to the very real and not-t0o-distant loss of Mom. Erik sat reflecting. Dad didn’t walk on water, but after 17 fractures in his left leg and 10 in his right, it was miraculous how he walked across the smooth, slippery rocks to where Erik sat. They leaned against one another. We all just leaned on each other, reflecting, listening, taking in the sight and sound and smells of this lake where Jesus centered His ministry.
From there we arrived at Capernaum, the town where Jesus spent so much time and did so many miracles and possibly resided for long visits to Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus must have done many signs there, for He Himself commented on them in His rebuke of the religious leaders in Matthew 23. Matthew, Peter, and others were invited to follow Jesus here.
16 Passing along the beach of Lake Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew net-fishing. Fishing was their regular work. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” 18 They didn’t ask questions. They dropped their nets and followed. [Mark 1:16–18, the Message]
We saw what many suggest is the actual home of Peter’s mother-in-law. And we studied Scriptures from the Gospels related to Capernaum while sitting together in the most developed and preserved synagogue we have seen yet. They manufactured mill stones there, making sense of why Jesus referred to millstones several times in His teachings. There is also a remarkable church building here constructed over the ruins of Peter’s mother-in-law’s home.
I asked Dad to share with me briefly of the time when Jesus invited him to follow. Here is what he said:
On the way back to the villas, we stopped along the cliff edge where it is said that Jesus cast demons into pigs. That had to make every Jew chuckle. They don’t seem fond of pork. Me, I can’t wait for Four Rivers to open out here in Winter Garden. But back to Israel – Dad shared a few thoughts with the group there. We were in the bus, though. One of those strong winds blew up upon the water. It was very windy. We were cold and hungry.
So, we went back to Deck’s restaurant in Tiberias for the 2nd night in a row instead of eating back at the villas. It was that good.