Shabbat is fully upon us today. It was most noticeable driving through Tiberius. The streets were delightfully empty – but wait a day and the hustle and bustle will begin again – but we will be way up in the peaceful north. What a great plan. But let me not get ahead of myself.
I went to sleep early last night – around 9 pm. That is actually rather rare on this trip for me. But, I was pretty tired. The only problem was that I woke myself up at 9:48 (it was a moment I won’t soon forget) with a nightmare and I screamed as loud as I could. I was rather embarrassed (and thoroughly frightened) but apparently no one else heard me. So I’m not so sure I should feel really all that good about that – but at least I can keep my secret!
After a good morning Viber call to my wife, the next most important task was to see if Eric had arrived to the hotel. Good news to report on that front – he was eating breakfast and smiling with Jeff at the Welch Table. Praise God!
But I actually slept well the rest of the night. My night ended about 5:30 am – but I am not complaining. I enjoyed some quiet moments and tried to catch the sunrise, but it was really too hazy to see much. I would have journaled, but not much had happened since the nightmare. Oh well.
Breakfast was delicious. I don’t think I overate, but I did have to eat enough to tide me over until lunch. And it could be late, so I couldn’t take the risk. They actually had fried eggs here, and all three of them were fabulous.
Our first stop of the day was Arbel. We are still making up some time from our late start on Friday…which was because of our late arrival on Thursday….or rather Friday in the wee hours. We almost skipped Mt. Arbel, but I twisted Andre’s arm and we started our day up there. I am so glad that we did. We needed some time alone with God and with that view – and away from the crowds. This is our Galilee day, which means we will be fighting the hoards of tourists at most every spot.
I didn’t think the weather was all that clear as the day began, but it was again really wonderful by the time we reached the top of the Arbel. Andre shared the historical and geographical highlights – and from that vantage point the geography is amazing. I shared from Isaiah 9, about how God uses the insignificant for His glory – because as we look down, the area of the majority of the ministry of Jesus was just one corner of this remote area of the vast Roman Empire. God is indeed faithful.
Back down the mountain and through Tiberius we went. This is where the Shabbat factor proved to our advantage. It was a bit of a trek to get back on track, but we sailed through town and headed on our way to the Mt of the Beatitudes. Note to self: schedule a stop in the new archeological dig at Magdala next time. It looks fascinating.
Anyway, we got some wonderful views of the landscape driving up to the Mt. of Beatitudes. But so did a lot of other people and buses as the parking lot was full and the crowds spilled out everywhere. But after we made it past the gift shop, it wasn’t too terribly bad. We enjoyed our time there - - and left without any scars.
It is just a short hop on the bus to Tabgha (which remembers the loaves/fishes incident – where Jesus fed 5,000). It is an interesting site, but we didn’t stay too long. Then we walk over to the area of Peter’s Primacy. There, you can go down to the shore and enjoy a love first-hand look at the Sea of Galilee. There was a crowd at the shore when we arrive, but it did dwindle away and we got a few moments of solitude…well, quiet at the shoreline.
Back onto the bus. Now it is time for decision. Lunch? Capernaum? Of course, before getting on the bus, Andre and I talked and decided it would be Capernaum. Then lunch. On the bus, he offered an early lunch to beat the crowds (not a factor in my preivious calculation). We cast our lot for lunch – and off we went to enjoy St. Peter’s fish. I hae the lamb/beef kabab. It was yummy. Everyone seems to enjoy lunch.
Lunch was big. Lunch was delicious. And it is getting warmer and warmer as the day plugs along. Fortunately, the driver took the bus (large van might be more appropriate, actually) and was able to get the AC repaired over night. Whew. Of course it was freezing in the back as we started the day. Just to make us complain about the temperature all over again. But we would not have survived with any joy had those repairs not been accomplished.
If anyone stayed awake, Andre kept us in the loop of the history and geography in the area as we passed the boundary (the Jordan River) between the ancient area of Herod Antipas and Herod Phillip. The next few hours would be spent under the jurisdiction of Herod Phillip. Oh boy.
First stop – Kursi. As we begin to melt we tour the Byzantine ruins of the church at Kursi – where the story of Jesus casting out the demons from the man and they entered into the pigs, which then ran down the hillside into the Sea of Galilee. We didn’t hunt for swine bones, but enjoyed the ruins.
Bethsaida was our next stop, a fishing village several miles from the shoreline. What’s that all about? Earthquakes. Silt. Time. Pictures from here are tough. So if you see somebody else’s picture of Bethsaida, just smile and act interested. There are probably not too many. Though the city is fascinating in person, the rock formations look like rock piles once you get home. But this location is the home to at least four disciples, many miracles, and a curse from Jesus for their lack of faith. It is a significant city in the Gospels and is an amazing place to visit.
Off to the jewel of the northwest triangle of the ministry of Jesus – Capernaum. Here we enjoyed the less-than-large size of our bus. He could squeeze thru the gate and save us at least a quarter mile each direction in walking. Yay. In the two years since I’ve been to Capernaum they have transformed the place. There is now a large double entrance gate and a huge patio/plaza in front of the still-hideous Catholic church built over the ancient Byzantine church built over what is probably the house of Peter’s mother-in-law. It is a large site – and today accommodated a large crowd of people. Give me the deserted sites any day. But we had a nice visit. Only one last stop to make and we could back to the hotel (and write about it all).
From Capernaum we headed to Nof Ginosaur (which was really crowded with cars due to local tourism). Monday is Independence Day here in Israel – so the long weekend brings out the crowds. But we really didn’t notice where all the people were – we headed in to pay two shekels to use the restroom on our way to the Jesus Boat experience.
We had our hour out at sea – and it is/was as moving as ever. There is something special to be out on the water on which Jesus walked and over which He had control with His words. “Peace be still.” That was the central focus of our devotional time. Of course, then we had to learn some Jewish dance – and soak in the view of the shore from the water. Great moments.
Back to the hotel. I’m sure it is time to eat again soon. Well, I’d better stop typing and clean up for dinner. Can’t miss a meal around here!
Dinner is history. It was delicious. I am falling asleep so I think I shall wrap this up.
The day began with Ken reminding us of the importance of getting out of our comfort zones. The day ended with a consideration of what Jesus was teaching the disciples in the event where He calmed the storm. He was teaching them that trials and struggles and storms are to mature our faith – step out of your comfort zone and believe Jesus. Coordinating lessons. Great God. Important lessons.
Tomorrow begins another chance to learn from God.