Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus | The Holy Land: Part Two
Hi! Welcome back to the next instalment of my recent adventures round the Holy Land. Sorry it’s been so long since the last one, but I definitely want to share the rest of this experience with you all!
If you missed part 1, catch up here – before coming back to read on!
Just another place we hear so much about, but dream of seeing? ‘twas definitely the case for me. Our day trip to the Galilee region was one of two long day-trips of sight-seeing – but while they were hot (around 35/36°C), long, and full-on, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see and explore some of those areas.
On our way from Bethlehem to Galilee, we passed by a number of things that stood out to me. Firstly, we drove by a lot of farming land; with plum trees, mango trees, avocado and banana trees! We also drove through the Judean wilderness, catching a glimpse of the Dead Sea, just like from Herodion. Being totally immersed in the desert landscape gave a real insight into what the many people groups over the years must have travelled through: in particular, the Israelites, while searching for the Promised Land.
At one point, we drove along the border between Jordan and Israel, and could see the border – so close at times that my phone thought I’d gone to Jordan, and I received a “Welcome to Jordan” message from Tesco Mobile!
The Mount of Beatitudes
Our first official stop was the Mount of Beatitudes, where, somewhat unsurprisingly, Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The Church, designed by Barluzzi, is further up the mountain side than Jesus probably spoke from, but it gave a stunning view of the Sea of Galilee from the top. The central dome is octagonal, for each of the eight beatitudes, and inside, each had a Latin inscription in a stained-glass window panel.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
It was also obvious that the area had far more water, as the vegetation and flower growth was stunning – and it was probably the first time we’d seen that kind of greenery since landing.
Next up was the “Town of Jesus”, as 80% of his ministry was based in and around Capernaum. It was the border town between Herod Antipas’ and Herod Archelaus’ regions – and consequently, that meant taxes!! Part of its importance can be seen through the Roman centurion stationed in Capernaum, as Jesus healed his servant. (Matt. 8:5-13)
5Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.”
7 And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”
8 The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
10 When Jesus heard it, He marvelled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.
Peter’s home town, and likely where he was called by Jesus to be a disciple, was destroyed by an earthquake in 749AD, but the remains are still visible, and hasn’t been modernised. This was one of the things I liked about Capernaum; it was easier to see what it would have been like. The remnants of a 4th Century Synagogue can be seen standing on the base of the ‘Synagogue of Jesus’, clearly different because of the use of volcanic rock originally. This would have been the place where Jesus healed the paralysed man who was lowered through the ceiling of the synagogue by his friends.
After some days Jesus went back to the city of Capernaum. Then news got around that He was home. 2 Soon many people gathered there. There was no more room, not even at the door. He spoke the Word of God to them. 3 Four men came to Jesus carrying a man who could not move his body. 4 These men could not get near Jesus because of so many people. They made a hole in the roof of the house over where Jesus stood. Then they let down the bed with the sick man on it.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the sick man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Tabgha – the Site of Multiplication
Surely you have heard of the story of the loaves and fishes? Whether it was when Jesus fed the 5000 (Matt. 14:13-21), or even the 4000 (Matt. 15:29-39), it’s a story I grew up learning about in Sunday School. Even if this wasn’t the place it happened – (although they think it could be), the little church had a couple of interesting decorations that really made it special. I particularly liked the mosaic flooring of loaves and fishes, and the marbled windows!
The most interesting fact of this site was that it’s thought Jesus performed these two miracles on separate sides of the Sea of Galilee. One, for the 5000, on the Capernaum side, which was where the Jews lived. This is because there were 12 baskets remaining; one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. When he fed 4000, there were only 7 baskets left, which would work out as one for each of the Canaanite tribes, who were the exiles (or Gentiles). They lived on the East side of the Sea of Galilee.
Ginosar – otherwise known as The Jesus Boat
Here was a real treat – as on display they have a 2000-year-old fishing boat that was discovered in the Sea of Galilee by two local fishermen. It underwent a 10-year-long conservation project to remove the water-logging, and was carefully looked after until it was able to be displayed… but now, it’s available to see, until it just disintegrates over time. It has been dated to around 120BC-40AD, so definitely around the time of Jesus – and it gives visuals to the idea of the disciples fishing, or being out on the Sea of Galilee when it was so stormy.
It was also just along from here that we got the chance to go on a boat trip onto the water! This was so much fun, and so brilliant to be able to feel the wind, and see the sea go on! For it was here that Peter walked on water, and where so many famous stories took place…and also, water is just special!
While we were out there, these words suddenly meant so much more.
“You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand”
Oceans – Hillsong
This was a brief stop – as we couldn’t go into the baptismal site, because unfortunately it was closed for the Sabbath. That said, we caught a glimpse of the river, that makes it way from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, weaving in and out of Jordan and Israel. It was also the place where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.
‘Jordan’ in Hebrew is ‘Yarden’, which means ‘the flowing down’, as it starts 450m above sea level, and ends 430m below, in the Dead Sea.
Jericho – the City of Moon
The city of Jericho can claim three things:
The lowest city on Earth, the oldest city in the world, and the longest continuously inhabited city.
It is 250m below sea level, remains were found from 10,000 years ago, and the city was inhabited from then, until it was destroyed in the 15th Century.
We only drove past this city, but it was interesting to learn all these new facts about the place! We also stopped just outside it, at a service station…
You may be wondering why a service station is exciting…but it’s because I got to ride a CAMEL!!! So bizarre, as you’re tipped all the way forward, and then back again, but I’m so glad I got the chance to do it!
That’s a wrap for now, but join me next week for the last instalment, where I got to explore the Old City of Jerusalem. Somewhere that is spoken about ALL the time, it constantly flashes across the news, but for me, I got to learn more about the history (and as a history student, that’s a great deal of fun..!)
If there’s anything you read today that surprised you, I’d love to know! Get in touch or leave a comment below! And thank you for reading!