A Writer's First Visit to the Holy Land: The Sea of Galilee
Before I talk about my trip to The Sea of Galilee, I want to talk about the situation we are all facing with regard to the Coronavirus. One of the most helpful things I have heard was a brief interview Ravi Zacharias gave from a hospital parking lot (he’s in for a cancer treatment after a recent diagnosis).
He said essentially there are two extreme responses to avoid: great fear and indifference. I think he is right and that middle road is what I want to follow as I take precautions of “social distancing” and yet do not let fear rule my thinking. Here is the link to his approximately six minute interview by Ben Shapiro.
Travelling Around The Sea of Galilee
We left Nazareth and Mount Precipice to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee. (Capernaum and Magdala (near Migdala), which I will talk about presently are shown as ellipses on the above map). I was blessed to have an east-looking balcony to capture a beautiful sunrise from my room.
Our day began with a boat ride across the sea and for such a small lake, it had a fair chop. I guess the lake rift valley, surrounded by high terrain. means the surrounding mountains/hills act like a funnel and when the wind changes direction, it can whip up this relatively small lake significantly (reminiscent of the gospels).
Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount
Capernaum, the site of much of Jesus’ ministry, has a church and significant excavations and restorations of a beautiful synagogue. This synagogue dates to a time after the first century, as indicated by the imported light-colored stone, but in a corner, below the newer synagogue, one can find the remnants of the older synagogue that Jesus attended.
Peter/s house in Capernaum has been covered by a church, and the excavation is shown here.
I learned that since the Galilee area is volcanic in origin, the older building from the time of Jesus consist of black basalt. Later when Capernaum became more prosperous because of a Roman road, the newer buildings used imported white or light-colored stone.
Magdala, Home of Mary Magdalene
We finished our day at a beautiful church at Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. There is a wonderfully restored synagogue from the time of Jesus at this site. Magdala is at the entrance of a pass that is the likely route Jesus would have walked from Nazareth to The Sea of Galilee, so almost certainly He would have used this synagogue after his journey.
At the Mount of the Beatitudes, I had the chance to site on a bench in the beautiful church gardens and reflect on Matthew 4:23-5:12.As I reflected on this passage, I focused especially on Matthew 5:7 ” blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”
It struck me, when our hearts are right, that genuine mercy is always an option to the penalties specified in the Mosaic Law. In Matthew 1:19 when Joseph realized that Mary was pregnant before they had come together, it is written of him: “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her [a betrothal had the same force as a marriage and required a divorce] quietly.”
Presumably, in that society, Joseph could have publicly shamed her or even demanded she be stoned (John 8:3-11). He did not because, as the wronged party, mercy was always an option.
Being merciful is always an option.
I and many others have sometimes wondered if the God of the Old Testament has the same character as the Father God of the New Testament. We know from our teaching that he does. The fact that mercy is always an option, if the people have the heart for it, helps me to look at the Old Testament in a new light.
- If you have a particular passage in the Old Testament that troubles you, how might “mercy is always an option” help you understand it?
- One of the questions put to us at the Mount of Beatitudes: “For you, what is the hardest part of being a Jesus follower today?” How would you answer that question?
I’d love to hear your answers as comments here or on Facebook.
For the previous post in this series …
If you are looking for something to read during this time of isolation, my e-books (ePub format) are now also available from Walmart … here are the links:
Posted on March 22, 2020, in Essay, History, History of Christianity, Holy Land and tagged Capernaum, Magtdala, Nazareth, Synagogue. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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