Jesus’ Galilean Ministry

Ross Fairweather

Saturday, July 10, 2015

Today was all about the Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum and teaching his disciples.

We were on the bus after a quick and early breakfast, packed for a 3-day journey to the Sea of Galilee.  Driver Abed drove east (as we had yesterday) into the Jordan River Valley, then headed north.  The land was barren and desolate as we’d seen before.

We had to stop at an Israeli checkpoint to get back into Israel from the West Bank.  Two Israeli guards approached the bus, checked Abed’s identification card and Rodney’s passport, asked a few questions of Rodney (What nationality we were, where we were going, where did we come from, etc.) and then walked through the bus.  They were cordial but one had a rifle.  Outside a few soldiers used mirrors to check under the bus.  We were cleared and on our way.

Our road paralleled the Jordan River and the border with Jordan.  At times it was a sparse landscape and yet there were also places of lush fertile ground with plantations of different fruits.  As we drove along, we passed through the town of Bet She’an which is where scenes of the move Jesus Christ Superstar was filmed, and more specifically the scene where Judas committed suicide.  I didn’t see any shrine to him!

After about an hour and half of diverse landscapes we approached the southern region of the Sea of Galilee.  We drove up the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and you could see the topography change as we moved into the fertile valley of the Sea of Galilee, or the “land of milk and honey” as the Bible defines it.  In fact, we passed a huge dirt mound shaped like a whale; it houses the remains an architect found of industrial beehives dating back to the 1st century.  We crossed the Jordan Creek (oops, River) several times, becasue at times it was no wider than a creek.  After that we could see the Sea of Galilee for the rest of the drive.  We are close to the point where Israel, Jordan and Syria’s borders come together.  We could see the Golan Heights across the lake on the north-eastern shores.  The Golan Heights are a disputed strip of land that stretches south from Syria towards the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  There were very interesting vistas … especially as we entered Tiberias, the largest city on the sea, with domes of antiquity adjacent to 5-story buildings, boats docked at yacht clubs and high-end cars in the parking lots. (It almost seemed as though someone changed the TV channel!)  This region is a popular vacation and recreational area. It was a very quiet day, as far as traffic and crowds are concerned … because it was Shabbat, the Jewish holy day of prayer and rest.  Secular Jews were out on the lake enjoying their weekend.

We were at our first destination by 10:30. We exited the bus for the Mensa Christi Church, the site of the rocks along the north-western shoreline of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus called Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, John and James (our patron saint).  It is also the place that commemorates Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance where he made breakfast for the disciples.  The original chapel was built in 4th century on top of the rocks and was rebuilt in the 1800s.  Leader Rodney and Fr. Mike led us in reading associated scriptures from Luke and John while we stood on the very same shore as Jesus and the disciples had been.  Then we had time to walk around, and Clark got up on the rocks to soak in the experience.

The gate for the Mensa Christi Church complex.

The gate for the Mensa Christi Church complex.

The pathway leading to the shore and the church.

The pathway leading to the shore and the church.

The sign on the church.

The sign on the church.

A plaque commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000.

A plaque commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II in 2000.

The front entryway into the Mensa Christi Church.

The front entryway into the Mensa Christi Church.

Inside the Mensa Christi Church and the rock upon which Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples during his post-resurrection appearance.

Inside the Mensa Christi Church and the rock upon which Jesus prepared breakfast for the disciples during his post-resurrection appearance.

A view of the church from the water's edge.

A view of the church from the water’s edge.

Clark reflecting on the stories we heard and soaking in the experience.

Clark reflecting on the stories we heard and soaking in the experience.

The shoreline along the church property.

The shoreline along the church property.

A statue commemorating the calling of Peter and Peter denying that call because he considered himself a sinner.

A statue commemorating the calling of Peter and Peter denying that call because he considered himself a sinner.

From there we went to the town Capernaum which is locally known as “The Town of Jesus.” This was the hub for Jesus during his Galilean ministry. We saw ruins dating to the 4th century of a synagogue which was likely one of the places where Jesus was preaching. It was purchased by the Franciscans, who built a monastery and a church in the town.  In this compound are ruins of small residences and public buildings, as well as the residence of Simon Peter.

The sign t the entrance into the town of Capernaum.

The sign t the entrance into the town of Capernaum.

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Ruins in Capernaum.

Ruins in Capernaum.

the ancient synagogue in Capernaum.

The ancient synagogue in Capernaum.

Temple symbols found on columns in Capernaum.

One of many Temple symbols found on columns in Capernaum.

Inside the Franciscan church at Capernaum above the ruins of Simon Peter's home.

Inside the Franciscan church at Capernaum above the ruins of Simon Peter’s home.

The mosaic altar in the church at Capernaum.

The mosaic altar in the church at Capernaum.

The ruins of Simon Peter's home underneath the church...the church is elevated above the ruins so as to not disturb them.

The ruins of Simon Peter’s home underneath the church…the church is elevated above the ruins so as to not disturb them.

A statue of Petros (Peter) upon whom the church was built.

A statue of Petros (Peter) upon whom the church was built.

After leaving Capernaum we went a few miles north to the Mount of Beatitudes which is run by Italian Franciscan nuns.  We had lunch at the Guest House of the Church of the Beatitudes, with choices of whole fish (head, bones, etc.) or chicken schnitzel; we all had spaghetti as a starter, assorted items to put on pita bread, and dates for desert. We then had time to view the magnificent grounds of the Mount of Beatitudes and a simple church set high atop the north-western edge of the Sea of Galilee.  What a view!  This is where Jesus preached to his disciples and thousands of Galilean followers.  Of course the grounds are opulent and pristine today, not like what they would have been then, but we all enjoyed it … a huge difference from the wilderness yesterday!

An icon in the refectory of the guest house.

An icon in the refectory of the guest house.

The guest house refectory.

The guest house refectory.

Ross diggin' into her fish...head and all.

Ross diggin’ into her fish…head and all.

The Church of the Beatitudes.

The Church of the Beatitudes.

A kind nun opening the church for the afternoon.

A kind nun opening the church for the afternoon.

A painting in the Church of the Beatitudes

A painting in the Church of the Beatitudes

The Altar in the Church of the Beatitudes.

The Altar in the Church of the Beatitudes.

Stained glass of the Beatitudes above the sanctuary.

Stained glass of the Beatitudes above the sanctuary.

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The grounds of the mount.

The grounds of the mount.

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Our next stop was at the Church of the Multiplication, the church commemorating Jesus’ miracle of using 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread to feed thousands.  Unfortunately, the church complex sustained damage due to arson in June, 2015; but they recently re-opened and we were able to enter this lovely church with its 4th Century mosaic floors.

The altar in the Church of the Multiplication.

The altar in the Church of the Multiplication with the famous mosaic on the loves and fish set just in front of the altar..

An icon in the Church of the Multiplication.

An icon in the Church of the Multiplication.

A 4th Century mosaic of a Nile-omoter, that measures the depth of the Nile River, on the floor of the church...why you ask?  Why not?

A 4th Century mosaic of a Nile-omoter, that measures the depth of the Nile River, on the floor of the church…why you ask? Why not?

4th Century mosaic floors in the Church of the Multiplication.

4th Century mosaic floors in the Church of the Multiplication.

Some of us are very tired after the sustained heat which continues here at the Sea of Galilee but with the added humidity. We were grateful to arrive at our accommodations at 3 pm.  The Pilgerhaus is a German Benedictine pilgrim guesthouse with a to-die-for view of the lake and lovely buffet meals.  Some rested while others went swimming before diner.  Clark went swimming in the Sea of Galilee, but the rocky shore hurt his feet, so he went in with his shoes on.  Afterwards, he went to the gift shop and bought glittered flip flops to wear while his shoes dried! After dinner we gathered at the large patio of Pilgerhaus enjoyed the cooler evening breezes. We could see a few lights at the Golan Heights, but looking south Tiberius was lit up like Tinsel Town!

The logo of the Pilgerhaus on a rock outside the front doors.

The logo of the Pilgerhaus on a rock outside the front doors.

A German icon in the Pilgerhaus.

A German icon in the Pilgerhaus.

The last rays of sun cast upon the Golan Heights across the Sea of Galilee.

The last rays of sun cast upon the Golan Heights across the Sea of Galilee.

Enough from me today. Until tomorrow … God bless.

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