Day 3: Israel — Sea of Galilee, Mount of the Beatitudes, Primacy of Peter, Capernaum, and Baptism in the Jordan River

It is hard to say exactly what my favorite part about our day was today.  We started out our morning with worship and teaching on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Much of the landscape around the sea has been unchanged since the time of Jesus, so it was easy to imagine that we were sitting on a boat seeing the same things he saw 2000 years ago.

As we got off the boat, we were treated to a view of the remains of a 1st century boat that was discovered on the shores of Galilee in 1986.  They have gone to great lengths to preserve this boat and display it for others to see.  This is a boat that would have been in operation around the time of Jesus’ ministry in the area.

From the Sea of Galilee we moved up the hill to what is known as the Mount of the Beatitudes, where tradition says that Jesus shared the Beatitudes with the crowds.  It was fascinating to see the natural amphitheaters that were created in the hillsides around Galilee.  These hills have been closed off in recent years, but our guide told us of times that he would take groups to these natural amphitheaters and he could speak with his own natural voice and be heard for great distances.

Our third stop was back on the shores of Galilee where there is a 4th century church commemorating the spot where it is believed that Jesus asked Peter.  “Do you love me?”  Three times Jesus asked Peter this question and in John 21:15-19, the New Testament details Peter’s response.  Steve shared a great message on how Jesus challenged Peter to love Him with Agape love, yet Peter could only respond with Phileo love, even as Jesus was preparing (relying on) Peter to be the rock on which He would build His church here on earth.  Steve asked us to challenge ourselves about how deep we are willing to go with Jesus in our lives.

Finally we headed out to Capernaum, a seaside town where Peter lived and where Jesus spent a good amount of time.  Here we saw the home that early Christians from the 3rd and 4th Centuries have preserved as the home of Peter.  We also visited the remains of the 4th century synagogue that were built on the remains of the 1st century synagogue where Jesus taught and questioned the religious leaders of the time.

One theme that seems consistent in many places that we visit is the preservation of  places of importance by the early church.  While it is impossible to know for sure where Peter and Jesus talked or where Mary and Joseph lived or even where Peter lived, the fact that the early church physically documented these places within a hundred or two hundred years of Jesus’ life gives a great amount of credibility to these sites.

Our final stop may have been my favorite of the day.  It was an optional opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River.  Most of us took the chance to do this and we were really glad that we did.  While almost all of us had been baptized by immersion at an earlier time in our lives, this was a wonderful opportunity to be baptized where Jesus was baptized and to recommit our lives to Him.

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