We spent today around the western side of the Sea of Galilee, and what a beautiful day! First stop was the cemetary belonging to the Kinneret kibbutz (a close-knit community system inspired by the many European immigrants into Israel). We visited the grave of Rachel, a Ukranian Jew who came to Israel at the turn of the century. She was a prolific poetess and wrote many of her poems about her love of the land and her desire for a child. Since her tragic death from tuberculosis at only 40 years old, many of her poems have been put to music, and on this site, our Hebrew guide, Shlomo, played us her songs on the recorder. It was a beautiful, serene moment.
Next we stopped on a mountainside where Jesus probably preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). I found out that the soil in the area is volcanic; deep into the Afro-Syrian rift (the deepest cleft in the earth’s surface upon which you can walk), the whole area surrounding the Sea is riddled with dormant volcanoes. The high metal levels in the rocky terrain make for natural sound amplifiers. An international sound/recording company performed a study in this region, sprinkling microphones across the mountainsides to discover the extent of its amplification. After collecting all the data, they discovered one man speaking along these hillsides could be heard by 5,000-7,000 people. Sounds like the ideal preaching spot to me! Getting to read through and discuss Jesus’ words on site was simply incredible.
Here I learned about the practical lifestyles of Jesus’ fishermen disciples. They would fish at night because the water in the Kinnereth (the Hebew word for the Sea of Galilee) is so clear the fish would be able to see their linen nets in daylight. Come sunrise, they’d clean the nets more towards the southern side of the lake, where the current can bring the left-overs down to the out-going Jordan river. Then they’d hang their nets up to dry; if the linen stayed continually wet, it would soften and break apart. But after about 2 hours of drying, they’d pull them down, preventing them from becoming brittle in the noon-day sun. Then they’d eat, sleep away the hottest parts of the day, and rise just in time for sunset and another night of fishing. If I were a fishermen, it would make perfect sense to me why the days in Israel start at sunset instead of sunrise. During these 2+ hours of net-drying, Jesus was probably teaching his disciples and those nearby. I love how the more I learn of the simple practicalities of life here, I can see Jesus’ life so much more clearly. With every passing day He seems that much more grounded.
Next stop: Korazin, to see an insulae-style house. We know Jesus spent time in this town (“Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” Luke 10:13), but we have no record of what He actually did. Nevertheless, we stopped here because it has some great excavations of houses typical in Jesus’ day. And, looking at the ruins, we studied the engagement process in Bible times.
A young man in love would first go to his father, who would in turn go to the girl’s father, and they’d make the decision. Then the young man would come to her house, and she’d prepare bread and wine for him. Thanking God for the bread and wine (symbolizing God’s faithful provision of our needs and even wants), he would eat and drink himself and offer them back to the girl. If she also ate and drank, she showed her acceptance of his proposal and they were engaged. Next, he would go back to his father’s house (a walled-in plot of land), and build a room for he and his wife to live in, right alongside his father’s house. The engagement lasted only as long as it took him to build the house. The girl had to be ready at any moment for his return, because as soon as he finished the house, he would come to bring her to the wedding ceremony. Sitting inside one of those “houses”, we noted how the disciples would have seen Jesus’ last words at the dinner table in John 14 as signs of engagement:
” My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3
“And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. ” Luke 22:17-20
Sitting there in Korazin, I was overcome with Jesus’ love for me. When you look at it in context, Communion should bring up the same feelings within me as playing with an engagement ring would. My Savior loves me, and He’s coming back any minute. I’d better be ready, and I can’t wait!
Finally, we went to Capernaum (in Hebrew “house of Comfort”), one of my favorite places. We saw Peter’s mother-in-law’s house (Matt 8:14), and stood on the very street where Jesus healed the bleeding woman (Mark 5:25-34).
After spending the day studying and reveling in Jesus’ love and power, we got the opportunity to spend some time alone with Him, sitting along the Kinnereth. I tried to express my emotions into words in prayer, but I couldn’t. After a few minutes of silence, a song came to mind, and this prayer/song has echoed in my head ever since:
You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard
Who can grasp Your infinite wisdom?
Who can fathom the depths of Your love?
You are beautiful beyond description
Majesty enthroned above
And I stand, I stand in awe of You
I stand, I stand in awe of You
Holy God to Whom all praise is due
I stand in awe of You