Our first stop was in Tiberias where we boarded a boat to sail on the Sea of Galilee. As we sailed we saw Tiberias for a good while. It looked large but our guide said there were only about 30,000 people there. As we started our ride the boat crew raised the American flag with a Ceremony and played Christian hymns. We find it amazing how diverse the agriculture is in Israel. There are totally different types of crops right next to each other. They have date palm trees that produce the largest looking dates we have ever seen, banana trees, orange trees, and many more. Apparently the minerals that are in the soil make for perfect growing conditions. The landscape in this part of the country had mountains and was fertile but had pretty large stones over the land. Our guide stated that in order to farm the land it was necessary to move the rocks out of the way. Our guide also believed that this had something to do with the parable of the "sowing of the seeds on rocky soil." As we neared the northern part of the Sea of Galille it was pointed out that the valley there was the area where Jesus traveled from Nazareth past the Arbel mountains to the Sea of Galillee. The distance between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee was approximately 16 miles. It was also pointed out that it is not uncommon to have severe storms on the Sea of Galille producing waves as high as 10 feet or more. It is believed that that this is the area where Jesus calmed the storm. It is interesting that the locals call the Sea of Galilee a lake.
After the boat ride we were back on the bus and visited many towns in the northern area of the Sea of Galilee near Capernaum. The headquarters for Jesus' ministry was here in the vicinity of Capernaum where he spent 18 months of his ministry. We visited several sites in the area, some of which are National Parks and others which are maintained, surprisingly enough, by various Catholic organizations. One site was Korazan (Korazim) which is a partially restored dig site. The people of this town rejected Christ and his teachings and so He cursed it. (Matthew 11: 20-24) In these ruins was a synagogue dating back to Jesus' days and one of the pictures below show what is called the "Moses Seat" which was a seat reserved for visiting dignitaries. In some places where Jesus taught in the synagogues He may have been invited to sit in the Moses Seat. Each synagogue had a Moses Seat and all of them were oriented towards Jerusalem.
Next we visited Capernaum and saw remains of a synagogue that was built approximately 300 years after Jesus. The original synagogue where Jesus actually taught is underneath the ruins of this synagogue. Also, we were able to see St. Peter's house where Jesus stayed during His ministry.
Another incredible site is what is called the Primacy of Peter which is located in Tabgha. This is where, subsequent to Jesus' resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter and a couple of other disciples. It is on this spot where Jesus gave Peter the commission and the keys to the kingdom where Jesus advised Peter "on this rock you will build my church." There is a church actually built over the rock and this is one of the sites cared for and financed by the Catholics. This area of the northern part of the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus taught and fed the 5,000.
Also, in the same area, we visited the Mt. Of the Beatitudes also located near Tabgha. The Roman Catholic church is believed to have been built in the spot where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
We then headed to the archaeological site of a community called Sephorris. Apparently this community is not mentioned in the gospels. It is believed that Joseph walked the 4 miles from Nazareth to here to work. While Joseph is described as being a carpenter, in fact, he would be better known as a crafted builder. It is further believed that Jesus would have worked along side of his earthly father. Our guide pointed out that Joseph would not have wanted to raise his family at Sephorris because the schools were not good and the town was far too Hellenistic so this is why they lived in Nazareth and commuted the 4 miles by foot.The town was constructed in a normal Roman fashion which had beautiful paved stone roads with beautiful curbing. It was hard to believe that we could actually see the chariot ruts in the paved stone roads. This was the capitol city of Herod Antipas. We saw one building with a variety of elaborate tile floor designs. It is believed that this was actually a display area so people could pick out the tile designs for their home. We were also told that the floors were so intricate that there were approximately 180 tiles for every 5 inch square.
Can you see the ruts
made by the chariots?
We ended our day going to what is called the Nazareth Overlook. It is a high elevation area where you can see Nazareth and much of the surrounding area, including Mt Tabor. The views were breathtaking. During Jesus' time, Nazareth was a tiny village consisting of approximately 200 people and, more than likely, no paved roads. Today, it's a modern bustling town with a population exceeding 200,000. This area is also known as the Mount of Precipice. When Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth to preach, He was handed the Scroll of Isaiah which He did read. When He had finished, he handed the Scroll back and said these scriptures have been fulfilled this day. (Luke 4: 16-30) According to the Bible, the people correctly interpreted that Jesus claimed to be the Christ which severely infuriated the people. The people were so angry that they took Him up to this spot to throw him off the top of the mountain. The Bible states that He just walked through them and got away. Local legends state that rather than walking through the crowd, Jesus jumped to get away.
Our last stop was a place on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee where we were able to view a 2,000 year old boat liked Jesus would have used. The boat was found submerged in the mud and was painstakingly restored. This is a very recent discovery. It was found in 1986 after a severe drought. It is interesting to note that the boat was approximately 30 feet long. We learned that the form of the boat was built before the supports were added to the boat which is the reverse of how boats are built today. The supporting braces were irregular both in length and spacing.
This is how they "floated" the
boat to the surface
We had devotions at every site we visited today with the devotion geared for that particular site. How amazing to be able to be standing on the grounds while the scripture about it was being read.