Revisiting Israel - Day Three (Part Two)
“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias….” (Also known as the Sea of Galilee.)“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
They believe this incident in John 21 took place in this area, pictured above. The sand here is mostly crushed rocks and shells, and the coastline might be any other coastline on any other lake surrounded by hills except for the events that took place here. Otherwise, it seems like an ordinary lake.
After a trip through the St. Peter’s Primacy church (another shrine) that marks this spot, we went to lunch for a rare treat – St. Peter’s fish, a Tilapia-like fish indigenous to this area. They serve fish here with head and tail intact, and though it looked a bit disconcerting with the eye staring at you, it actually tasted good! They served it with salads and hummus and fries and ice cream. Interesting combinations but quite tasty.
The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by hills in all directions, some of which are probably the hill country of Ephraim. We boarded a boat (not the one in the picture, but a more modern looking one behind it) to cross the lake headed to the other side to Capernaum where Jesus made his home during his ministry years. We could see a ravine, which is the area of the Gadarenes where Jesus healed a demon-possessed man called Legion.
They stopped the boat in the middle of the lake. The water was extremely calm, which is good since Randy suffers from motion sickness and a choppy lake would not have been an enjoyable ride. This lake is fed by the snow melting off Mt. Hermon, which flows into the Jordan River, which feeds the Sea of Galilee, which ends up running to the Dead Sea. The drought that year (2008) affected the level of the lake, which is normally at a depth of 150 feet. The change had residents concerned. Water is an important, treasured commodity in these parts.
Korazim, Capernaum, and the hill where Jesus fed the 5000 makes up a triangle in Galilee, each place about a mile to a mile and a half apart. It’s a lot smaller than I realized.
From here, on the lake, one can see the surrounding hills with ease, except for a haze that blanketed the area while we were there. Matthew 5:14 makes so much sense now. I can imagine Jesus sitting in the boat or walking along the shore, talking to his disciples, pointing and saying, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” At home we picture a hill as smaller and we might build a house into the side of one, but there are many cities on hills in this place – Nazareth is one of them – and there is no way to hide them.
When we reached Capernaum, the first place we stopped was closing due to the preparation for Shabbat (the Sabbath). Everything shuts down by sundown on Friday, but some close by 3 p.m. We did manage to get into the place that houses the ruins of Capernaum, maybe because they cater to tourists.
This synagogue may have been the one where Jesus taught the crowd after the feeding of the 5,000 on a hill across the lake. He said some hard things in John 6 that cost him many disciples. When that happened He asked his disciples if they would leave Him too. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
It was also here in Capernaum that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. This picture shows what they believe is Peter’s house and in the far right corner is a doorway where the people would have brought the sick for Jesus to heal. My imagination took me there, which is easy to do in this place. To hear the birds singing different tunes yet not clashing in tone, to feel the rocky sand between my toes or the cool spray of the water on our faces, the very water Jesus once walked on. Maybe that’s why I love biblical fiction. I want to be there in every way, using every one of my senses, to experience God’s story through the stories of people He created and immortalized in Scripture. How very much like us they all were! How very human, despite the centuries separating us.
Our last stop was the Jordan River where some of our people were baptized. The water was pretty cold, but the experience watching them was awesome. One girl saw what she thought was a muskrat in the river after she was baptized, but our guide said that there are no rats in the Jordan. I forget what he said they were.
After the baptism, we spent time at a souvenir shop, where I found some great resources for research on my novels. But this post is longer than I intended so I will end it here.
Until next time…Shalom…