Today we travel to the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Here we examine and discuss three primary personalities – Herod Antipas, John the Baptist, and Jesus – and how their lives intertwined. We will have an opportunity to explore the recent excavations taking place in 1st century Tiberias. Near modern Tiberias we will visit a 3rd-4th synagogue which contains a fabulous mosaic floor, one of the earliest mosaics discovered in a synagogue in Israel. Atop Mount Arbel we have a splendid view of the Sea of Galilee as well as the archaeological excavations of Magdala – the home of Mary Magdala – which is our next location to visit. At Magdala a 1st century synagogue has been excavated, as well as several Jewish homes having a ritual purity pool – a mikveh. A beautiful modern chapel overlooks the Sea of Galilee and within this setting we will have an opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist. At nearby Ginnosar, a Sea of Galilee boat dated to the 1st century AD is on display. We conclude our day with a relaxing boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Overnight Sea of Galilee, Ein Gev.
The Lord’s Day - Pastor Paul's reflections
I am so thankful for the beautiful mornings we have had on the Sea of Galilee. It is difficult to capture the beauty of the early morning on the lake in a photo. Now Monday morning and I will try to ‘catch up’ from yesterday. I must say that sipping a coffee on the veranda of our place, feeling the breeze off the lake, and enjoying the pinks and corals as the sun rises on the far hills is a very important part of this pilgrimage. This is the time to reflect; to download not only information learned yesterday, but those experiences that are transformative. I want to be a good steward of my time here, and so with the action of travel an exploring must come reflection. I usually keep a journal, but I thought that this blog would take its place this time.
I am pleased to have been in one place for three nights – tonight will be the fourth. It is helpful to settle and to have more time for reflection. There is need to pull away from the group, and from Joanne at times to have alone time in Galilee in order to allow the Gospel stories to percolate, like the coffee that I made early this morning – time to penetrate, to soak, to get in places in my heart and psyche that need restoration, healing and correction. Under the teaching of Dr. Steve Notley, I have had a number of assumptions challenged. I am re-considering long-held assumptions. One of those has been the role of the temple in the time between Jesus’ resurrection and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. How does Jesus relate to the Temple? How does the Apostle Paul relate to the Temple? I had understood that with the tearing of the curtain ‘from top to bottom’ on the Day the revolution began (Jesus’ crucifixion) that the Holy of Holies had been ‘violated’ and opened to all. I understood this as bringing temple worship to a close, and that Jesus was the “better priest, ushering in a better priesthood" and was the perfect sacrificial victim offering himself ‘once for all’. In Jesus entering the temple and clearing out the money changers, he declares (Mark 11:17) that ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations…’ (notice the present tense, not past tense). In the record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper (The Last Supper) some hold that the Greek word ‘pascha’, translated “Passover”, can also (and should be) be translated paschal lamb, the implication being that Jesus participated in eating of the lamb which would have been sacrificed in the Temple. Now there is something to chew on?! The ongoing link to the Temple is also reflected in the Apostle Paul’s writings. In the letter to the Galatians he says that he must leave soon to get back to Jerusalem for a feast in the Temple. In Acts 16, he requires Timothy his protégé, who had a Greek father and Jewish mother, to be circumcised. Paul also states that he is a Pharisee, not was a Pharisee. This needs to be tempered by his words, “I count it all rubbish for the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.” -That he was a Pharisee of Pharisee, kept the law, etc. And what about the Nazirite vow that Paul takes (Acts 18:18) and which Paul pays for four others to take it. This vow needed to be completed in the Temple before the Priest We are on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. This region is where the majority of the Gospel accounts take place. The Sea of Galilee is also known as ‘Yam Kinneret’ and as Lake Gennesaret. From just N of Tiberias on the northwestern shore of the Sea, we climbed Mt. Arbel by bus and by foot (so thankful for the bus and for our bus driver Shimshon, a Jewish man originally from Iraq. I learned that there are not many Jews in Iraq (and now there is one less…) As we looked north and east, we could see Migdal (Magdala, where Mary, the first evangelist to the evangelists was from), Tabgha, where Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes to feed the crowds, The Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave this central teaching on discipleship (Matthew 5), Capernaum (the base of ministry here), and Bethsaida. The Jordan River flows into the sea here as well. The naming “Sea of Galilee” I found fascinating. We usually associate the word ‘sea’ with salt water. This water is fresh. Matthew is the only one of the Gospel writers who refers to this body of water as the Sea of Galilee. And he does so with a purpose. The Greek word ‘thalassa’ is used and is usually salt. ‘Yam’ in Hebrew can refer to either a salt or fresh body of water. In using the word ‘sea’, Matthew is making reference to Isaiah 9, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned…Never the less there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan.” (emphasis mine). Mathew, in calling it the ‘Sea of Galilee’ is making a statement that Jesus is fulfilling this “honoring of Galilee” – that Jesus is Messiah. Remember that Matthew is a Jew, writing to a Jewish audience. This would not be lost on them! These kind of ‘code words’ and references are what midrash is about, that art of reflecting on the Scriptures and drawing out implications. Matthew is providing us a midrash of Isaiah 9. These are the kind of layers that this trip is unearthing for me. Making connections and undoing old connections, rethinking and giving thanks. I must recount the way we ended the day today. After a service of worship in Magdale in the church of Duc In Altum (latin for ‘push out into deeper water’ and referring to Jesus cooking breakfast for the disciples on the beach and their miraculous catch of fish). From there we boarded a boat and spent the last part of the day on the water. We were graced with perfect weather and a beautiful sunset. Together we heard from Mark 4:35 and following – the account when Jesus calmed the storm. He was asleep in the back of the boat after a period of very intense ministry. He was bone-tired. Yet he woke up and exercised his authority of the Lord of all Creation by calming the tempest. Although the disciples were afraid of the storm and the very real possibility that they were going to die, the Gospel writer emphasizes that the ‘terror’ came when the disciples witnessed the miracle and the sea became completely calm. They asked, ‘who is this who even commands the wind and the sea?” So many blessings! I must go and post this and then eat some breakfast before boarding the bus at 8 a.m.. I also should probably change out of my pyjamas! Shalom / Salaam alaikum!