We’ve asked some of our friends to share their own special recollections and experiences while in Israel on tour with Immanuel Tours. This week’s special writer is Tony Derrick, A long time friend of Immanuel Tours and ministry worker for Zola Levitt Ministries. He’s sharing about sites around Sea of Galilee.
One of the most inspiring places on this earth is Israel. It is as diverse in its landscape as it is in its religion. The major religions in Israel are Judaism, Islam, and yes, Christianity. Those that we would place in the category of Christians would identify themselves as Messianic – believers in Jesus as the Messiah. There are small enclaves of Messianic believers throughout Israel. One of the areas that these believers live is near the sites around Sea of Galilee where Jesus himself lived and performed miracles.
When you travel to Israel, your guide may, or may not be Messianic, but they will be well trained professionals, licensed by the State of Israel. You may often hear them refer to a site you are visiting as traditional or authentic. For instance, the Upper Room in Jerusalem where it is believed that Jesus – the Messiah met with His disciples for the Last Supper is considered to be traditional (where people have believed it to be but there is no proof and may very well not be the location), but many of the sites around Sea of Galilee are authentic. The Sea of Galilee hasn’t moved!
The Sea of Galilee has many names in the Bible. In Numbers 34:11, it is called the Sea of Kinnereth because it is shaped like a harp. It is sometimes referred to as the Sea of Tiberias, and also Lake Gennesaret. It provides fresh water for Israel, and it is used to irrigate, and also provide for modern day fishermen. Remember, this is where Jesus – the Messiah called out most of His disciples to leave their nets and follow Him, right around Sea of Galilee. This is the place where Jesus lived out most of His ministry – He even walked on the water. Would the disciples of that day be labeled as Messianic? It is doubtful, since the term didn’t really surface until the 17th century.
Life around the sites around Sea of Galilee takes us to the hill between Capernaum and Tabgha, known as the Mt. of Beatitudes. Imagine people gathering along the hillside as Jesus – the Messiah began to deliver what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. As He stood down the hillside, and the people gathered up the hill, there was a perfect megaphone effect as the winds off Lake Gennesaret move sound up the hill. His followers would have been scattered across the hillside, and each person would have heard the words clearly. I’ve been there many times, and it works. This would also be the area where He taught the disciples how to pray, or the model prayer that we find in Matthew 6. It is often referred to as the Lord ’s Prayer.
At the top of this mountain, there is a Catholic chapel built by Franciscan Sisters with the support of Mussolini. The chapel was constructed by the famed architect Antonio Barluzzi. The chapel is octagonal, which provides a view of the entire area, and a magnificent view of the Sea of Galilee. There are eight stained glass windows that display the Beatitudes as the sunlight crosses them. It is an impressive site, where one can look down on the agricultural fields, around Sea of Galilee, and imagine Jesus walking among the people, giving special attention to the children. Today, the well-kept beautiful gardens surrounding the chapel add to the worshipful atmosphere. It is not uncommon to hear worshipers from different countries singing praises in their native tongue, but recognizable as hymns of the faith, such as “Amazing Grace.”
It is only a few miles from the Mt. of Beatitudes to Capernaum. It is here that we find an ancient synagogue and St. Peter’s house. It is also here that Jesus – the Messiah moved when His hometown of Nazareth rejected Him. It is called Kfar Nahum in Hebrew, which means village of Nahum. It was a very important town because of its location on the crossroads of the major highways. It was also the home of Peter and Andrew. Historians disagree on the population of the time, and estimate it between 1500 and 4000.
Why is this place important? It is here that He healed Peter’s mother-in-law. It is here that Jesus healed the Centurion’s servant. It is here that He raised the daughter of Jairus – the ruler of Capernaum’s synagogue. But, after all the evidences that Jesus was the Messiah, the population refused to believe. And, because of their unbelief, Jesus included Capernaum in His denunciation of cities. In Luke 10:15 he says, “And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven will be brought down to Hades.” That sounds serious to me.
I urge you at this point to not just read about it, but plan to go and see for yourself. Experience the sites around Sea of Galilee, the people, the culture, the food and the incredible hospitality. Israel isn’t just the Land of the Bible; it is the Land of Inspiration. You’ll never be the same. Oh, did I mention the food? Ok, I did!