Whew what a day! We started at 7:15 a.m. with a boat trip around the Sea of Galilee. Our captain for the day was Daniel Carmel. Captain Daniel is an Israeli Jewish man who has accepted Jesus as Savior. He has two boats that sail on the sea and the one we were on was called Faith. As a messianic Jew, he is truly in the minority but in Dr. Cook's opinion there have probably been more Jewish people saved in the last twenty years than ever before. Still, the vast majority of Jewish people still walk around looking for the "Messiah" to come. As a matter of fact, our guide "Avi" and our driver "Assher" are both unsaved. Pray that they see that Messiah has already come and they may believe. Captain Daniel came to know Yeshua (Jesus in Hebrew) by listening to the preachers that came on his boat with their groups. After five years, he woke up one morning and realized that Jesus was real to him and he had a love for his "Messiah." From that time on, his life was changed. Daniel is not only a boat captain but quite an accomplished gospel singer. After we sailed for a bit he turned the motors off and we just floated. What an amazing way to start the day; sailing on the Sea of Galilee so quiet and serene watching the sun climb in the sky.
From there, we went to the remains of the city of Capernaum. This town was a fishing village in the time of Jesus located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was a poor city with a struggling population estimated to peak at about 1,500 people. Jesus spent a lot of His time in this city and used this as His base for His ministry in and around Galilee. Capernaum was the hometown of Apostles Peter, James, Andrew, and John as well as the tax collector Matthew. Most of the town was centered around the synagogue. The ruins of the synagogue that are there today have a foundation of black (basalt) stone. This is significant because the summer temperature in Capernaum would average about 110 degrees. No one in their right mind would build their homes and businesses out of black stone in that heat unless they had no other choice. That is one of the factors that lead people to believe that Capernaum was poor and that also helps us to understand how Jesus can come to a people that are struggling and offer hope to a person that does not see hope in anything the world has to offer. This foundation was for the synagogue that we read about in Mark 1:21 which says, "And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught." While the city is now excavated ruins, I stood and envisioned Jesus teaching, healing, and touching lives as He walked through that city. Matthew 4:23 says, "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner pf disease among the people."
Matthew 4:25 says, "And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond Jordan." These people followed Jesus not only for what he could do for them physically but also what he could do for them spiritually. Continuing in Matthew 5, "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain and when he was set, his disciples came unto him and he opened his mouth, and taught them." Our next stop was the Mount of Beatitudes and this was where Jesus began to teach many practical life principals. I spoke that morning on the beatitudes and how that there should be a difference between the life of a believer and the world. When you read in verse 13 that a believer is to be the "salt of the earth" and in verse 14 "the light of the world" it becomes apparent that the believer should "glorify your Father which is in Heaven" (verse 16). This was not a request by Jesus but principals that were given with the expectation that the believer will obey.
From there, we went to Caesarea Phillipi which is located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee at the base of Mount Herman and is one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. Here the pagan god Pan was worshiped and there was a temple set up for that purpose. Other gods were worshiped there as well and Jesus spent quite a bit of time there spreading the gospel. He went to those that needed Him most.
The next stop was the Golan Heights. We were within 1 mile of the border of Syria and I never felt safer in my life. The Israeli Defense Force presence was seen but not prevalent. Controlling the Golan Heights means security for those in Northern Israel and is very important to Israel's continued survival. We ate lunch in another Druze village where we had another meal of flat bread, goat cheese spread, and various fruits and veggies. The terrain is steep and the only way to grow plants is to build walls to support a garden. As you drive by and look at the side of the mountain is looks as if steps were built into the side of it.
Next was the town of Kursi or probably more familiar as the Gadarenes. This was where the man possessed by demons was healed by Jesus and the swine did a nose dive into the sea. It was interesting to look down into the Sea of Galille and picture a man sitting up there watching a storm gather and buffet a small boat and all of a sudden a man steps out into the boat and commands the storm to stop. He saw hope that day...hope he never knew existed.
Tomorrow, we leave this part of Israel and head toward Jerusalem. We are going to head down the Jordan Valley, swing by Nazareth, stop along the road to Jericho, and wind up that evening at the Western Wall of the Temple. Another exciting day is closing and I look forward to another opportunity to see more of Israel tomorrow. I will be speaking on the road to Jericho so remember that in your prayers. We pray for you. Enjoy your coffee...more to come.
Love you all,
Gary W. Hall, Pastor of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church.