By Belinda (who is behind, but doing her best!)
People in our group heard from family at home in Canada who they were texting, that snow was falling thick and fast over there, while we basked in the sunshine and felt alternately grateful and guilty.
We started Wednesday by driving to Banias, known in Jesus’ time as Caesarea Philippi. There, cliffs rose steeply from the ground; rugged stone of deep gray and salmon pink. The sound of cascading water came from gushing waterfalls known at The Gates of Hell. Suddenly Jesus’ words, “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” came alive with a play on the name of this familiar landmark—all the energy and power of a gushing waterfall! Context made sense of the words in a way that people who heard them originally would have understood. And it was here at Banias that Peter made his confession of faith in Christ (Matthew 16:16.)
We next drove to Korazin, destroyed by an earthquake and still in the process of being excavated and wandered the ruins of the houses lived in at the time of Christ, in this village over which he prophesied, together with two other villages, “Woe to thee.”
Next stop was the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, (see Matthew 5.) We gathered together and listened to one of our group read the words we had heard or read so many times before, but we were hearing them as close as it was possible to be, to where he had spoken them. An impressive and beautiful church stands on the site and from inside and all around, we could hear worshipers singing or being led in scripture readings by their pastors and priests in many different languages. A sense of holiness and reverence hung in the air in that beautiful place and we all took time to think about what it meant to be there. Our guide, Danny, said that Jesus would likely have spoken from the base of the mount, to the crowds gathered above him, as there acoustics that way would have been much better, but it really didn’t matter to us. Jesus had been in this place.
We stopped to have lunch at the Ein Gev kibbutz which operates a restaurant and specializes in St. Peter’s fish—the fish in which Peter found the coin for the payment of taxes to Caesar. Many of us chose to try the fish—I did. It was amazing, although the eyes staring back at us were a bit disconcerting.
And then we went to Capernaum where Jesus lived. We saw the house of Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, where Jesus stayed and healed her when she was sick, and the ruined temple, where he spoke, was just short steps away. You know it felt unreal somehow, seeing the very house where Jesus stayed and Simon Peter’s mother-in-law lived. Our guide told us at the start of our tour about the Three P’s: It’s possible, probable, or possibly not; the site of whatever is claimed to have happened there. But this house of all the sites is believed to be truly authentic. This is because of ancient graffiti on the building that identifies it as such.
Was I really worried last week about traveling with 28 people, some of whom I didn’t know? My anxiety was completely unwarranted. We found that we could be as “together,” or not, as we wished, but there is something about sharing such meaningful experiences with people that draws you together.
We drove back to Tiberias tired, but with our heads full of a waterfall, fish and a house in Capernaum.