Friday, March 6, 2015

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked.... Part 2

I chose the title of this blog series for two reasons. Obviously the first was because of where we went on our trip - to the land where Jesus was born, lived, died and rose again. The second was because ever since we first decided we were going to go, the song "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked" has been echoing through my head over and over. I knew the song as a child in my father's churches but it's been years since I last heard it.

Written by Geoffrey O'Hara in 1937, I couldn't help but sing the song in my head while walking through the various Israeli cities and streets during the tour.

I walked today where Jesus walked,
In days of long ago.
I wandered down each path He knew,
With reverent step and slow.

Those little lanes, they have not changed,
A sweet peace fills the air.
I walked today where Jesus walked,
And felt His presence there.

Sadly, the streets have changed. City after city was built on top of the ruins of Jerusalem each time it was destroyed. Some parts of the current city are 12 - 18 feet above the original city. But many places have been excavated so a pilgrim to the holy city can see the original. And beside the Church of St Peter and Gallicantu, the location where it is believed Peter denied Christ three times, there are some original steps from Biblical days that Jesus and his disciples would have walked down to go to the Garden of Gethsemane following the last supper. So I really did walk where Jesus walked.

On day 2 of our journey, our first full day in the nation of Israel, we headed to Ceasarea Phillipi following breakfast. We drove North alongside the Western shore of the Sea Of Galilee to one of the Northernmost places in Israel and passed within just yards of Israel's border with Lebanon.

As we ventured further North away from the Sea we saw wild mustard plants in full bloom (the yellow flowering plants) and olive groves everywhere.

In fact, there are olive trees all over Israel except in the desert by the Dead Sea. There are olive trees all over Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth.

As we continued North we drove past a dirt road and fence on the West side of the highway. Our guide told us that on the other side of the dirt road was the fence that was the Lebanese border. We were literally yards away from the nation from which Hezbollah had launched a rocket attack on Israel just weeks prior.

We crossed the Jordan River for the first time. It was narrow, muddy and not what I expected, although I can't really tell you what I did expect. I would see it again later.

We went to see the former site of the Temple of Pan. The Temple of Pan, a temple that was built by pagans in a cliff near the headwaters of the Jordan River. (The Jordan is actually made up from three tributaries that flow together in Northern Israel. One of those tributaries comes from a spring that flows out from under a rock in a park called Hermon River Springs.)

Where the water actually comes out of the rock.

 (Flowing South toward the Jordan)

The Grotto of Pan is now an archeological site at the Southwestern base of Mount Hermon and the temple was built to honor the Greek god Pan, who was believed to be half man, half goat. There is not much left of it now but in its day it must have been something to see.

Although it was interesting, we didn't go there solely for the ruin. In Matthew 16 the Bible talks about Jesus being in the area of Ceasarea Phillipi and asking his disciples who it was they believed Him to be.

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

According to the Bible, this conversation took place somewhere in the area in which we were standing. Our Executive Pastor, Kevin, who went along on the trip, read the scripture to us while we were there and initially had a difficult time reading because of the emotion he felt being in a place where Jesus had actually been. It was understandable. It happened to me several times while we were there.

 We took a pictures and wandered around the area for a while. It really was a beautiful place.

(Looking up toward the caves where the temples stood)

(Looking down from the temple site)

(A surviving piece of the old temple)

There was a gift shop in the park (there's always a gift shop) that had various items for sale, mostly from other historic sites in Israel. One thing I did buy was a couple of empty plastic bottles which I filled with water from the spring. 

I have no idea what I'm going to do with it but it's a nice keepsake, for now.

The gift shop had t-shirts for sale. One that I found refreshing said "Don't worry America - Israel has your back." This next one made me laugh...

Finally it was time to go. Our next stop was Yigal Alon Museum in Kibbutz Ginosar. A kibbutz is a collective community in Israel that was traditionally based on agriculture. Everyone was equal and they shared what they had along with the work. It is mostly an historical site these days but in the museum is a wooden boat believed to be from the days of Christ. It was discovered by two brothers when the water in the Sea of Galilee had receded and was carefully excavated and preserved.

It is believed that this is the type of boat used by Peter and other disciples who were fishermen. Jesus spoke on the North shore of the Sea of Galilee and when the crowd grew large he stepped onto Peter's boat and spoke from the water. The exact area from which Jesus gave His sermon is not known but it is believed to be somewhere between Kibbutz Ginosar and Capernaum, which is about 5 miles East. This boat is believed to be the same type and size of Peter's boat.

From Kibbutz Ginosar we got into and old wooden boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee to the town of Ein Gev for lunch. The boat stopped in the center of the Sea and we sat in silence for a few moments. All around us was the water and the hills of Israel on the horizon. It was so quiet out there you could almost hear your heartbeat. Our pastor, Dr. Marr, read more scripture and we sang a couple of songs. Then we headed to Ein Gev for a traditional lunch of grilled whole fish, vegetables, hummus and pitas.

After lunch we traveled to Capernaum, the home town of Peter and the town where Jesus based his ministry after the people of Nazareth rejected Him. There is a church and monastery built near the site of the house where it is believed Peter and his mother lived. 

Part of the old city is still there (in ruins) and a small chapel is built over the foundation of Peter's mother's home. 

And there is a carved stone that depicts the Arc of the Covenant.

I climbed the stairs to the chapel over the foundation and laid my Bible on a railing to take a picture. I was distracted when someone came up beside me and mentioned something about an ancient wine press that was visible from where we were. (You can see it in the second photo.) There was also a Greek Orthodox church with bright gold crosses on the rooftops visible from the same place.

Anyway - I got back to the hotel later and discovered I had walked away without my Bible. I left it in the chapel. There was no way to go back and get it so I truly hope it fell into hands that needed it more than I did at the time.

There is a large statue of Peter on site with the words "Thou art Peter. And upon this rock I will build my church." The actual passage, also from Matthew 16, reads as follows: 

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Some people believe Jesus was actually saying that Peter was the rock on which the Son of God would build His church. Catholics believe it. That's why Peter is considered the first Pope of the Catholic church. Most Biblical scholars disagree, however. 

From "," - The name Peter (Gk., Petros) means “rock” or “rock-man.” In the next phrase Christ used petra(upon this rock), a feminine form for “rock,” not a name. Christ used a play on words. He does not say “upon you, Peter” or “upon your successors,” but “upon this rock”—upon this divine revelation and profession of faith in Christ.

I'm not here to debate the issue. I believe Christ was talking about Himself. But somewhere in that area of the Northern end of the Sea of Galilee these wonderful things took place. And here I was, walking in the very same area. It's not difficult to use my imagination and believe that I may have stepped in an actual place where Jesus himself stepped 2000 years ago.

Soon it was time to go. Our first day came to an end and we headed back to the hotel. We walked out behind the hotel to the water's edge and I put my hand in it and collected a couple of rocks to take home with me. It was a good day.

To be continued...

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