Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 12, 2009

Galilee | Day 1

The best thing about being in Israel, other than sharing the experience with friends, is learning about the geographical context of the events of the Bible. We spent March 11 visiting sites located around the Sea of Galilee. I must confess that it is hard to wrap my mind around actually being in the places I have read about for so many years — and realizing that I am walking in places where Jesus walked. We will be in Galilee for a few days, so I will give a brief overview of the places we visit and the lessons I glean along the way.

The Place of Prayer | This morning we went to Mt. Arbel, a prominent mountain ridge that rises one-thousand feet above the Sea of Galilee’s western shore. We hiked along a narrow trail that steadily winds its way up to the top of the mountain. The hike was challenging but reaching the summit made it worth the effort. From the top of the mountain we had a beautiful panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee and the cities located along its shores.

Rabbis called Mt. Arbel the prayer mountain. It is, most likely, the place where Jesus often withdrew to pray (read Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:15-16). I can understand why. It is a lonely place free of distractions, but it is also a place of perspective. From the summit you can see Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida (where Orthodox Jews lived). And you can look in the direction of Gamla (the home of the Zealots), the Decapolis (where the pagans lived), and Tiberias (home of the Hellenistic Jews).

Reflections | Climbing Mt. Arbel was hard. How much effort do I put into prayer and to praying in places free of distraction? And, how much perspective do I have when I pray? Am I aware of the needs of those around me?

Pastor Brian Haynes Teaching at Tabha

The Place of Calling | From Mt. Arbel we traveled the short distance to Tabgha, a small area located on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Tabgha means “seven springs” and it is believed that the warm water from these springs attracted schools of fish, making this area an ideal place to fish. It is very likely that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him at Tabgha. “’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mathew 4:19). Jesus used the figure of their old work to tell them what their new work would be. Each of these men willingly left behind everything familiar to them in order to follow Jesus. The key point in this verse is that Jesus cannot make us into anything if we will not follow Him.

Reflections | Am I willing to follow Jesus even if it means leaving behind the things that are familiar, comfortable, and manageable? Following Jesus can be hard. Refusing to follow Him can be harder. The only way to become what He intends for me to be is to follow Him.

The Place of Teaching | We walked to the mountainside near Tabgha where Jesus taught the crowds the Beatitudes, one of Jesus’ most popular teachings (Matt. 5:1-12). The mountain was blanketed with beautiful yellow wildflowers with random blue, red, and purple flowers competing for attention. We took a moment to read and discuss the Beatitudes while imagining what it must have been like as the people from the surrounding villages listened to Jesus’ refreshing and practical instruction.

Reflections | Jesus taught the people of His day through the use of simple and memorable lessons. He often told stories they could relate to and never used words they could not understand. He talked to crowds and to individuals and took the time to listen to them. Jesus’ example challenges me to walk slowly among people and to listen and speak to them as He would.

The Place of Family| I enjoyed our walk through the ruins of Chorazin where we looked at a typical Jewish home. Generations of Jewish families lived in clusters of buildings called insulas. These buildings were built around a central courtyard. As sons married, they added another room to the family insula. However, a son could not bring his bride home until his father approved that the new addition was complete. Jesus used the image of the insula in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I am going there to prepare a place for you.” And then one day, when the Father says all is ready (see Matt. 24:36), Jesus “will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

Reflections | Jesus is preparing new rooms, not mansions, for His followers in the insula of heaven. I must live daily in community with the household of faith and eagerly watch for His return.

Westervelts at Capernaum

The Place of Jesus | We visited Capernaum this afternoon, the place Jesus chose as His base of operations when He began His ministry. Capernaum was known as Jesus’ home (Matt. 9:1 and Mark 2:1). We walked through the local synagogue where Jesus taught. This synagogue had a large school, suggesting that the people placed a high value on education. However, the saddest note about Capernaum is that the people there did not accept Jesus’ messianic role. Jesus therefore said to the people of Capernaum, “…If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you”  (Matt. 11:23-24).

Reflections | Like the people of Capernaum, many people today miss Jesus. Despite the availability of resources and access to those who can help them understand, they fail to embrace who He is and why He came. We must work to make certain that the people in our own homes and hometowns know Jesus.

The Place of Healing| We concluded our day at Bethsaida. Mark recorded an account of a miracle that Jesus performed in two stages at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26). A blind man was brought to Jesus. Jesus took the man aside, spit on his eyes and laid hands on him, and then asked him if he could see anything. The man replied that he could see men, but they looked like trees walking about — an indication that his sight was blurry. Jesus laid His hands on the man’s eyes a second time and, as a result, the man could see everything clearly.

Reflections | Jesus could have healed the blind man with one touch. Instead, He chose to touch the man a second time. I’m glad He performed this particular miracle in two stages because it serves to remind me that insight often comes slowly. I want for Jesus to touch my eyes again so that I might see others clearly and with greater insight.


  1. Omar-

    This is good to see, your journey at place where Jesus was in this earth! I guess, I will not have an opportunity to having there in my entire life, but I am learning through you!!!


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