I’m here documenting for a group of Christians on pilgrimage to the holy land from Ecclesia Houston with Breaking Bread Journeys. I hope you’re enjoying my account of our experiences. After an unbelievable breakfast at the Scots Hotel, we embarked upon a boating excursion on the Sea of Galilee where our guide David showed us how fishing nets would have been cast in the time of Jesus. Pastor Chris Seay shared with us from the account of Matthew’s Gospel describing Jesus walking on the water and Peter’s struggle with his faith to follow Jesus onto the water.
Personally, although this was my eighth visit to the Sea of Galilee, something different struck me this time. I stopped to ponder the events accounted in Matthew’s Gospel describing Peter’s struggle as our guide David explained to us how bad the storms can get on the sea there, with waves recorded as high as 12 feet. I love the metaphor that a boat, a vessel, provides us with in parallel to the journey of life. The storms of life will come, there is no question about that. The question is what is my anchor, what is my constant when I’m feeling lost and tossed about, when I’m feeling that everything around me is unstable? For me, it’s the grip of Jesus much like Peter felt when he began to sink on the water in his attempt to walk in faith.
We will all find seasons in life when we feel we’re sinking. We can either reach up with an open hand or clench our fist in bitterness and just keep sinking. When I arrived at the Magdala center with this thought on my mind, I saw again the mural there depicting this scene of Peter sinking, and the artwork captivated me in a way I had not felt it before. You will see my photo of the mural later below in the blog post. Jesus is so constant and steadfast, standing there on the water, grabbing Peter. The feelings I felt there in that sacred space will stay with me. Our time here has been extremely inspiring and there is a bond we are all feeling as we journey together, walking in spaces and places where Jesus proclaimed his radical message of love.
We then headed to an archaeological site called Magdala, the site of at least two places in ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and possibly a location mentioned in the Christian New Testament. They have discovered an ancient Jewish Synagogue which would have been active during Jesus’ time. Pastor Chris told us it is almost 100% certain that Jesus would have visited this Synagogue. A chapel is also located at the site with a beautiful view of the lake and very impressive and inspiring murals and artwork throughout. The discovery at Magdala is said to be on par with the Dead Sea Scrolls in historical importance.
After a much-needed afternoon break at the Scots Hotel, we enjoyed an extravagant meal at a local French Restaurant, the Auberge Shulamit, in the town of Rosh Pina. The owner personally introduced us to the menu and helped serve with a very friendly staff. It was a great experience with a beautiful night view of the Sea of Galilee and all several local towns lit up along the shore.
After dinner Pastor Chris led the group in an after-hours visit to the Mount of Beatitudes where he read us the entire Sermon on the Mount at the location it is traditionally believed to have been preached by Jesus. The night sky was very clear and full of stars. It was an unforgettable evening standing there listening to our pastor read what is regarded as the most famous sermon of all time, near what would have been the spot that Jesus shared it almost 2000 years ago. I’ll share some of the beginning verses of this beautiful and timeless message here:
Blessed are the spiritually poor—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Blessed are those who mourn—they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek and gentle—they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.