With city lights twinkling across the lake and stars sprinkled in the dark sky overhead, we sang praises to the God who created it all. But this was not just any lake we looked out across. This was the body of water we call the Sea of Galilee. This was one of the places where the Creator met His creation in His physical, human form. Jesus was here. And while we know our God is present everywhere, always, we recognize the significance of this place. This was His earthly home. This is Israel.
A group of college students, young adults, and College-Age Ministry leaders from Southeast are spending the next several days exploring this land that is the setting for ninety percent of the Bible. It’s an incredible opportunity to see the geographical, historical, and cultural context of Scripture come alive in an entirely new way. We are walking where Jesus walked. We are seeing with our own eyes the views that David, Paul, Abraham, Joshua, Peter, and so many others saw—altered, of course, but still in a way that will help us better understand what we read about their experiences in the Bible.
Worship by the Sea of Galilee was a fitting end to the full and exciting first day of our trip. Many of us did not know what to expect when we set out this morning, but we have seen, heard, touched, tasted, and learned more than we could have ever imagined in one day.
We began in Caesarea Maritime, where ruins from multiple periods of history have been excavated from the ancient city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The city was founded by Herod the Great, who ruled Israel when Jesus was born, and it became a hub for Roman culture in Israel. We learned that Pontius Pilate, who handed Jesus over to be crucified, actually spent most of his time in Caesarea rather than Jerusalem, and we saw what has been uncovered of his old palace. A stone inscription bearing his name was found at the palace site, providing archaeological proof of his presence there.
During the time of the apostles, Caesarea was also the home of Cornelius. It was in Cornelius’ house that Gentiles first received the Holy Spirit, an event we read about in Acts 10. Paul also came to Caesarea several times, even being imprisoned and tried there, according to Acts 23-24.
After Caesarea, we drove through Mount Carmel. It was in this mountainous region that Elijah went up against the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18) and God reminded Israel that He was the one true God. We also saw the beautiful Jezreel Valley, the site of many military battles throughout history.
In the recreation of a village at Kdar Kefum, we experienced some of what life was like for Jews in the region during the time of Jesus. We tried on clothes like what people would have worn, learned the arduous process of making bread at the time (and got to try some!), and rode donkeys. It was a fun way to learn about the typical activities of people in Jesus’ day.
We then traveled to Nazareth, where Jesus grew up and lived most of his life on earth. Though bustling, urban Nazareth now is very different from Nazareth then, we visited a recreation of the old Nazareth village, which helped us imagine what Jesus’ hometown must have been like. Buildings, crops, orchards, pastures, and paths lined descending terraces on a steep hill. The synagogue, though small, could probably have fit at least 200 people, and was where Jesus and His family would have spent a lot of time with their community. It was also in the synagogue in Nazareth that Jesus read and taught from Scripture and was rejected by His own neighbors.
From Mount Precipice on the outskirts of Nazareth, we witnessed an incomparable view of the land from east to west, with more significant Biblical places in front of our eyes than we could count. As the sun set over the mountains, we listened as Dann Spader taught about Jesus’ humanity and what it means that He was both fully God and fully man—and how that influences the way we live our own lives.
There was truly no other way we could have ended such a day—and begun such a trip—but by singing praises to our awesome Savior, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV)
Please pray for continued safety and health for everyone on this trip. Pray for our guides and leaders as they share with us and teach us. Pray also for our minds to be able to absorb and retain a good amount of the information we receive. Pray for our hearts to be receptive to how God wants to work in each of us during this time. We are all so incredibly grateful for this experience. Join us in thanking and praising the One who provided it!
Stay tuned! Check back each day for an update from our trip.