Walking in the footsteps of Jesus—that’s what it felt like we were doing today as we explored the area around the Sea of Galilee (which is actually known as Lake Kinneret to locals). As we circled the lake in buses and made stops along the way, we took in the sights, sounds, and history of this region so frequently referenced in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry. He spent a lot of time here—looking up toward or down from these mountains, riding in boats out on this lake, teaching revolutionary ideas to listeners sitting out on these rocks. Many of His disciples lived in this region. Many of His miracles were performed on this ground.
As we began the day, we crossed the bridge over the Jordan River, learning that the ancient Israelites were called Hebrews because the term means “crossed ones.” The city of Tiberius was quiet as we drove through it on our way, since today was Shabbat—Sabbath—and the city’s religious Jewish population was observing the day of rest.
On the west side of the lake, we trekked up to Mount Arbel and experienced a spectacular view of Lake Kinneret and the mountains and valleys surrounding it. We climbed around the rocky terrain of Arbel, stunned with the breathtaking scenery in every direction and excitedly taking photos. We sat on the rocks and listened to a lesson on discipleship, thinking about Jesus’ model that He demonstrated with a small group of men in this very area, and being inspired to follow that example ourselves. As we were leaving, someone in the group spotted a rainbow over one of the mountains and we marveled at God’s timing.
From the cliffs of Arbel, we drove back down to the lake, where we stopped in a museum to see a preserved fishing boat found in the lake in the 1980’s that is believed to have been from Jesus’ time.
We then boarded a boat and rode out onto the very waters that Peter, Andrew, James, and John fished for their livelihood. Where Jesus joined them in their boats many times, showed them a miraculous catch of fish, walked on water, and calmed the storm. Out on the water, we listened to more teaching from God’s Word and were prompted to worship the one who lit up this water, these shores, those villages with the power of the living Spirit of God. So out on the Sea of Galilee we sang together:
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior” (Oceans—Hillsong United)
We wondered at and worshiped Him on the lake where the disciples, too, asked: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41, NIV).
We landed near the ruins of Capernaum. This village was the center of Jesus’ ministry, and we see many references to it in the Gospels. We saw the remains of a synagogue from some 500 years after Jesus. It was built directly on top of the old synagogue from Jesus’ day. Differing layers in the exposed foundation mark parts of the old synagogue in which Jesus taught and healed people. Near the synagogue, we saw the ruins of the ancient apartment neighborhoods that surrounded it. One home is traditionally believed to be the home of Peter’s family, where Jesus may have stayed during his time in Capernaum. Some of the house has been preserved and rests underneath a church, and can be seen from the side and above through a window in the floor of the sanctuary. Here, once again, we stood and walked and learned in places where Jesus stood and walked and taught.
We ended the day with a muddy but beautiful hike across slopes overlooking the lake—to a hillside traditionally believed to be the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Here we reflected on the beginning of this famous message of Jesus:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3-10, NIV)
Please continue to pray for our trip! Pray for good weather so we can continue to experience these amazing places thoroughly. Pray for our bus drivers as they take us from place to place. Pray for those on this trip whom God is dealing with in specific ways right now, that they would be responsive and obedient to Him. Pray for us to continue to see God show up in incredible, unexpected, and unforgettable ways.
Stay tuned! Check back in the coming days for more updates from our trip.