Friday, March 17, 2017

Our Holy Land Experience: Sea of Galilee, Mt of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Jordan River

Sunday we awoke to another gorgeous clear day--perfect for taking to the water! To our delight, our group embarked on a morning boat ride across the peaceful Sea of Galilee.
Our hosts demonstrated the casting of nets and explained the fishing culture in Jesus' day. We also learned a few traditional Jewish dances and fed seagulls before returning to land for a tour of the ancient boat museum.

This is the preserved remnant of a 2,000 year old boat found buried on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Astounding to imagine Jesus asleep on a similar boat as a sudden and frightening storm blew in. The Bible was steadily moving from black and white words on a page to living color.

From the Sea of Galilee, we journeyed up to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.
So much of the Holy Land experience lies in getting context and perspective on the terrain/parts of the landscape and culture that influenced the teachings of Jesus. There were distinct bright yellow flowering plants covering many fields. What a delight to discover they were mustard!

The ground on the Mount of Beatitudes? A mixture of rocky and fertile. It was easy to imagine people gathered around in these very places as Jesus taught, surrounded by the object lessons He was using the instruct them. He spoke directly into their daily life in a way they could understand.

Our next stop was the city of Capernaum, where much of Jesus' public ministry took place. The rubble of many of the old buildings remains--including the synagogue. It was fascinating to think of Jesus in this environment. This day also impressed upon us how close in proximity many of the events of Jesus' life took place (walking distance!)

Our final stop of the day was the Jordan River. I was a bit leery of this place because the mix of tourism and sacred sacrament was a bit odd. Upon arrival, you rent towels and robes for $10 each and there are dozens of people there to be baptized.

Once we made it through the more commercial dressing room/rental portion, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how serene and special the environment became. We gathered as a group on large stone stairs on the riverbank that formed a sort of amphitheater. Those planning to be baptized gathered right along the river. One of our trip leaders said a few words and we sang a song. In God's impeccable attention to detail, the chorus we sang was the one song I knew as a child--a song I would sing when I was fearful and longing to feel close to God.

"I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You. Oh my soul, rejoice. Take joy, my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet, sweet sound in your ear."

It was a very person God-wink from a loving Father. A peace settled over me and I knew this moment--all five of us being baptized together as a family was something I would never forget.

Ryland was baptized first, then he stayed in the river to assist in the baptism of the rest of us. The child each answered three questions, publicly professing their faith and then were immersed in the FREEZING cold water. I went last and it wasn't until I walked back up those stairs, dripping and shivering that the redemptiveness of the afternoon started to settle in.
My first baptism was in August of 1987. I was a child a couple of months shy of 13--the exact current age of my children! I was from a family that did not attend church and so the decision felt like a declaration of independence in many ways. I made my profession of faith with no family members present and only one of my parents was present the night of the baptism.

The fact that God gave me a second opportunity to be baptized, not only in the presence of my whole family unit but beside them healed something I didn't even fully realize was broken. And the fact that my husband was leading our family in such a symbolic way? I am still overwhelmed. 

This day was full of examples of what a personal God we serve. Jesus sought regular, unremarkable people in their ordinary lives. From casting nets to calming storms--to teaching in parables that explained the Gospel in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner. He knew needs they didn't even recognize and He spoke to them specifically in ways that would resonate in the pain, fear, and reality of their lives. My afternoon experience in the icy waters of the Jordan reminded me that He still operates this way today.

What an unforgettable day of personal redemption and restoration! (And hard to comprehend that we still had 6 days left in the journey.)


Sara said...

Wow! I loved reading this, and it brought tears to my eyes as I imagined your feeling so loved and close to our Savior! What an experience you had.

LeighAnn said...

I too was from a family that did not attend church. I started Sunday School at the age of six because my first grade teacher asked if I could go with her family. That teacher, Mrs. Sibley, gave me my first bible that I have to this very day. I was baptized as a child at the age of twelve and without family in attendance. I thank God everyday that He put people in my life to get me to church. Our lives are very similar although we are a generation apart. I am ministered too every time I read one of your posts. This is not by accident. Thank you for sharing your family, faith and this particular trip with us.

Denise Ross said...

Thank you for sharing JMom. What an incredible experience to be baptised together, to have healing from God that you didn't know you needed, yet God knew. To walk the places Jesus walked and to see the relevance of the everyday in Jesus time and have His message relevant to each and everyone of us who follow him down through the ages. Such a gift we have in Jesus. Loved the words from your song. I was singing it in my head by the last line. Blessed by your posts