Our second day touring Israel had us up for a 5:45 A.M. wakeup call and all aboard the bus by 7:15. Since we were staying at this hotel in Tiberias for two nights, at least we didn’t have to deal with luggage. An extra early wakeup call meant we had lots to see and do today. Many places we visited each day required reservations, so we had a tight schedule to keep.
It was a beautiful start to the day overlooking the Sea of Galilee. First up today was a drive into the countryside to Banias, otherwise known as Caesarea Philippi National Park, a region in the Golan Heights. This is a very fertile area of Israel with snow capped mountains in the distance. We drove very close to Israel’s border with Jordan and Syria and along the side of the road we saw many signs warning of land mines.
Here we found the cave of Pan and the remains of a temple built by King Herod to the Greek god Pan. The huge cave, where a spring is located, was thought to be the gates of Hades, a connection to the Underworld. Pan was thought to be a god of the wild, shepherds and flocks. Sacrifices to the gods were hurled into the cave.
According to the Gospels, after Herod Antipas of Galilee murdered John the Baptist, Jesus took his disciples into this territory. Amid the temples to Caesar and pagan gods, as well as the entranceway to Hades, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) And Peter responds, “You are the Christ”. (Mark 8:29) Jesus answers, “Happy are you, Simon son of Jonah, because no human has shown this to you. Rather my Father who is in heaven has shown you. I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it. I’ll give you the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-20).
Next we continued to the Yigal Allon Center which is home to an ancient 2,000 year old boat found off the coast of the Sea of Galilee. During a drought in 1986 the wooden boat embedded in silt was discovered. Archeologists, scientists and volunteers worked for ten days and nights to free the boat from the mud before the water table began to rise again and flood the boat.
We then took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It is not really a sea but a lake. At 700 hundred feet below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on the planet. It is formed by the Jordan River on its northern shore and is approximately 13 miles long, 7.5 miles wide and 140 feet deep. Surrounded by mountains and valleys, there can be a rise of sudden storms. It supplies Israel with fresh water for drinking and irrigation, as well as a vibrant fishing industry today, as in the time of Jesus.
The boat ride took us offshore where we had a church service. Before the service, an American flag was hoisted as we sang our national anthem.
Pastor Harold preached a brief sermon and we sang hymns. What a beautiful experience on The Sea of Galilee.
Many momentous events in the life of Jesus occurred on the Sea of Galilee:
- Jesus calmed the sea (Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25)
- Jesus walks on the surface of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 6:45-53, John 6:16-21, Matthew 14:22-33).
- Other miracles were, when Jesus feed thousands of people (Matthew 15:29-39, Luke 9:10-17).
- Jesus taught the crowds by the shore (Mark 4:1-34) and preached while standing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 13:2)
- Before his Ascension, Jesus appeared in His resurrected body to seven of his disciples for a final miracle catch of fish by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-14)
After all this, it is hard to believe there was more on today’s schedule, but there was!
Next up: Day 2, Part 2