One week in! It feels like 10 years since we left but somehow it’s only been 7 days.
And just like the number 7 in Scripture is known as God’s number, today we explored the areas around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus lived and did the vast majority of His ministry.
Along the norther coast of the Sea of Galilee, there are 3 cities that form a triangle. Forgive all the lines in this picture (my note-taking can’t keep up with my brain or our guide!) but see the picture below:
The cities of Capernaum (Jesus’ hometown during His 3 years of ministry), Chorazin, and Bethsaida were Jesus’ most frequented cities He visited and taught in. Within this triangle, Jesus gave 75% of His teachings and did 90% of His ministry from the time He turned 30 (when Rabbi’s became official) until His crucifixion when He was 33. One of the keys to this is the amount of diversity that was in this triangle. Much like God choosing Israel’s land to be at the epicenter and crossroads of the world to His love could spread, Jesus did most of His ministry in an area that was a melting pot for all people groups.
This is looking at the synagogue in Capernaum, the largest in the region and the place where Jesus taught in numerous accounts (check out Mark 1)
In exploring Capernaum, we learned that there was a great deal of volcanic rock in the area, which is what ancient carpenters would work with. That’s correct, Jesus did not work with wood! Instead, He was a stone mason! In fact, Joseph (Jesus’ dad) and Jesus quite possibly helped build the great Roman city of Tiberias, which was also on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
Another amazing insight of the day we learned had to do with the Sea of Galilee itself.
The beach in Capernaum where Jesus chose His disciples (who were fishermen), had breakfast with them after His resurrection (John 21), and very near where the woman with bleeding reaching out and grabbed his “wings”/fringe of His robe and was healed (Mark 5).
The view from Mount Arbel where Jesus went to pray and sent His disciples across the lake. From here, Jesus watched His disciples battle the storm and prayed for them before walking across the water to them (Matthew 14)
It’s obviously a gorgeous body of water, surrounded by fertile, beautiful farmland, homes, and mountains. Do you notice anything weird though..?
There’s nobody on the water! No boats or jetskis or tubers or water-skiers or hipsters on stand-up paddle boards! What in the world!?
Well, as we’ve been learning all week, our Western mind is much different than that of an Easterner, especially a Jew. And the Jewish people are not water people, they are desert people. They like the desert, they are comfortable in the desert, the thrive in the desert.
One major part of this has to do with the Jewish belief that water represents darkness. It signifies evil and sin and chaos, all the things that God’s Kingdom through Jesus is meant to set right through Shalom. So the Jewish people avoid the water at all costs. Even fisherman would try and fish as near to the shore as possible, either on foot or boats that didn’t go out too far. Jewish people don’t even know how to swim because in their mind, why would they even go near the water?
The only Western equivalent I could think of would be that of a graveyard or abandoned mental hospital at night. Through our culture and media, those kinds of environments just represent darkness and evil and fear to us. We would probably try to avoid them at all costs and certainly wouldn’t go there for recreational purposes.
This truth about the Jewish people’s view of the sea brings so much light to countless Biblical accounts. A few examples:
- Jesus walking on the water illustreated His authority over evil, sin, and chaos.
- Peter walking on the water and swimming to Jesus after His resurrection shows Peter’s incredible commitment and bravery for His Messiah.
- Jesus choosing 5 of His disciples not because they were fishermen, but because they bravely stepped into the chaos and darkness every single day, as they would have to do for God’s Kingdom after Jesus left.
And much more.
So much to think about. And I can say with confidence, I’ll have more insights tomorrow!