By : Johnnie Moore at 6:00PM, The Beatitudes, Capernaum, Chorazin, and The Jordan
The sun is setting. It is absolutely stunning. It's as if God is playing with the sky. The shades of blue and organge are mixing together into a new kind of color that I've never seen before. I've seen plenty of sunsets in my life, and plenty of beautiful ones too. But, this one is just different. I'm watching, just to my right outside of a large window, the sun is setting over the Sea of Galilee. The Sea is like a mirror reflecting the sky's constantly changing canvas, and I can't help but be overwhelmed with the thought that this sunset must be similar to many sunsets that Jesus saw when he sat peacefully and prayerfully on these hills.
This is actually our second full day of touring, but a totally unmanageable internet connection crippled me from blogging yesterday. So, I'm going to record our adventures with a little taste of jet lag, which, by the way, also makes this an even more accurate depiction of what we're experiencing.
On our first day we led the students in a crash course in Jesus' life and ministry around the Sea of Galilee. We started at the Mount of Beatitudes where we joined up with another tour happening simultaneously and led by Jonathan Falwell and Ben Gutierrez. We sat there on the traditional hill where Jesus delivered the tentents of his Kingdom Ethic, and rather than fill up the air with our interpretations, we instead did something far more profound. Jonathan Falwell, Ben Gutierrez, Clayton King and I took turns reading the Sermon on the Mount word for word. At the end, we reflected on the response of the people as Matthew - the former IRS agent-turned-Christian - recorded. He said that "Jesus taught with authority, not like the teachers of the law."
All day, we reflected on the fact that Jesus' shattered the religious system on the Sermon on the Mount as he often stated, "you've heard it said, but I tell you." Jesus flew in the face of the Pharisaical form of Godliness that had soured the people of God as he corrected their system and established his own.
As we stood there, it took far less imagination to get a sense of what it might have been like to sit on that hillside and hear Jesus teach.
From there we went on to one of the three cities that Jesus cursed for unbelief. Oddly enough, Chorazin was destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th century, and lies till this day crumbled. It's rare for a tour to take an excursion to Chorazin, but our phenominal tour guide wisely guided us to this off-the-beaten-path ruin in order to allow us an opportunity to teach about early Jewish life and religion in a much quieter place than the primary sites that are filled to capacity with pilgrims from around the world.
Here, around a massive table, Clayton and I talked about Jesus and the beatitudes and the Kingdom of God. We mined out the pictures and emotions and theology and practicality of what we had already seen and heard.
From Chorazin, we went to the city where Jesus performed most of his miracles. Capernaum was his home for 18 months, and it was also the city from which he called his first group of disciples. Matthew lived here and Jesus healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law here. He healed a Centurion's servant and raised Jairus' daughter, and was in the middle of healing a slew of others when a couple of friends ripped off the roof of the house he was in, in order to drop down their friend. We took the opportunity at Capernaum to go story-by-story, revealing the religious, cultural, and historical significance of this village that sat on top of some of the major trading routes of Jesus' day.
Perhaps the highlight at Capernaum was when Clayton King read the story of Jesus teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum when a demon possessed man spoke out saying, "we know who you are, why are you here?"
After reading this story we released the students to visit the very synagogue where this encounter happened, and where Jesus taught much of what is recorded in the New Testament.
From here we went on to visit the site where Jesus performed the feeding of the Five Thousand, and I drew the attention of the students to the context of the encounter. Jesus had just learned that his cousin, and dear friend, John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod. He decides to escape to the otherside of the Sea for some quiet time to think and to pray. When he arrives he discovers a crowd waiting for him. Despite his broken heart, the account says that Jesus "had compassion on them." He took this as a divine encounter and began to teach the people despite his own broken heart. This teaching led into the feeding of the Five Thousand.
This is, by the way, one of our goals on this excursion. We want to unveil the context of scripture to our students, and from it withdraw as closely as possible an idea of what it must have been like to be an eye witness of Jesus'life and ministry.
We concluded the day with a baptism service on the banks of the Jordan River. We baptized 27 members of our group. I'm not sure they'll ever forget the experience of being baptized in the same river as King Jesus.
Well, now the sun is fully set, and the book is closing on another day. Tomorrow, we have much ahead of us on what has already become a spiritual experience of a lifetime.
Posted at 4:23 PM | Comments (0)