Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baptisms in the Jordan River

Caesarea Philippi

From the Sea of Galilee, we went to Caesarea Philippi.
Caesarea Philippi is an ancient Roman city at the base of Mt. Hermon.  Below is the Hermon Spring, one of 4 tributaries that makes up 1/4 of the Jordan River.  The water was so clear and cold, but we got in a little trouble after we put our feet in :) 
Caesarea Philippi was the furthest north the Jews would come.  It was a center for pagan and idol worship.  As you can see below, there are several niches for the gods they worshiped.  There are even remnants of the Temple of Pan with Pan's grotto.  This place symbolized the gateway to hell for the Jews. 
Matthew 16:13-19
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Jesus often intentionally used topography and nature to bring his teachings to life.  This was no accident that Jesus brought his disciples to this location to ask such a significant question-one proclaiming his Messianic identity (vs. 13, 15).  Notice that Simon Peter responded to Jesus' question by clearly stating that He was "the living God."  Caesarea Philippi was the modern-day Las Vegas, New York, Hollywood, and Jeffersonville, Indiana (Ok...maybe not that last one) all rolled into one as it stood as the symbol of pagan god worship (the Greek god, "Pan") and pleasure.  While Pan was just merely a few stone images with no life or authority, here Peter proclaimed Jesus as the one true God that is active, sovereign, and desires a relationship with mankind.  The contrast couldn't have been greater!

Many scholars agree that 1st century Jews regarded this cave as the "gates of Hades."  When Jesus said, "...and on this rock I will build my church", He either was referring to Peter preaching the first sermon at Pentecost as Christ's Church was inaugurated (Acts 2), or He could have been using the mountain (that the cave is in) tangibly pointing out that His Church would trump all false gods and pagan culture.  Also, "gates" are not used in battle to advance against any army, but rather they are used for defensive measures.  But Jesus says that his Church will become so powerful that not even Hell's gates can withstand it!  

-commentary by Patrick :)
See the plant in Kobi's hand (above)
Any guesses of what it might be?
Mustard Seeds!
One of the many sunflower fields we drove past... I don't know why the tour guide wouldn't stop for them :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sea of Galilee

Matthew 4:18-20
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Michael W. Smith echoed across the waters as all the groups boarded the boats.  Tying the two boats together, we floated off into the Sea of Galilee.  It is technically more of a lake than a sea, but it's the largest freshwater lake in all of Israel.  The Sea of Galilee is also the lowest below sea level freshwater lake in the earth. Today this freshwater is actually a main source of the country's drinking water.
All was calm and peaceful, a step back in time to when Jesus sailed -and walked- on this water... until this guy flew overhead:
Many of the places we visited in Israel were just "possible" places from the Bible (like the location for the Sermon on the Mount, Peter's house, even the empty tomb...) but there is no doubt that Jesus was all over the Sea of Galilee.  It is mentioned many times throughout Jesus' ministry, and these are only the important times that the authors decided to record, who knows how many other evenings Jesus spent crossing the lake or walking on the shore with his disciples.
The Sea of Galilee and the surrounding landscape is so beautiful... it is no wonder so much of Jesus' ministry took place on and around this lake.  Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, while the crowd looked out onto the lake.  Jesus showed his power by calming a storm and later walking on these waters.  Another time, thousands of people followed Jesus to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee and on the mountainside he took 5 loaves and two fish and fed five thousand.

My uncle Jeff preached a powerful message about having faith in the midst of storms while we drifted in the middle of the lake.  A time of worship followed, as a Christian man from Israel led us in a few songs.  
An ancient fishing boat was discovered in 1986, preserved in mud and water until a drought exposed pieces of the boat to 2 fishermen brothers.  It is a first century fishing boat based on radiocarbon dating.  Boats like this one are mentioned 50 times in the Gospels and while this boat does not have a direct connection with Jesus, it is the sort of boat Jesus and his disciples would have used. 
For lunch, we had a typical fisherman's meal in a local restaurant:

I ate hummus.