Day 5 – Thursday, August 10: Optional Sunrise Hike to “Hill 713,” Arbel, Yardenit-Jordan River Baptism, Magdala, Capernaum, Ancient Boat, Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
Today started early for about half of the group. We left the hotel at 4:40 a.m. and drove to “Hill 713” in there Upper Galilee for a sunrise overlooking the entire Sea of Galilee and Lower Galilee areas. We returned for breakfast the the entire group, and then departed together at 8:30. The day was a hot one, with sunny skies and temps in the high 90s. We read from Matthew 13 as we left for Arbel.
Mt. Arbel is a mountain on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Almost half in the group choose to hike the challenging trail that ascended to the top, while the others drove around the back side and walked to the top from the visitor center. Even though it was a bit hazy, the view of the lake below was spectacular. As we all gathered on top, we read from Matthew 5 (the “Beatitudes”) and a few of the kingdom parables from Matthew 13. While there is a traditional Catholic location for the Mt. of Beatitudes, perhaps the lower slopes of Arbel may have been the place where Jesus about. The kingdom proclamation of Jesus was His “go-to” message throughout His ministry! Additionally, while we can’t know for sure, it could have been the top of this cliff where Jesus met His disciples after His resurrection and shared the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28).
Yardenit/Jordan River Baptism
We drove to the southern end of the lake where the Lower Jordan begins. Here a few in the group reaffirmed their faith in baptism in the Jordan River at a place called Yardenit. Jesus Himself was baptized at Bethany Beyond the Jordan further south across from Jericho (John 1). The experience was special for all of us!
We drove back to Tiberias for a quick lunch at the foodcourt in the mall (we enjoyed some air-condition for a brief time.). Then we drove back to the northwest side of the lake where we visited Magdala. Here, we saw an impressive but simple 1st century synagogue. There are only seven (or eight, depending on how you count them) synagogues that date to the time of Jesus in the country. Magdala is only mentioned once in the Gospels (Matthew 15). We also saw a few ritual baths (mikveh or mikvot, plural).
“Today’s entire focus was upon the life and ministry of Jesus. We spent the day around (and even on) the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed hikes, visited archaeological sites, and gleaned from the Gospels the contextual details of Christ’s ministry here in the Galilee.”
Located on the NW corner of the lake is Capernaum. This Jewish town served as Jesus’ “home base” for His Galilean ministry. In the 5th century synagogue, we read from Mark 1, 2; Luke 7, 8; and John 4, 6. We also saw the Byzantine church, octagonal in shape, that dates to about the same time period. This ancient church surrounds a 1st century house structure suggested, by tradition and archaeology, to be Peter’s house. Down on the lakeshore, we read from Mark 9. Serving in Christ’s kingdom requires a heart of humility and servanthood.
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We completed our day by to Nof Ginnosar where the ancient boat (called the “Jesus Boat”) is displayed. This was a 1st century wooden vessel discovered in 1986 by two brothers of the kibbutz here. From here we walked out to the dock where we embarked on our own hour-long boat ride. Being out on the water at dusk/night was spectacular! We enjoyed a time of worship and praise. We also read Mark 4 and Matthew 14 about the two storm narratives. Jesus cares for us, especially when we encounter the “storms” of life.
Sailing back to the dock, we returned to the shoreline and drove back to our hotel in Tiberias. It was a great day of focusing upon Jesus!