Incredible day…got to go to the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem! Wish Ruthie could have been here w me. I thought about her all day, because this is her favorite story in the Bible. Her favorite movie is the nativity.
When we arrived in Bethlehem we went to a shop that made carvings from olive wood. The olive wood has to sit and dry out for 5 years, then it is hand carved. Pretty awesome process…the finished one in the picture is the one I wanted but could not afford it! 🙂 Dang they’re expensive! Lol
After the factory we headed to the Church of the Nativity, where they are almost certain that Jesus would have been born in one of the stables (caves) below the church. It was an incredible experience going down in the cave and singing “Away in the Manger” with the brothers. The piece of concrete in one of the pics below is what a manger looked like back then, it’s a concrete horse trough for food essentially. This is similar to the one Mary would have laid baby Jesus in.
Mount Tabor is where many scholars believe the Transfiguration of Jesus took place. It was a difficult, yet amazing hike to the top! When we got to the top, we totally felt like little kids on an epic adventure. We were the only ones up there and we stumbled upon the ruins of what we believe to be an ancient crusader fort/church! We were climbing around on it and exploring, it was so much fun and I felt so alive on the top of that mountain! I will likely not forget that as long as I live.
This is a 2000 year old boat that was recently discovered in the Sea of Galilee. Who’s boat was it? Jesus, Peter, John, or some other fisherman from Galilee? Amazing to see something that was made during Jesus’ day.
The Baniass Falls, near the border of Israel and Lebanon were amazing! Reminded me of Psalm 93
“The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure. Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity. The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea— the Lord on high is mighty. Your statutes, Lord, stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days.” (Psalm 93:1-5 NIV)
In Matthew 16, it’s recorded that Jesus took his disciples and journeyed to Caesarea Phillipi where they came to this place called the “Gates of Hades.” From this massive hole in the rock came a major spring of water. A couple centuries before Jesus some people built a temple to the god Pan. They called this opening the “Gates of Hades” because they believed that it was the entrance to Hell. They would offer sacrifices to Pan by killing children and throwing them into that hole. This place was the epicenter for pagan worship and darkness. So Jesus bring his disciples here and ask them, “who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “you are the Christ and the son of the living God.” Jesus said, “upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” This was the first time he ever used the word church and it was used there on a rock in front of the “Gates of Hades!” It was as if he was saying, “my church is going to storm the gates of Hell with love, light, and the power of God and overcome this darkness and evil! And you know what, he was right. I can testify that yesterday that temple to the god Pan sat in ruins, no more child sacrifices, no more worship to fake gods…and the Church is alive and well all over Planet Earth! “Upon this rock, I will build my Church, and the Gates of Hades will not prevail against it!”
Awesome and powerful day!
Sepphoris is an ancient city about 2 miles from Nazareth, where Jesus spent most of his childhood and adolescent years. We saw what has been discovered thus far in Sepphoris: beautiful mosaic floors, a couple thousand year old paved streets with indentations from so many chariot wheels, and then this beautiful outdoor theater.
After visiting Nazareth we made our way to Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to a wine at a wedding feast. We visited with some amazing Christians there that are living out their faith and spreading the gospel here. On the way out of Cana, we saw Mt Tabor where many think the Transfiguration occurred. I’m hoping to get a couple of the brothers to hike up Mt Tabor with me on our day off on Monday.
Today we went to Nazareth and saw two pretty cool sites. First we went to an Orthodox Church that is built over the top of the only water spring in Nazareth. This would have been where the people of the town went to get their water. Tradition says that it was there at the spring where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she was pregnant with Jesus. The dark picture is the spring. We then went to a Catholic Church that was built over Mary’s house, a cave that we were able to look inside.
Yesterday was an amazing day! After renewing my commitment to Christ in the Jordan River, we went on a boat ride out on the Sea of Galilee. We stopped the boat about 100 yards from the shore where Jesus called out to the disciples when they were 100 yards off the shore in John 21. On that shore Jesus reinstated Peter and renewed his calling to feed Jesus’ sheep. There in the boat, the 21 of us brothers renewed our calling to be ministers of the gospel.