I suppose I have always imagined Jesus as being immune to feelings. I’m not sure why, other than the fact that He was strong enough to fearlessly stand up to the self-righteous, and disciplined enough to refuse to be provoked. Someone that strong and self-disciplined must not be sensitive to silly little things like feelings, right? But Luke 4 records a dramatic event in His life that must have been painful for Him, because He was truly fully human.
People He must have known since He was a child tried to kill Him. In one moment they marveled at His gracious words, and in the next they became murderously enraged. I wonder if they roared angry words into His face, poking Him in the chest with their fingers, spitting at Him and shoving Him out the low door of the synagogue. I wonder if they used their walking sticks to painfully prod Him in the back, a gang of first-century thugs caught up in a mob mentality, pushing Him and yanking His hair in a desperate effort to lead Him to the high hill above his childhood hometown in order to send Him plunging to His death.
Wednesday, (literally) standing on the precipice of Mt. Precipice, Wayne Burger talked to us about some things that Jesus experienced – and how we can know that He understands when we encounter the same things. Jesus understood the fickleness of man – He saw how quickly their demeanor changed when they didn’t like what He had to say. He experienced rejection – and not only from strangers and friends, but He was rejected even by His own family. Were His own family members intent on throwing Him down the face of the cliff? Jesus also experienced escaping death so that other souls could be saved – He wasn’t afraid of death. He didn’t avoid the murderous crowd out of fear or dread. He remained because He still had work to do and a mission to fulfill. These things that He encountered must have been hurtful, yet He went on about fulfilling His mission.
If you don’t know Wayne Burger, then your life is not as rich as mine. He is one of a kind – a godly man, full of kindness, grace, and Bible knowledge. I will never forget listening to Wayne talk about “Principles from the Precipice”.
Over the past couple of days, we’ve been blessed not only to hear from Wayne, but from Denny Petrillo, standing at the edge of Capernaum – Capharnaum – Nahum’s Village, just a few yards from the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Nahum means “comfort” or “compassion” – and Jesus was the Nahum – the comforter. I will never forget listening to Denny – another godly man, full of kindness, grace, and Bible knowledge – speak of Jesus in Capernaum.
This morning, Michael Hite talked to us from a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. He said that “being here is paralyzing,” because there are no adequate words to describe what it is like to be here. He said that Galilee was the place where God chose to break His silence after 400 years…that this is the place where God changed mankind for eternity. Luke 4 records how Jesus, after what took place at Nazareth, went on to Capernaum in the region of the Galilee. He taught, He healed, He performed miracles, and He tended to the needs of scores of people. Luke 5 opens with Jesus getting into the boat of a fisherman, pushing away from the shoreline, and teaching the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He asked the fisherman, Peter, to let down his nets, but Peter said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as you say and let down the nets.” Michael said, “Would you want to push that boat back out one more time?” Right about this time, the captain of our boat cut the engine, and we sat quietly listening to Michael. He went on to question the other 38 of us in the boat today, “When He asks – ‘just one more time’ – isn’t that when God blesses us the most?” I had to look back over my life, and the answer – yes, when I have yielded and submitted to God, and said “I will do as you say,” that is when God has blessed me the most. God willing, I will never forget listening to Michael Hite – another godly man, full of kindness, grace, and Bible knowledge – speak words of truth to us from a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee.
I’ve been blessed to hear Tyler King speak to us from Caesarea Philippi, and Ken Dawdy from the the middle of the Roman ruins of Scythopolis, and Wes Autrey from the ancient chariot city of Megiddo, and John Moore (who happens to be my favorite) talk to us from the top of Mount Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee (which happens to be my absolute favorite place here!) ALL of these men are godly men, the kindest of men, overflowing with grace and full of biblical truth. This is paralyzing to me – to find words to describe the blessing of absolutely soaking in the word, in the place where the Word came to life, from men whose hearts are full of the words of life. I never, ever share these things to make anyone sad that they could not be here, too. I only want to share these things to encourage anyone who reads my words on this page to open the word of life and see how your life will be blessed beyond all that you can ask or think.
Where we’ve been and some things we’ve seen –
Even though there has been dust and haze in the air, the colors this time of year are incredible in the Galilee. The hills are covered in bright green grass that looks like velvet, and black lava rocks dot the hillsides with great contrast against the green. Bright yellow wildflowers are visible everywhere, as well as bright purple round flowers that look like sharp-pointed dandelions. The sea itself is different shimmery shades of green – dark, mossy green where the water is deep and a lighter teal green in shallower areas. Olive trees give off a unique shade of gray-green from the unripe olives still forming in the branches. The sky has been the bright blue of springtime – it’s captivating!
I love the Galilee because it must look so much like it did back in Jesus’ time. There are several cities developed along the shoreline, but it is not crowded like so many waterfront areas around the world. Though occasionally you may hear the Muslim call to prayer, it is not so dominant. The sound of birds chirping and singing – even the sound of peacocks – is much more prevalent. I can just picture Jesus here – healing, hugging, laughing, serving, loving. I can see Him happy, here. It’s peaceful.
Wednesday, we went to Mt. Carmel (where Elijah – with God – defeated the prophets of Baal) and Megiddo (one of Solomon’s chariot cities with a very strategic and important location) – a place where the message rings out, Wes said, that “God always wins.” We traveled to Nazareth where Inaam Jadon had prepared a fabulous lunch for us at the church building – it was so wonderful to see and hug Inaam, Maurice, Awny, and little Maurice again! She fixed chicken with turmeric rice, roasted carrots, lots of Mediterranean style salads, hummus and pita bread, some pastries with fig (I think it was fig!) and some delicious sweets. She is a wonderful cook. Maurice talked to us about the challenge of being Christians in a Muslim city within a Jewish nation. Then we headed to Nazareth Village, where actors portray villagers from the first century. The shepherd, with a very authentic looking white beard and tanned face, surprised us when he opened his mouth and out came an Australian accent! Then off to Mt. Precipice. I like to walk around and see how many languages I can detect – I heard Polish, English, English with a British accent, Japanese, and Hebrew.
Yesterday we headed to Capernaum, Chorazin (Matthew 11), Dan (1 Kings 12), and Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16) and today, John’s birthday, we started out watching the sun rise on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (so we couldn’t actually see the sun rise, as it was behind the mountains behind our hotel. And technically the sun doesn’t even rise, we just rotate.) 😉 Then we headed to take a ride on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, then to the top of Mount Arbel. After that, we drove for an hour to get to Beth She’an (1 Sam. 31) and Scythopolis and then drove for another 2+ hours to reach our hotel on the Dead Sea.
Some quotes I’ve jotted down that I found memorable:
John – from the top of Mount Carmel: “Pray with your eyes wide open. See what blessings God has laid before you.”
Roy Greenway – near the Syrian/Israeli border: “Love is the basis for peace.”
Singing today – Master the Tempest is Raging: “No water can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies!”
Michael Hite, encouraging us to have the faith of Peter: “Get out of the boat!”
John – from Mt. Arbel: “In the valleys below, we tend to focus on the things of this life, but up higher, when we think higher, our perspective changes.”
Ken Dawdy – from Scythopolis: “Satan has customized temptation plans for each of us. What is yours? Keep your eyes on the One who came to rescue us.”
Tyler King, who has cracked me up repeatedly during this trip: “I feel like I’m too young to eat a boiled egg.”
Adam Warnes, speaking quietly after we checked into our unusually nice Dead Sea hotel (there aren’t any Dead Sea hotels that AREN’T nice): “We don’t belong here!”
We walked about 4 miles on Tuesday, 6 miles on Wednesday, 7 miles on Thursday, and 7.8 miles today. Oh, and 90 – that’s NINETY – floors we climbed today, because we went up the tel at Beth She’an. So I may have had an extra dessert tonight.
The air in the hotels here is perfumed HEAVILY. I suppose it’s meant to be pleasant, but it’s overpowering. I’m sitting in the hotel room, nine floors up, with the door open because I can’t handle the perfume smell, and outside somewhere below is a singer loudly performing Frankie Valli’s song “I Love You Baby”. At the Dead Sea. Bizarre!
One more thing – I am really missing Tsvika and his quiet, humble style of guiding. Although Eitan is very nice and extremely knowledgeable, he can out-talk any preacher I have ever known. There is a proverb…the end of which says “he who restrains his lips is wise.”
That is all, and that is more than enough! 😉 Tomorrow, Masada and En Gedi. Thank you for your prayers! We wish you were all here with us. There are so many tourists here, it FEELS like you are all with us! 🙂