Holy Land: Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus

10:50 pm – Israel Time – Tuesday 3/24/2015

Like yesterday, I was up before I needed to be. I guess it must be the nervous energy and excitement of the trip because I am not usually a morning person. I was downstairs 20 minutes before I needed to be so I decided to go out on the hotel lobby balcony again, you know, the one that over looks the Sea of Galilee? (Yes, that Sea of Galilee)

Sea of Galilee in the morning

In case you can’t tell, I do enjoy a bit of writing from time to time… So I took out my old fashioned paper journal and pen and wrote a little. The warm sun, slight breeze, and splashing of water on the docks created quite the writing mood. As I was wrapping up, I  heard a familiar, but inappropriate sound. It was an obvious and unmistakable blasting recording of the American National Anthem. Yes, the Star Spangled Banner was playing loud and clear. My first thought was to look back towards the hotel, but it was not coming from there. I looked around me. Finally I resigned to letting it be a mystery that I would never unravel. I went to take a picture of the sea. And there, in the sea, was a sizable boat leaving the docks and the Star Spangled Banner was blasting from its speakers.

I had a lot of fun telling my fellow pilgrims that story and it was just a story, until, at 9 am, we went out for our own boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. And guess what they did.

That’s right.. They played the Star Spangled Banner. For real.

Here we all are with our hands over our hearts on the boat

After that there were a few other cheesy songs on the boat, but there was also a demonstration of fishing with a net (like the apostles did). Mostly I spent my time looking out over the bow of the boat, just soaking in the moment. I love the water and this water was Jesus’ home turf:

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After the sea, we snuck through a small museum. Inside, the item of focus was a boat, found buried in the mud of the sea during a drought in the 1980s. They were able to painstakingly remove it from the ocean and use carbon dating to determine its age.

This boat was from the time of Jesus, the first century.


The sign on the wall next to the boat

Our next stop was Capernaum.

When Jesus turned 30, he would have been completed with the traditional rabbi education. After that, he chose to live in a town just off the Sea of Galilee. Perhaps he chose that place because his friend Peter, a fisherman lived there in the house of his mother in law.

We had Mass over that very home, where Peter lived. At that Mass, I read the second reading. It was 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul describes what Jesus did, with the blessing, breaking, and sharing of the bread he describes how Jesus taught it. Paul also instructs the Corinthians to continue in the same way that Jesus did it. His words are basically verbatim what we say in the Mass: “…and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.”

I read those words in the church built directly above the home of Peter. I am kind of shocked that I got through them without breaking down. When I got back to my seat, I was shaking and during Communion, I broke down completely. I went to Communion with tears welling up in my eyes and after Communion I knelt on the floor and wept happy happy tears. Jesus was here. Right here.

Many of the first Masses were likely celebrated below us in Peter’s house. Miracle upon miracle happened in this tiny town. Within a stone’s throw is the synagogue where Jesus taught. It was there he said the words we read in John 6, where Jesus said eat my flesh and drink my blood. That happened here! In Capernaum! I walked through that synagogue! I read the words of the apostle Paul above the home of our first pope! Here! Here! Here!!!

The sign at the entrance to the town


This is the church built on stilts above Peter’s house


The window in the floor of the church overlooking Peters house below


Our tour guide standing where Jesus would have stood to read scripture in the synagogue

We had lunch in the ruins of another town on the north of the Sea of Galilee called Chorazin. Interestingly enough, Jesus mentions this town in scripture in order to condemn it. He condemns Bethsaida and Chorazin for not repenting. Not much later those cities had devastating earthquakes. No one lives there to this day.

Picnic lunch at the park of the ruins of Chorazin

The next place we went was the Church of the Beatitudes. It sits on top of the hill where Jesus sat and spoke about how to be happy in this life. The whole grounds felt like I was in the garden of Eden. The scent especially was what took me to another place.  We discovered that it was the blossoms of these trees, orange trees, that made it smell so good:

Orange tree blossom


Church of the Beatitudes

The grounds surrounding the church were beautiful. Peppered throughout were the beatitudes written on plaques.

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Next we went down to a place called the primacy of Peter as you can see from the sign on the side of the church:

Sign on the chapel wall. In Latin it reads: “Chapel of the Primacy of Peter”

Remember when, after He had died and then rose, Jesus came down by the water and said to Peter and company, cast your nets over there and then they caught a literal boatload of fish? And then, remember after that, when Jesus cooked them a fish breakfast and then told Peter to feed his lambs and sheep and gave him the keys to the kingdom (aka made him pope)?

Yeah that happened here:

Inside the chapel. This rock is the spot that tradition calls, “The table of Christ” or “Mensa Christi” in Latin.


Oh yeah, and I waded in the Sea of Galilee there too. Yup, that happened:.

As if it was possible to cram anything more into a single day, we did. Next was Magdala, the town where Mary of Magdalene was from. This is an excavated synagogue from her town. It is a recent archaeological find and it is also especially curious among synagogues because it is facing the “wrong” direction. Jewish synagogues always always are oriented to face towards Jerusalem. This one isn’t. It is oriented towards the East. Guess what religion orients their houses of worship towards the rising sun? Oh that’s right, ours does. So, while it looks like a synagogue, it is oriented like a Christian church, curious, very curious…here, you can see what it looks like:


Ruins of the Synagogue at Magdala

We ended our time in Galilee and around the Sea at a portion of the Via Maris called the Valley of Pigeons. This is the road that Jesus walked to get to Nazareth from Capernaum. I walked on the road that Jesus walked on. My feet touched where His did. I walked in His footsteps! The trail is bound by cliffs on either side. Within the cliffs are caves in which the Jews are said to have hidden from Roman persecution. It is also said that they were killed there:

Up high you can see the caves where the Jews hid from persecution.


Stephanie looking up at the caves from the trail Jesus walked.

As I settle into this trip, I am realizing something about myself. I feel like I am more myself on this trip than I am or have been at any other time. Do you ever act differently than yourself? What I mean is, do you ever change your actions because of  your concerns about how you will be perceived by those around you? I do this and I feel like I have always done this. I fret and worry about how I will be judged and I use those imaginary threats of judgement to sway my actions, demeanor, and words. I am rarely or ever fully myself. It is just too scary to be that vulnerable.

Before this trip, I chose to be myself for the entirety of this trip. I made a deliberate decision to be as much like my honest self as I could. To do what I choose to do, to laugh and smile and even disagree when I know that is what I really want to do. And I have. And it has been fantastic. Sometimes it means that I will sit alone in a tree (ask me about that story maybe later):

Sitting in a tree eating lunch

But often what it means is that I get to be the best version of myself, the version that gets lost in a heart to heart conversation with a woman I met two days ago. This version of me also means that my face and stomach will kill every day from laughing too much!

Being myself is scary, but being myself is what Jesus would want me to do. It took him 30 years to figure it out, before he started His ministry. I can imagine that he went through a bit of confusion about who He was supposed to be. He understands me, why I also might be scared about just being myself. He understands how scary it is to be yourself. But he loves me for me

And who knows me better than Him?

3 thoughts on “Holy Land: Jesus, Jesus, and more Jesus

  1. JF says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. Love the picture of you over the water – it is wonderful to see such joy and peace!

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