Galilee, Caesarea Philippi & Bethany
May 31, 2022
Each day seems full and getting to writing a blog doesn’t seem to happen. We have already made it back to Jerusalem, after spending four days near the Sea of Galilee. Many of the locations of Jesus’ ministry are simply in the location. They do not know the exact place of the Sermon on the Mount, the feeding of the 5,000 and other events. Yet, there are a few places that it would have been close to the location.
The place to remember the Sermon on the Mount is on top of the hill. It would have probably been lower down, since that would have allowed Jesus a natural amphitheater. Yet, other stories seem to just come alive. We went to Gamla, a town on the hill that was a hot place for zealots in the time of Jesus. This might be where Simon the Zealot came from. It would have also been a city high on a hill that could not hide its light.
One of the places I have always wanted to visit was Caesarea Philippi. I was not disappointed. This is the place where the Jordan River starts out of a spring. A little downstream is Banias Waterfall. In the time of Jesus, the start of the river was inside a pagan temple for Pan. It was thought to be the gateway to the underworld. While Jesus probably didn’t get near the temple, he retreated with his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, probably near the falls. Here, Jesus asked Peter, “who do people say that I am?” “Some say, John the Baptist, others Elijah or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am.” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not overcome it.”
That this point, Jesus turned his face to Jerusalem. And, no matter what happens, it is God’s church that the gates of hell cannot defeat it. No matter how much you may struggle, God has conquered Satan. The power of sin and death is defeated. And, God’s church, His family has overcome it. This is always a powerful word for anyone who proclaims Jesus as Lord and Savior.
After Caesarea Philippi, it was a long trip up to Jerusalem. I knew it was up, yet I never knew it was way up. Galilee is below sea level. Jerusalem is over 2,000 feet above. Driving a manual transmission van uphill with traffic was a challenge. It was good to turn the keys in and be back in Jerusalem.
Today, we went to Bethany, where Jesus had his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Here, Jesus was anointed with oil, taught Martha it is better to listen to God than be busy, and where Jesus brought Lazarus back to life from the tomb. Over the tomb is a Byzantine Church, one of the marks that points this to be the place of the tomb. Just to see a 1st century tomb and know that Jesus had been in that place was moving.
From there, we walked the most likely path of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. This gave us a good view of seeing the old city. We stopped by the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the lame man who could not get in the healing waters as it was stirred. Because of churches built on the location, it was hard to see the pools.
Now, we are in the city and will look at holy week, walking in the paths that Jesus walked.