On the Sea

Posted by Scott Foster on

Amazing day of Holy Site seeing! First, an early morning boat ride from Tiberias up the western coast of the Sea of Galilee in a large version of what may have been something like a biblical boat. Except for the drone of the motor and a capacity greater than the original disciples, this was a pretty authentic experience of the Sea.

If you've ever lived on or near a huge lake, you know of things like lake effect storms, squalls, and microburst phenomenon. This is an explanation of the storms that blew up as Jesus and the disciples crossed the Sea. Remember, he is sleeping in the back of the boat when the storm blows up and the disciples all think they are all going to perish? Jesus calms the storm and they declare in wonder, "Who is this man that even the wind and the Sea obey him?" (Matthew 8, Mark 4, Luke 8)

We headed north to a landing at the Kibbutz Ginosar on the site of the ancient village of Gennesaret which is sometimes a name given to the Sea of Galilee. The kibbutz is a kind of commune or gathering of people historically around an agricultural operation to share common resources: laundry, cooking, schools for the children. "And they sold their belongings and kept everything for the common good giving to each other as they had needs."

The Ginosar Kibbutz is a more modern commercial endeavor well known for its discovery of the 2000 year old boat. In 1986 after a period of severe drought, the shoreline of the Sea had greatly receded exposing the top of an ancient boat buried in centuries of silt on the floor of the Sea. A vast excavation effort recovered the boat without destroying it and it now rests on display in a museum at the Kibbutz park. It is very much like a boat that Peter and Andrew would have used in their fishing business.

From there, we jumped on the bus to Tabgha, the site of several key events in Jesus' ministry. The first disciples were called here. The feeding of the 5000 multitudes and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The Sermon on the Mount. These are big time biblical events!

There are churches and basilicas here to commemorate the spots and I appreciate them. But honestly, I think it would have been so much more meaningful to see the unobliterated beauty of these mountain tops overlooking the Sea. It's very cool, to be sure! But I'm pretty sure The Beatitude don't include "Blessed are the landscapers for they will know their bushes." Tabgha is an Arabic transliteration of the Hebrew words for "seven springs" as this area is very green, cultivated, and hydrated.

Capernaum is where Peter's house is and where Jesus came to live with him during the Galilean years of the ministry. Capernaum is also home to the synagogue where Jesus did a lot of teaching. The ruins of Capernaum and a 4th century synagogue are well preserved as are the relics of Peter's house. However, there is a basilica erected directly over the site that looks like a spaceship. They tell us it has a glass floor where you can see down onto the site of the house. But evidently, it's run by an order of nuns with not much of a sense of humor because for some reason this was closed to us today and they sort of locked the gate to us.

I took the best photo I could under the spaceship deciding it was not worth the international theological incident to jump the fence and climb under there. You know me! I was so tempted...

The last stop on this little north shore trip turned into a moment for me. There is a basilica here, too. But the seashore is accessible and we could walk right down to it. According to tradition, this is the site of the resurrected Jesus' appearance to the disciples in John 21.

Having already been on the Sea in the early morning hours, there is just something about it. Being here, present: the sound of the Sea lapping up on the shore, the people milling about. There is a fine beach of tiny seashells, rocks, and pebbles and I collect a few handfuls to bring home. This is quite likely the site of the first "Men's Breakfast."

Jesus gives Peter three different instructions to "feed my sheep, feed my lambs, feed my sheep." This is known as the "Primacy of St. Peter." Think of the implied forgiveness of the denials in this scene! The story reverberates in my mind.

Jesus' charge is very clear. And while we ponder and reflect on this, I search the Greek text on my phone. Sure enough, the verbs and pronouns are all singular. Jesus is instructing Peter directly. It's imperative. Feed my sheep. There is no doubt who's to build the ministry now.

Peter is.

We are.

Grace and peace,

notes from the iPad




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