Onward we went on our trek through the Holy Land, from the Dead Sea to an area we consider filled with life. A little back story to start off. Jesus’ name in English is Joshua which means salvation. Fitting name for our savior. We have to have faith to follow Jesus and to trust that He will take care of us. Another Joshua in the bible played a prominent role in our next destination. Joshua and his buddy Caleb were two of a group of the men tasked by Moses to check out the land across the Jordan and report back what they found. Joshua and Caleb were the only ones to give a positive report and to encourage Moses and the Jews to act now and enter the Promised Land as God wanted them to. However, the Jews heard other stories of giants and mass armies and they got scared. The result? Forty years of wandering in the desert until finally, Joshua led the Jews across the Jordan and into Israel.
At the time of the Jewish crossing, the river was running very fast and flooding. It was scary and dangerous. The Jewish people had to have faith in God that He would take care of them to get them across the river. It wasn’t until the priests took the first few steps into the river as an act of faith that God stopped the flow of water to allow the people to cross safely. Everything in the bible flows together perfectly. It makes sense that this river, the place where the Joshua led his people to the Promised Land, would be the place Jesus was baptized.
As we drove up through the West Bank, we entered an area that had fencing on both sides of the road. Beyond the fence were mines (or maybe used to be mines) from the days when it was a no-man’s land. As we got close to our destination, my parents and I realized we had been there before—just on the OTHER side of the river. Wow, it was something special to see the place we had visited while touring Jordan back in 2007. Back then, the Israel side was not used as a tourist destination, but now, there were groups of people in long white shirts walking into the water to be baptized. We could see the steps where we waded into the eastern shore of this very narrow river seven years ago. This time, we were able to step in on the Israeli side. I think most people visiting the river Jordan would be surprised at how narrow and small it is. It’s very calm, and has a greenish/brown color with a lot of vegetation along the banks. It would be very easy for someone to cross over the border here—and in fact there was at least one crossing years ago. On the Jordanian side there is a baptismal altar that showed up there very suddenly one year when the Pope visited. Funny thing, it used to be on the Jewish side.
Sea of Galilee
We continued North past Jericho and through the west bank to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We could tell why some of the fishermen of Jesus’ time had issues—the wind comes down over the mountains and blows nicely across this beautiful body of water. White caps could be seen out on the water but as we stopped at a Kibbutz for a dip in this water, it was calm and clear as clean glass. The bottom was rocky with lots of little stones, and the surrounding countryside was filled with flowers and banana tree farms.
We had a wonderful lunch at the Fish and Bistro Restaurant in Ein Gev. The ambiance was lovely, the service was good, and the fish was absolutely delicious. I highly recommend a stop there—our guide was on the mark with this selection.
After lunch we got back on the road and saw a black steel silhouette of a man sitting on the side of the hill with a fishing pole. This is a Jewish joke. I guess if you’re Israeli you have the right to make this kind of bold insult, but I think they went considerably out of their way to poke fun at a deceased Syrian leader who had promised that he would be fishing off the shore of Galilee near the Golan Heights before he died. He did not accomplish his desire and so a monument stands to his failure.
Kursi: the Miracle of the Swine
Our next stop was at Kursi, the location of a miracle of Jesus. This is where Jesus met a man who was possessed by demons (so many that they identified themselves as Legion). Jesus healed this man and allowed the demons to enter into a herd of swine that was grazing in the area. The possessed pigs ran down the hill and into the sea where they drowned.
The site of Kursi hosts the ruins of a byzantine church that had a beautiful mosaic floor courtyard surrounded by pillars with pictures of animals. It was pretty hot that day so we continued on around the Sea to more Christian sites. I’ll talk about those in the next post.
Hebrews 11: 1
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”