Day three began by visiting Caesarea Philippi (different from the Casearea by the sea that we saw yesterday). This is a gorgeous area by a natural spring and carved into the rock side of a mountain. It reminded me of many of the ancient Hindu temples in Nepal. This is where one of the pivotal conversations between Jesus and His disciples took place.
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:13-18)
The context that the location brings to this passage adds a completely different dynamic to it. Jesus asks this question in the midst of a location filled with worship to other gods. In the minds of Jewish people, this spot was an expression of paganism and was close to hell on earth (Jesus even references Hades in his conversation). Not only is Peter’s answer significant in light of the many gods being worshiped around them (at that very moment), but also because Jesus talks about Peter being a rock that the Church will be built on while standing on an area where one sees rock all around them.
Our next main area was the Sea of Galilee. This was the site where so many stories of Jesus took place as it was a traveling point to many of the cities around the water. This is where Jesus supernaturally walked on water with Peter.
This is where Jesus showed that He had command over the elements of a storm.
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27)
This is also where Jesus called Peter and Andrew to be His disciples and follow Him.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Matthew 4:18-19)
The main fish in the Sea of Galilee is called the St. Peter’s fish. This is what we know as Tilapia. The reason the fish has that name is because of a tradition based on the following passage where Jesus tells Peter where he can find money to pay their taxes.
“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:27)
While we were on a boat tour on the Sea of Galilee our captain showed us how they would fish in Biblical times. In the Gospel of John we learn about one time in particular and our guide added an insight for us.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. (John 21:4-6)
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. (John 21:10-11)
In this passage Jesus appears to His disciples at the Sea of Galilee after He has been raised from the dead. He instructs them on how to fish and they pull in a remarkable catch—153 fish at once! This might seem like a totally random number but it has huge significance. In Hebrew, each of the letters correspond with a number (this would be like us saying that a=1 and b=2, etc). The Hebrew numerical translation of 153 means “I am God.” (You see this elsewhere in the Bible too. The numerical translation of the number 666 from the book of Revelation literally means “Nero.” Nero was the Roman emperor from 54 to 68 A.D. and brought much persecution to the Christians).
After our trip to the Sea of Galilee we came to where tradition holds that Jesus preached the Beatitudes from the sermon on the mount. There is now a church on this spot.
Following this church we went to another church where tradition holds that Jesus multiplied the fish and the loaves to feed more than 5000 people. If you look closely at the picture below you see a rock underneath the altar where it is said to have happened.
Our last stop for the day (and what a day this was!) was Capernaum. This was known as Jesus’ hometown and where Peter lived. There were lots of stories that happened here, like when a group of guys lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of a house.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:1-5)
Another key site to the city was where Peter lived. There is now a very unique church built over the top of Peter’s house. Since Peter lived there it became an early house church after the death of Jesus. This site has been used for the Church gathering for thousands of years.
When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:14-15)
Another cool side note about this site is that it was where my parents were when we called to tell them that Adelyn was born last year. We were scheduled to go on last year’s Israel trip and then found out we were pregnant. She ended up being born during the trip itself and Michelle and I took a picture where my parents were standing a year ago when we called them to tell them the good news.
Finally, I’ll close out today with a couple of signs that I saw that gave me a good chuckle.
Click here to read all of my posts from this Israel trip.