Day four was the definition of awesome, for sure! Starting off our day on the sea of Galilee was relaxing and stimulating at the same time. Dr. Wright got us oriented as to what is where. Decapolis on the east of the lake, Tetrarchy of Phillip on the northeast and then the region of Galilee wrapping around on the west. We learned about the ancient fishing industry too. They had some pretty sweet techniques back then. The dragnet was pretty common is seems. It was thrown from shore in a large semicircle and then pulled back by a bunch of guys on each end literally ‘dragging’ everything to shore from the lake bottom to surface. This net is mentioned in Habbukuk in speaking of Jerusalem’s enemies. There was also the trammel net which was more expensive to use and keep in shape. But it was comprised of three layers of cotton net that would fluff out when thrown into deeper water thus catching fish by their fins when they swam through them. When Jesus called James and John to follow him it could be that this as the type of net they were using since it says they were mending their nets (plural) and it also mentions hired men which signifies that Zebedee would have been a fairly well-to-do man.
Aubrey talked with us about some of the imagery that Jesus used in the sermon on the mount; being salt of the earth and a light to the world. How about looking up from where he was teaching and seeing a huge hill with a magnificent Roman city on top? As much as that light couldn’t be hidden from the whole area around the Sea of Galilee so much should the light of Christ shine from us. As much as the culture from that city affected the religious people from the small fishing villages around the lake, so much and more we should be shaping the culture around us today. It reflects Isaiah 58:6-10 as well, if we share what God had given to us, if we give of ourselves to others then our “light will break forth like the dawn” and ultimately Ephesians 2 will be fulfilled through our efforts. The two groups will become one through the peace of Christ. Jew & Gentile, believer & unbeliever, all the barriers will be broken down.
We drove to the opposite side of the sea then; all the way to the top of the cliffs of Arbel with its’ astounding heights and breathtaking panorama below. We could see the villages and their beautiful fields at the base. The sea was to our right and to the left came the Wadi Arbel with rugged cliffs rising abruptly on each side. We talked about the gory history of this place and why it was so important to Herod. There were groups of people who made their homes in this mountain to escape the cruelty of Rome. They carved cave-homes out of the sheer rock face, built walls and dug cisterns and still Herod came searching. In 38BC Herod sent soldiers to take care of the rebels hiding out in these cliffs. They went to extreme measures to get to the caves and ruthlessly killed men, women and children. Josephus’ account tells of soldiers being lowered over the cliff in baskets and reaching into the caves with long hooks to pull the people out to their death. So why all this attention to a bunch of folks hiding out in the hills? Why do they matter? Well, the international route would have come right down this pass between the two cliffs and if the rebels were messing with the traders it may have constricted travel or even caused people to stop going this way for fear of being waylaid. All this is going to hurt Herod’s tax collection in the village of Bethsaida just a little farther on and that could not be.
Could this also be the place where Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples? Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go… Matthew 12. And then… we got to scale the cliff face and hike down to the bottom! I love the ruggedness of these hills along with the challenge of getting up and down them. We took a side trek to explore a few of the amazing caves on our way down until we ended up being at the tail end of the group. Its pretty amazing to go climbing around in ancient caves and see the blackened walls from their lamps and consider that folks actually lived, and died, here.
Ceasarea is our last stop of the day and technically our last field study lecture in Israel itself. Whoa, this was a huge city and oh, so Roman! Herod built a mammoth port here. It was oriented toward Rome itself making a statement to the world that this is the life we want to live. This is real civilization.
Peter was summoned here by a man named Cornelius after he had an interesting vision including all kinds of animals. We often don’t realize how purely pagan this place was to Peter and really how huge the struggle to obey must have been.
When Paul was brought here from Jerusalem he was put in Herod’s prison. Normally when we hear those words they indicate certain death but not in Paul’s case. I liked the point about him being here for two years, right on the coast with that desire to witness burning in his chest and yet being stuck. So what a joy it must have been for him to be able to share his passion again. And he did so with boldness, even under guard in the heart of Rome itself.