So far on our Middle East Travel Seminar we have seen and done a lot: pyramids, ancient temples, historic Roman and Greek cities, and beautiful natural vistas; but today has been the most meaningful day for me. We began the morning by boarding a boat for a cruise on the Sea of Galilee. Once we were underway, Charlotte student Sally Herlong led us in a devotion and song. Then Professor Rodney Sadler served us the Lord’s Supper—in the middle of the Galilee!
Our next stop was the Mount of the Beatitudes. Once we arrived here, Keat Wiles read us portions of the Sermon on the Mount and Professor Frances Taylor Gench led us in the Lord’s Prayer—in the spot that Jesus is believed to have said it! After this stop, we headed to the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha. At this site Jesus performed the feeding of the five thousand miracle. The church has beautiful floor mosaics that date from the 5th century. Unfortunately, arsonist burned portions of the church in 2015 and evidence of the destruction is still visible.
A short five-minute bus ride delivered us to our next stop: The Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter. It as at this location where Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” and Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Inside the church is a large rock where tradition holds that Jesus and the disciples ate breakfast. It was moving to see so many Christians come kneel, touch, kiss, and pray at this rock—where Jesus and the disciples ate after the resurrection!
Our last stop of the day was Capernaum, the town where Jesus spent much of his ministry. Before viewing the sites, Frances Taylor Gench talked to us about Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law. Then we were free to examine the church built above Peter’s house (where this miracle took place) and the synagogue where Jesus performed an exorcism on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21-28 and Luke 4:31-37).
Believe it or not, we actually made a few other stops today! But, I chose to share these specific experiences with you, our dear reader, because they appear to have made the most impact on our group. Seeing these places where Jesus and his disciples conducted their ministry has brought tears to many of our eyes today. Think about it for a second: communion on the Galilee, followed by saying the Lord’s Prayer on the Mount of the Beatitudes, followed by touching the place where Jesus and the disciples ate, followed by walking in the synagogue where Jesus conducted miracles. In one day! Experiencing these real-life places, about which we have read and studied most of our lives, has been life-changing for many of us. As this amazing day draws to a close, the pull of Jerusalem—and the cross—is palpable.
Bruce McVey is an M.Div. student at Union Presbyterian Seminary.