Today we check out of the Dan, but not before one more run at the breakfast buffet; the best in all of Israel! We board our bus and then head up onto the Golan Heights our destination is Panias. This mountain city was a pagan shrine dedicated to the half man half goat pagan god â€śPan.” The caves in this mountain were believed to be the entrance to the underworld. This site was venerated by the Canaanites, the Greeks, and eventually the Romans. Each civilization made their mark on the site.
By the time of Christ’s ministry Israel was once again a divided nation with two rulers; the sons of Herod the Great. Herod’s son Phillip enhances this site as a city to honor Caesar. He names it Caesarea Philippi. This city is a very important city religious center in the time of Jesus. This is where Jesus will bring his disciples â€“ many miles from Galilee to visit this place. The disciples no doubt were wondering why they would make such a long journey to a pagan center.
It is here Jesus challenges his closest followers with a question, â€śWho do you say I am?â€ť We know from scripture that only Peter answers correctly, â€śThou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.â€ť
Pastor Mark addresses our group at Caesarea Phillipi, asking, “who do you say Christ is?”
He points out that the question Jesus asks his disciples is a question still asked by the world today. Itâ€™s the most controversial question and one we must all answer.
We take a few moments to explore the ruins and see the cave that was once believed to be the entrance to Hades. Caesarea Philippi is located at the base of Mount Hermon, Israel’s tallest mountain and the place where many believe the transfiguration of Christ occurred. This is also where the headwaters of the Jordan flow.
Pastor Mark says Caesaera Philippi is a place of contrasts.
â€˘ Pan the god of shepherds vs. Jesus the good Sheppard â€˘ The capital of Paganism vs. the church (Caesarea Phillipi later becomes a Christian center.) â€˘ Mt. Hermon as an ancient pagan holy place vs. the place of Christ’s transfiguration
In each case God is challenging what man believes with what is the truth.
The only truth is the word of God. Jesus was the embodiment of that word. His ministry continues to this day and will prevail as the great truth of all time.
After spending time in Caesarea Phillipi, we make the long bus ride to Nazareth.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Nazareth was the home village of Mary and also the place of the â€śAnnunciationâ€ť – where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary, and tells her that she will give birth to a son. (Luke 1:26-31).
The angel tells her to give him the name Yeshuah which in Hebrew means â€śthe one who saves.” In the Gospel of Matthew Joseph and Mary resettled in Nazareth after returning from the flight from Bethlehem to Egypt. So according to the biblical accounts this was the boyhood home of Jesus.
Today Nazareth is a predominantly Arab city. It also has a significant Christian population. The largest Catholic Church in the Middle East is in Nazareth itâ€™s the Church of the Annunciation and marks the spot where tradition holds that the angel appeared to Mary. We visit Nazareth village where we are welcomed warmly by friends of Pastor Mark. Nazareth Village is truly unique â€“ itâ€™s as a fully functional replica of a first century village. we tour the village seeing and see the harvesting of olives and the processing of olive oil. We also see the preparation of food (including ours.) Our hosts have prepared a first century meal for us and itâ€™s a real treat.
Our trip to Nazareth includes a visit to a nearby precipice. This rocky outcropping provides a view of the valley of Jezreel, the town of Nazareth and the surrounding country side. This is where many believe Jesus was taken by an angry mob in an attempt to kill him by throwing him from the cliff. From the mountain top we can see the town of Afula and the home of our friends Jamie and Stacy Cowen. They will join us tonight for a special Shabbat observance.
We arrive at our hotel on the Sea of Galilee, we check in and freshen up and then turn around and get back on the bus. Tonight we will join our friends form Hope for Israel at Nof Ginosar. This will be our Shabbat observance with the Cowens. We are also happy to see our dear friends Paul klassen and Alan and Dianne Lese.
Until tomorrow, Shabbat Shalom!