Our first stop today was the Inn of the Good Samaritan which may or may not have been near the place where Jesus told the famous parable but on the site a roof of a church has been constructed, with no walls, and there is a museum housing mosaics of various styles.
Then we drove down to Jericho (recalling that ‘a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho) and headed north towards Tiberias. The countryside changed from built up residential areas to desert land used by Bedouin shepherds who, our guide told us, have chosen this nomadic lifestyle.
Back in the car and we had soon arrived at our next destination which was not only the highlight of the day but the whole reason for our trip – a baptismal site on the river Jordan where our two good friends Tom Windmuller and his wife Cathy Overly were to be baptised. What an unforgettable event it was.
We drove on to Tiberias where we had lunch – very appropriately St Peter’s fish – in a restaurant not far from the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
After lunch we visited the Church of the Beatitudes which is situated in exquisite gardens somewhere near where Jesus could have taught about the Beatitudes as well as the rest of the Sermon on the Mount.
We then went on down to Capernaum where we visited what is believed to be the ruins of St Peter’s house, where Jesus probably stayed on occasion and where he could well have healed Peter’s mother-in-law. It was very moving to see the threshold of the old house and to imagine Jesus stepping over it. Not far away were the ruins of the old synagogue. Our guide explained to us that in Jesus’ day the synagogue was a place where people met to talk together, to discuss all kinds of things, and it was only later that it became a place where prayer services were held and people were asked to step outside if they wanted to talk.
The Sea of Galilee is beautiful. Today it was calm – hard to imagine it being stormy, hard to imagine the Lord Jesus walking on it and even harder to imagine Peter walking on it. On the far side, we could see the country of the Gadarenes where Jesus cast demons out of a man and then the demons went into a herd of pigs which ran down the hillside into the sea.