In Part 1, we journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the Jordan River and into the desert. Now we continue
The Galilee: Jesus' Ministry and Miracles
We head back up north to the Galilee, where a Christian tourist on a Tour to the Holy Land could spend days poking around the numerous historical sites, or just enjoy the stunning views. So much of Jesus' ministry and so many miracles took place at the shores of the beautiful Sea of Galilee (Lake Kinneret). One fascinating artifact that caused much excitement when it was discovered in 1986 is the Jesus Boat. The hull of the boat was discovered when the sea receded due to a drought. The boat, after careful extraction and testing, was dated to the 1st century, and seems to have been used for fishing and transportation. Since many of Jesus' disciples were fisherman, it is very likely that they used a boat much like this one. It is intriguing to think of Jesus passing by this boat on the waters, or perhaps even using it. The boat is on display at the Yigal Allon Museum on Kibbutz Ginosar.
Capernaum, known as "Jesus' City," is the city in the Galilee where Jesus lived for an extended time and performed much of His ministry. Capernaum is located in the north shore of the Kinneret, about six miles north of Tiberias. The House of St. Peter can be found there, as well as one of the oldest synagogues in the world, which was possibly the synagogue mentioned in the Gospels. The Franciscans built a modern, uniquely constructed church over the original House of St. Peter, and a glass floor allows visitors to see the remains of the original house below. Capernaum, which was a fishing village for centuries, is now mainly an archaeological site, and tourists can see the remains of the ancient synagogue and churches as well as of Byzantine-era houses.
Cana, also on the shores of Lake Kinneret, is the site of Jesus' first miracle, where He turned water into wine at a wedding. Today, tourists can visit the Franciscan Wedding Church, which contains the jars believed to be the ones used for the miracle. Hike around the ruins of ancient Cana, and shop at the local souvenir shop for a bottle of "wedding wine."
In Tabgha, also located near Tiberias, visitors can tour the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, where the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitudes occurred. The earliest church at the site was built in the 4th century. The latest restoration took place in the 1980s, returning the church to its former Byzantine glory. Examine the beautiful and intricate mosaics adorning the church. One particular mosaic, depicting a bread basket flanked by two fish, lies behind a stone altar, leading scholars to pinpoint this altar as the precise location of the miracle.
Near Tabgha lies Mount of Beatitudes, ("Mount Nahum" or "Mount Osher" in Hebrew), where Jesus delivered His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. Visit the Byzantine-style Church of the Beatitudes, or just take a moment to walk around, immersing yourself in the scenery and the history surrounding you.
Mt. Precipice: A Leap of Faith
Back in Nazareth, take a hike up to Mt. Precipice. Here, an angry mob who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah pushed Him off the cliff. However, instead of falling to His death, Jesus miraculously leapt into the valley and was unharmed. The peak of Mt. Precipice offers sweeping views of the Jezreel Valley. From the top, one can see Mt. Tabor, the traditional site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Mt. Tabor has a long and lofty history, due to its strategic placement at a crossroads in the Jezreel Valley. It is mentioned in Joshua, and again in the time of Deborah the Prophetess, where it was the site of the battle between Barak and Sisera. As early as the 3rd or 4th century, Mt. Tabor was identified as the site of the transfiguration, and many churches and monasteries sprung up on the mountain. The most well-known of these churches is the Franciscan Church of the Transfiguration, which stands on the same spot as the earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches.
Jerusalem: Death and Resurrection
We head south to Jerusalem now, to Mount Zion, where tourists can visit the Cenacle, or the Last Supper Room. The building is two floors. The lower floor houses the Tomb of David, and the Upper Room is where Jesus had His last meal with His disciples, the moving scene so famously depicted in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. In the 16th century, the church was transformed into a mosque, and the exquisite stain glass windows, with Arabic inscriptions, remain today.
The Basilica of the Agony, or Church of All Nations, is located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, next to the Garden of Gethsemane. The church preserves a piece of bedrock believed to be where Jesus prayed on the night of His arrest, following the Last Supper. The current church was completed in the 1920s, using donations from many different countries, which gave rise to its name, Church of All Nations.
Walk the Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem, which marks Jesus' path from His condemnation by Pontius Pilate to His execution and burial, carrying the cross. There are fourteen Stations of the Cross along the way, and it has become a popular route for Christian pilgrims. A weekly procession in led on Fridays, and attending one is the best way to ensure you don't miss any of the stations, while allowing you to experience the devotion of the pilgrims at its highest. The stations include commemorations of Jesus' encounter with Pontius Pilate, such as the Church of the Condemnation and Church of the Flagellation, as well as the Ecce Homo Church, where Pilate identified Jesus to the crowd. Three of the stations recall the times Jesus stumbled on the path, and four stations commemorate His encounters with others along the way. The final stations reside inside of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The route ends inside the small chapel inside the Church, where the tomb of Jesus rests. According to Protestant tradition, the tomb of Jesus is actually located in the Garden Tomb, also located in Jerusalem, outside the city walls.
Churches have sprung up at the sites where, according to New Testament sources, Jesus appeared to His disciples following His resurrection. A few miles outside Jerusalem, tour the ancient town of Emmaus, where Jesus first appeared to His followers. You can see the remains of a Byzantine-era basilica and visit a museum. While in the area, tour the nearby Latrun Monastery, built by French Trappist monks in the early 20th century. In Tagbha, visit the Church of the Primacy of Peter, which houses a slab of rock venerated as the table where Jesus fed fish and bread to His disciples following His resurrection. Finally, visit the Chapel of the Ascension, in Jerusalem, where Jesus ascended to heaven. The chapel enshrines a stone which contains a footprint of Jesus. Every year, the Chapel holds a Feast of the Ascension, a popular pilgrimage destination for Christians all over the world.
A Christian tour to Israel, in the footsteps of Jesus, will leave you with a profound appreciation for and understanding of the world Jesus inhabited. Touring the places where He lived His life - whether it's entering the same baptismal waters, hiking up the mountain that once held the mesmerized crowds during the Sermon on the Mount, or praying in the room where He ate His final meal - you attain a sense of history and a connection with Christianity that is impossible to find elsewhere. As you return back to your hometown, your church, and your regular life, the deep relationship you forged with your faith on your Christian Holy Land tour will stay with you forever.