Today, we visited the museum of the ancient boat (a Jesus-era boat which may have been one that Jesus and the disciples sailed in, or may have belonged to victims of the battle of Migdal, or may have simply belonged to an unknown fisherman), scaled the heights of Mount Arbel, visited the Mount of the Beatitudes (where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount), visited the Church of the Multiplication (where Jesus fed the 5,000), sailed on a rough and rainy Sea of Galilee, ate lunch at Ein-Gev, visited the Primacy of Peter and ended our day at Capernaum (the town which Jesus used as a base from which he traveled in his years of public ministry).
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those
who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted
because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you
when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you
because of me.” Matthew 5:3-11 NIV
Jesus spoke these words on the very ground where we stood today. Dallas Willard teaches that we misunderstand these words. We think Jesus is making a list of things we need to become in order to receive blessing from God.
By that’s not it at all.
Jesus is speaking to a society that believed that one could SEE who was blessed among them. If a person was ill or poor or otherwise afflicted, clearly they were not blessed. Clearly, God was punishing them for their sin. Clearly, they were bad people.
Or so the people of that day thought.
Jesus is teaching that blessing doesn’t depend upon your circumstances. Or your wealth. Or your health.
Blessing comes only from God who gives it out generously to the rich and the poor, to the sick and the healthy, to those who are having and easy go of it, and to those who are struggling through a very difficult time.
Psalm 34 tells us that God is close to the broken-hearted. And that’s what Jesus is saying – do not assume that God has abandoned those who are having a rough time. In fact, God draws close to them because if His steadfast and tender compassion for all people.
On paper, today looked like a mess. It was raining so hard in the morning that we had to rearrange our schedule for the day. (Having an excellent guide like Aharon, who keeps a cool head and deftly switches the order of sites so that the weather has every chance to clear, helps!)
When we set out for the top of Mount Arbel, we walked with our umbrellas up and our heads down. When we got to the top, most of the scenery was covered in cloud. We could have shrugged our shoulders and turned around and left.
But we would have missed some of the most beautiful and dynamic views of the Galilee basin that I have ever seen.
It didn’t look like a blessing when we set out. But in God’s timing, it became a blessing we couldn’t have known to ask for. We watched clouds roll in and out of the basin. We watched hills dappled in brilliant sunshine between broken clouds. We talked about how it was like being in the highlands of Scotland or Ireland.
And then we sailed on the Sea of Galilee while the winds whipped and the rains lashed. And I promise you – there is NOTHING like reading the calming of the storm out loud on the Sea of Galilee when it’s actually storming.
We were soaked and we were cold and were thrilled to the very depths of our souls. Our pilgrims were laughing and singing and dancing. It didn’t look like a blessing when we set out, but it became so very clear that it was one as we continued.
Because that is the generous nature of God the Father, Son and Spirit.
From Mount Arbel:
From the Mount of the Beatitudes:
Sailing on the Sea of Galilee:
From the Primacy of Peter: