Today we began with a worship service at Kursi (where Jesus cast the demons out of the man and they went into a pack of pigs who ran into the sea and drowned) – thanks to the Rev. Duncan Cameron for an excellent sermon!; we travelled to Tel Hazor to learn about this site mentioned in the Old Testament and hear the story of Israel’s 6 Day War; we went on to Tel Dan to see a 5,000 year old arch, dating to the time of Abraham which caused all the architectural textbooks to be rewritten (before its discovery 25 years ago, everyone thought that the Romans invented the arch thousands of years later); we stood at Caesarea Philippi and heard how Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of the Living God; we scaled the Golan Heights to eat a glorious lunch at a Druze restaurant while watching the clouds blow across the snow on Mount Hermon; we continued on the Golan Heights to hear the story of the Yom Kippur war (including how our guide, Aharon, was a 19 yr old on the front lines of that war); and we ended the day at Olea Essence learning about Olive Oil and the beauty products they make from the waste created through the olive pressing process.
For me, the highlight of today came early as we sat on benches at Kursi. Though I had been aware of this site on all my other tours, I had only ever seen it through the windows of the bus. Every other time we hadn’t been able to stop and explore the site (there wasn’t time and we had other priorities). But this time we got off the bus, gathered as a large group and spent time in prayer and worship.
The story goes like this:
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened.
When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. Mark 5:1-20 NIV
Duncan pointed out to us that this miracle had happened where we now sat. And that what had once been a place of death was now a place of worship.
Such is the transformative power of Jesus.
I don’t have a lot of words tonight, but I do want to invite you to pray that Jesus would make the dead places in you – in your heart, in your soul, in your mind or in your life – into places of worship. Amen.
(And I also want to invite you to watch the video below my friend – my sister in Christ – Diana as she talks to our group about what happened at Caesarea Philippi and why it matters. Her passion and joy is absolutely undeniable. May you be blessed by her, just as I am!)
From Caesarea Philippi: