The Gates of Hades | Israel

In the book of Matthew, Jesus stands near the opening of this cave, known as The Gates of Hades, and asks the disciples an important question, "Who do you say that I am?". Simon Peter replies that he is "the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."

Four years ago, while hosting church at our house on Sundays in Salatiga, we watched the Austin Stone's sermon series on places in the Bible. You can hear more about the Gates of Hades in their video:

Yardenit: Jordan River Baptismal Site | Israel

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:13-17

 Our group stopped at Yardenit, a baptismal site on the Jordan River for these special professions. If you're one of the baptized, I have an extended photo collection that will be on the Shutterfly site for you to download!

Capernaum | Israel

After our boat tour on the Sea of Galilee, we stopped at the town of Capernaum. Located on the northern shore, several events in the ministry of Jesus took place here and the remains of an early synagogue have been clearly excavated. There is also reasonable certainty that Peter's house resides in this city.

"And they went into Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God." But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, "What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout the surrounding region of Galilee." Mark 1: 21-28

"After he had finished all of his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue." And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. There fore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, 'Go,' and he hoes; and to another,'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well." Luke 7:1-10 Wow, to have faith that Jesus marveled at.

"So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves go into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the son of man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal." Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe me. All that the father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have dcome down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should loose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." John 6:22-40

The Sea of Galilee | Israel

Being on the Sea of Galilee was a bit surreal. So much of the New Testament takes place in or around this area that being here, on a boat, really brought the Bible to life for me.

On the beautiful, sunny day that we were scheduled to board a boat from our hotel's side of the sea and sail across, the water was particularly choppy and we instead had to drive around to a different docking point. In the clip below, you can hear how strong the wind was on the day we went out. It almost knocked us over!

Jesus Calms the Storm

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

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Reading the story of Jesus calming the storm and Jesus and Peter walking on water growing up, I always thought the disciples were a little weak and wondered how they could be afraid since Jesus was with them. Now, having been to where both of these events took place, I view the disciples in a different light; they were still human and they didn't have the whole picture yet. Sitting on our sturdy boat on a sunny day, the wind was still overwhelming. I imagined the type of boat that they would have been on at the time and how much worse real stormy conditions would have felt.

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It is so easy for us to forget, just like the disciples did, who exactly it is that we have on our side. In the words of Pastor Sam Dennis, "It takes courage to get out of the boat but even more courage to keep our eyes on Jesus." This clip is from sunrise the next morning. The contrast from the previous day was overwhelming, in imagining how tumultuous the waters were, to be immediately made peaceful by the power of Jesus:

Caesarea | Israel

Located on the former trade route known as the Via Maris (way of the sea), Caesarea was an important pagan seaport in the ancient world. Built by Herod the Great, this town was a staple on the route connecting Ancient Egypt to the Roman world. With it's impressive facilities, the city regularly hosted tournaments which included chariot races and gladiator fights (in the hippodrome), as well as theater performances (in the amphitheater). The remains of early aqueducts are still visible a short distance up the road.