Have You Heard?
We awoke to Galilee’s first day of spring! Rain has gone, skies are sunny and blue, and just after breakfast we found ourselves planting trees in Israel! The Jewish National Fund has been an ecological steward of the Holy Land for over a century. This private British organization has planted over 3 million trees; and with our time this morning, this number has increased by about 100.
We protected each sapling from local wild boars by stacking piles of stones around each muddy base. We bent our backs, got our hands dirty, and shared in the work. It was a beautiful way to start the day. In a way, this was also a reflection of obedience to God’s original command to the Jewish people to plant saplings when returning to the land.
As we said goodbye to our young cypress, terebinth, almond, cedar, and Judas trees, it was good to know that we have left some life behind us this morning. After all, this trip is planting new life in our lives; and we will get to bring these memories with us. Seems right.
We also get to leave behind two hundred dirty bags we wore over our feet to keep the fresh soil off our bus!
Next our buses toured the streets of Cana, the place of Jesus’s first recorded miracle, on our way to visit the Nazareth Village. As a young boy, Jesus Himself would likely have visited this village’s small plot of land and its original excavated facilities (which have been confirmed to be at least 2,000 years old) with His family.
As we walked among fresh lavender, wheat, and chickpeas, we seemed to be passing back into the centuries even though we could see and hear the modern city of Nazareth all around us. Somehow it was easy to feel hidden among olive trees; sheep; goats; a 1st-century wine press, cabbages; onions; garlic radishes; oregano; mint; hyssop (also known as za’atar); and, of course, apple, pomegranate, and fig trees. These plants must have loved the rain we’ve had.
Our guide introduced us to the “townsfolk,” including the shepherd Abraham and his wife, Sarah; a potter; a carpenter; and a weaver, as we observed and learned about the everyday trades that Jesus would have known throughout His early life. As we finished walking along the original 1st-century access path used by local farmers to get to their own plots on the hillside terraces, we stopped to think about the Parable of the Sower as we looked upon the path, the rocky soil, and the thorny ground, all just by the thriving little field that was properly prepared and ready to receive the sowing.
At the olive press (“gethsemane” in Hebrew) we saw traditional pressing practices and were reminded that Christ was pressed before and during His time on the cross. Three presses of the olives are needed to extract all the oil. Jesus prayed three times before heading to the cross. We can understand the connection and the blessing of the sacrifice on the cross and the pressing that Jesus endured for the joy set before Him.
A final stop before lunch at the 1st-century synagogue provided a wonderful retelling of Jesus’ reading from Isaiah upon his return to Nazareth as an adult. How exciting it was to be in a place like this today because of what was done for us so many years ago! I could not help but ask myself if Jesus as a little boy (who was fully human) might have been playing or helping on these very pathways and fields, while at the same time He (who was fully God) knew we would be here today. It is amazing to think about this: eternal God, in the flesh, sent to save us all. Something tells me the answer might be yes. Jesus might have experienced this at the same time. We will have to ask Him one day.
Only two stops remained before returning to the hotel. At the foot of Mount Gilboa, the northernmost of the Samaritan hills, we visited Gideon’s Spring and stared across the plains at the nearby slope where the Midianites would have been encamped. We heard the story and thought of God’s joy in using the seemingly weak and outnumbered in order to display His true glory. It was a truly refreshing moment as we remembered that Gideon would not boast in his victory but in the Lord’s glory. May we do the same whenever the Lord provides a victory in our lives.
We have been so blessed these last few days. How perfect it was to end with a visit to the chapel dedicated to the Beatitudes as the sun was just beginning its daily descent. From this northern point on the Galilee, we could see the docks we had just walked yesterday for our boat ride; look toward Tiberius and Magdala; and know that soon we will depart from the region after completing a tour of Capernaum and Beit She’an (part of the Decapolis) tomorrow.
It can be so humbling and inspiring to hear and contemplate the Beatitudes in the very same area where Rabbi Jesus originally preached this message. Who is man that God should look on him with favor? Who are we other than shipwrecks on the shores of grace, having sometimes failed to see Christ in the storms of our lives?
We are humbled because we are blessed indeed.
We can also say that blessed are those who have been to Galilee this week, for more can be seen tomorrow!
And perhaps more importantly, we get to see ourselves a bit more clearly, to sense the Lord’s hand in our own lives just a little bit more closely, and to trust in His ultimate providence not only to the Jew but also to the Gentile, to all those who would believe in Him. He has brought so many here (including us now), and it is beginning to stir up many hearts.
Like the sheep of Jesus’ time, may we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd who still calls His sheep. He calls us to come to Him for rescue and refuge, forgiveness and faith, love and life.
Have you heard His voice?
Blog author: David Lightfoot
Photos: Roxanne Lightfoot
Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry