Time seems to have come to a stand-still where the green hills of the Galilee slope down to the most famous lake in the Bible. That is the secret of the power of this region to move Christian visitors. You don’t have to close your eyes to picture Jesus here – you have to open them.
As Matthew 4:13 tells us, Jesus went from Nazareth, in the heart of Galilee, to Capernaum by the shore of the lake they called Genesaret. Here he gathered his first disciples – fisherman whom he found casting their nets from the shallows (Matt. 4:18). You can walk along that shore, in the very places where Jesus and the disciples trod, and see the Bible spring to life.
You’ll want to rise early here, perhaps at dawn, when the ancient fishermen used to come home with their catch – or without it. As you watch the frenzy of the fish feeding close to the shoreline, you can understand why Jesus chose fishermen for his first apostles: “...the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake...” (Matt. 13:47). This was the backdrop for the feeding of the 4,000 (Matt. 15:32-37) and of the 5,000 (Mark 6:39-43), with a few loaves and fishes. The beloved stories of the miraculous catches of fish are remembered here, perhaps especially that in John 21, when Peter was reconciled to Jesus (John 21:15-17). The drama of the demoniacs in the land of the Gadarenes (Matt. 8:28-33) takes on new meaning as you stand on the craggy cliff marked centuries ago by Christians as the place where the pigs flew into the lake. This site, lost for centuries, was rediscovered and restored only a few decades ago by Israeli archaeologists.
Christian visitors love to walk the stone path created by the Ministry of Tourism along the northern part of the lake, from near Capernaum to the place of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. As you do, you can’t help but feel the land vibrate with ancient stories of glory and simple faith. Look around you – in winter and spring the “lilies of the field” (Matt. 6:28) abound, and seeds thrive in their beds of good soil (Mark 4:8). In late summer and fall, the choking thorns of the sower’s parable still overtake those same fields, just as Jesus described it (Mark 4:7).
In northern Galilee, mountains loom up on either side of the valley highway that once led to the ancient kingdoms of the north. Here you will find Hazor, conquered by Joshua and built up by Solomon. You will also see Dan, where you can stand at the High Place that despite Jeroboam’s best efforts was no match for Jerusalem, and Caesarea Philippi at the headwaters of the Jordan, where Jesus asked his disciples “who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27).
These are the moments, as you become one with the memories of this beautiful land, that understanding comes to you, to accompany you ever after on your spiritual walk.