Rector’s Blog Nov. 16: The Galilee and Philippi

We started the day by going to the Mount of the Beatitudes, commemorating Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount. This of course is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. Rodney our course director suggested that we think about Jesus sharing these teachings not just this one time but throughout his ministry. This makes a lot of sense to me though it hadn’t occurred to me before. This was Jesus ‘ central teaching, and he would have wanted to share it with the people he encountered, not just in Capernaum but other places as well.

We then left the upper Galilee for the Golan Heights area and on to Caesarea Philippi, or as it is known today, Banias. This name is due to there being a temple to Pan there. When the name was translated to Arabic the p became a b. There is no p sound in Arabic. You can see the remains of the temple to Pan, including where the sacred goats danced. I am not making this up. There was also a goat columbarium where the remains of the sacred goats were buried. I guess this is what happens when your god is half goat.

More to the point, Caesarea Philippi is where Jesus asked the disciples,”Who do you say I am?” and where Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” It is also the place tradition says the woman with the hemorrhage whom Jesus healed was from. And it is the place where the springs of Hermon come together with two other springs to become the upper part of the Jordan River. In other words, there are a number of reasons for this area to have particular meaning for Christians.

Our last stop of the day was back in Galilee. We went up to the top of Mount Tabor, which is thought to be the place of the Transfiguration. It is a long way up, and the views of Galilee from one side and the Jezreel Valley on the other were stunning. From this point on, the gospels report that Jesus “set his face towards Jerusalem.” He left Galilee and headed south towards the city. I found myself wondering whether it was hard for Jesus to leave this place- the beauty, the landscape, his home base- knowing that he might not return. I wonder what was going through his mind as he left.

As our class begins our last few days together we also shift our focus back towards Jerusalem. Tomorrow we start to think about Holy Week. We will be heading to Bethphage and Bethany, where the raising of Lazarus took place and where Jesus entered the city on Palm Sunday.