Today began with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. This is the body of water that Jesus walked on (John 6:16-21) and that he calmed with the words of his mouth (Mark 4:35-41). Mark shared a devotional message from these two passages encouraging our faith in the middle of frightening circumstances. It was amazing to be on the very waters Jesus performed these miracles!
Next our visit brought us to Beth Shean. This city is part of the Decapolis (“ten cities”) which is a Gentile group of cities dating far back into Old Testament times. In the year 1010 BC at nearby Mount Gilboa the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines in battle and King Saul and his sons were all killed. Their bodies were hung on the wall of this city. Here is one of the walls that still stands today:
During the Roman Empire there was an extensive Roman complex built here.
On the steps of the coliseum Scott challenged our group about the foolishness of King Saul in his early days of leadership over Israel. He demonstrated impatience and instead of waiting for the priest to offer a sacrifice he rushed ahead and offered one himself- something that a king was forbidden to do. This began a downward slide which resulted in Saul losing his kingdom.
From Beth Shean we drove south along the Jordan River as we descended gradually another 600 ft (Jordan means “descending”) as we made our way toward the Dead Sea which is the lowest point on Earth at 1200 feet below sea level. As we drove we could see the mountains of Gilead across the river to the left where Moses defeated Og of Bashan (Numbers 21:32-35). We also drove past the land of Moab, where Ruth was from, and the city of Jericho.
Our final stop today was at Bethany on the Jordan River just north of the Dead Sea. It was a special treat to have Ellie, one of our group members, baptized at the same location it is believed that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17).
As it turns out, you really can float effortlessly in the Dead Sea!
Still so much more to come. We haven't even made it to Jerusalem yet!