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On the Shores of the Galilee

By Andy McQuitty

I’ve just returned from my fourth expedition to “The Land”, God’s land, Israel. And once again, my answer to the inevitable question “What was your favorite place to visit?” is The Galilee.

Don’t get me wrong, the wonder of sitting on the southern steps in Jerusalem where Jesus walked to Temple Mount or of standing on the pavers where Jesus stood at the base of the western wall never wanes.

But hanging out in the largely unsullied pastoral environs of the Sea of Galilee (also known as Tiberias and Kineret) induces more than wonder. It promotes peace and even healing. This effect was predicted by Isaiah when forecasting the ministry of Jesus there almost 800 years before Christ’s birth: 

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan -

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:1-2)

Our group of fifty or so IBC’ers stood atop Mt. Arbel (see picture) and watched as our expert guide Ronnie Cohen pointed with his right hand at the distant village of Chorazin and with his left hand at Capernaum and then said, “Jesus did ninety percent of his miracles right here between my hands!” Now there’s a wonder for you. Why on earth did God choose such a tiny sliver of land in the north of Israel to receive his “great light”?

I don’t know why God chose Galilee of the Gentiles, just that he did, and because he did it was a special place not just to Galileans but also to Jesus Himself. The Son of God, having been rejected by the people of Nazareth, effectively moved to Capernaum on the shores of the sun-studded Sea of Galilee which, at 686 feet below sea level, is actually the earth’s lowest fresh water lake. Note where Jesus did not live. . .the bustling urban centers of Haifa or Joppa or Jericho or Jerusalem. No, he loved the country with its water and rolling hills and natural beauty and abundant olive trees and open-hearted people. He lived in Galilee because, I believe, Galilee was restorative to his soul.

And so it was that “Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John (Matthew 3:13) and that “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee” (Matthew 4:12). So it was that Jesus predicted, “But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee” (Matthew 26:32). So it was that the disciples who had begun their journey with Jesus in Galilee would return there to receive their Master’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

It’s almost like Galilee was the world’s first Christian retreat center, a place of peace where souls are restored and “thin places” where God’s nearness is palpable are abundant.

Being there in Israel reminded me that I need to be there in Irving, Texas too! We can’t “return to Galilee” regularly for spiritual R&R like Jesus and the disciples did, not the original one anyway. But we can and must find our own “Galilee” for frequent soul care. Do you have one? A place or home or closet or even a favorite coffee shop where you can find the peace and presence of God on a regular basis, a “third place” where you can be at ease letting Jesus shine through you?

Returning to Galilee having just returned from Galilee,

Pastor Andy

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