Day 3: Racing the Rain to the Sea of Galilee

Moshav Arbel to the Sea of Galilee in First-Century Costume

Hiking down to the Arbel Spring in the early morning

The final day of our journey begins early—at 5:30am, with the breaking of the unseen sun. It’s hiding behind clouds, which is the reason we’ve chosen this hour of the morning. We’ve heard the rain’s a-comin’ and it’s a-comin’ hard! We don our dress and man-dress and break down our tent one last time before leaving out from Moshav Arbel above the cliffs.

Betsy’s knee is hurting bad, so we plan to take it slow. The first part of the day is going to give her a challenge for sure, as we’re heading back down the cliff-side we came up last night. The trail leads us down at a different spot which is great because we come across some awesome ruins including a cave that’s obviously been dug into the hillside for some reason. It reminds us Tolkien fans of a hobbit hole. This leads me to something I’ve been thinking about as we’ve walked these past couple of days: role play. It was a natural thing that came up in conversation along the way. The main intention when we planned the trip was not necessarily to impersonate Jesus (how presumptuous!), but rather to understand his life and teachings better by sensing the world in some ways as he would have. Yet it became a natural consequence of dressing like him that whenever we hiked through populated areas along the trail I would be called Jesus/Issa/Yeshua, so I definitely thought of what it means to portray him (big sandals!).

We thought of others as well. At one point, a peaceful little dog joined our band and I thought of myself as Francis of Assisi, who is known to have cared for animals and thus attracted them to himself.  Betsy briefly thought of herself as Sarah or Mary Magdalene along the way too. So here we are hiking down a cliff-side in a beautiful heavy mist thinking of the The Lord of the Rings and in my mind I become Gandalf or Aragorn in my hooded outfit while Betsy and our other travel partners became hobbits. A little further on I’m back to being Jesus as a man picking up children in his school bus leans over to watch us walk past and yells, “Good morning! Good morning Jesus!” We smile, call “Good morning!,” and wave back.

I enjoy this morning’s slow walk through Wadi Hamam (Valley of the Doves)—a perfect time and place for reflection. Everything is so beautiful and green, with complements of bright reds, purples, whites, yellows, and oranges dotting the sides of the path in flowers. We plod through the light rain and I think of Jesus walking with his disciples through similar valleys in similar weather. What was he thinking about?

As we leave the Arbel Cliffs behind us, we begin to worry as light rain changes to heavier rain accompanied by flashes and crashes of lightning and thunder. We contemplate stopping but it passes quickly overhead and away. The sun slides up through some clouds and then shines brilliantly on us though we’re still walking through pockets of rain. I keep looking back to see if there’s a rainbow somewhere, and I feel a sense of connection with God’s people ever since Noah who have been doing the same thing—remembering and looking for God’s promises in the signs he gives.

Mud! Lots of it as we walk through orchards and olive groves toward our destination at the Sea of Galilee. I like Anna’s comment: “Why didn’t Jesus tell more parables involving mud?” We find ourselves asking questions similar to this one—why not more parables about caves, about valleys, about lentils, about olive trees, etc…. But as the footpaths-of-Jesus follower, John, wrote at the end of his gospel: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). I really love that verse! It’s probably true about what Jesus “said” as well as “did.”

The mud clinging to our sandals makes every step pounds and kilos heavier, and Betsy’s knee gets worse under the constant strain. The pain becomes so bad that we decide to accept a ride from our awesome support posse (Anna and Dave Landis, Taylor Stutzman—thank you for everything!) and cover the last four kilometers in a 21st Century chariot. This fits neatly under our ever-widening category, “hospitality,” which—as everyone knows—is timeless.

Arriving at the Sea of Galilee after a three day journey

After 40ish miles of walking and a very brief chariot ride, we have finally reached our pilgrimage destination—Capernaum at the Sea of Galilee, Jesus’ base of ministry. My time here at the seaside, with my bare feet in the cool water is one of my favorite moments of the entire trip. I love the wind blowing toward us from the south and west, the sound of waves crashing on the shore, the sun warming my face. Closing my eyes,

Dipping our feet in the Sea of Galilee

I imagine what Jesus thought as he stood here. I think of him calling his disciples at this place; of getting into boats and crossing to the other side with friends. And then I begin to think more about those first disciples. I imagine them returning to this sea every once in a while to center themselves and to remember how it all began…when they were all just about their normal day-to-day and Jesus came and called them away to a very different life. They, too, stand here with their feet in the water listening to waves. They come here to refresh after intense ministry in Jerusalem or after traveling to other parts of the world to share the gospel with others. They think, “If only everyone could have seen Jesus the way he was here!  What an incredible time it was to be alive! What an awesome thing that we got to follow and befriend Jesus, the only divine human to walk on this earth!”

I’ll bet it was as hard for them to pull themselves away from their watery reveries as it now is for me to walk back up the hill to where I will return by car to my “day-to-day” in Nazareth. By car, we will cover in less than an hour the ground we covered in 3 days of walking. I know it will take some time for my soul to catch up to my body when we get there.

Watching the modern world fill in around us as we contemplate finishing our journey