Sepphoris, Cana, Nazareth, Mt Tabor

Visit the hills of Galilee with us.

Pilgrims like us have been visiting Galilee for so long, that all sorts of traditions have developed. Based on the New Testament, we have no idea who Mary’s mother was, or where she came from. We don’t know where the angel spoke to Mary: the tradition that it was by the well probably reflects an expectation that that’s what women did. There’s a long-standing tradition that Mount Tabor was the “high mountain” where Jesus was transfigured (Mark 9:2) but that’s unlikely: there was a Roman garrison stationed on top of that mountain in the first century. The Gospels just weren’t that specific about these details. Southwest of Tabor is Nain where Jesus raised a widow’s son back to life (Luke 7:11-17).

Jesus’ first miracle was providing wine for an embarrassed couple at Cana (John 2:1-12). Six stone jars, each holding 75–115 litres equates to 600–900 bottles of wine! That’s quite a party! The groom was responsible for the wine, but why did Jesus tell his Mother that his time hadn’t come yet (2:4)? Jesus also healed the son of a royal official here (John 4:46-54). It was Nathanael’s home (John 21:2). Continue reading “Sepphoris, Cana, Nazareth, Mt Tabor”

Caesarea Philippi and the Golan Heights

This was where Jesus asked his disciples about his identity.

Caesarea Philippi is called Banias (Panias) today, after the Greek god Pan. It’s more than 40 kilometres north of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus took his disciples all that way to get them to ponder his identity. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asked them. And then, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20 || Mark 8:27-29 || Luke 9:18-20)

Why would Jesus take them to this spot? How would this location cause them to evaluate Jesus in relation to other powers—political, religious, and spiritual? Hopefully it all becomes clear when you see the place. Continue reading “Caesarea Philippi and the Golan Heights”

Shores of Galilee

Jesus centred his ministry around the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee dominates the region. It was also called Chinnereth (Kinneret) (Numbers 34:11), Gennesaret (1 Maccabees 11:67), or Genesar (Jospehus). While usually calm, storms could threaten small boats like the one we see at Ginosar (Matthew 8:23-27 || Mark 4:36-41 || Luke 8:22-25; Matthew 14:22-33). Continue reading “Shores of Galilee”

From Jordan to Galilee

Travel with us as we prepare to land in Jordan, see the Jabbok and Jordan rivers, and make our way to the Sea of Galilee.

Jabbok River

To the east of the Jordan River today is the country of Jordan. In Old Testament times, Israel was largely to the west of the Jordan River, so the area to the east was called Transjordan (across the Jordan). The tribes that settled in Transjordan were: Reuben (on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, south of us), Gad (the area we drive through tomorrow), and half of Manasseh (on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, north of us). The territory to the east of where we land (Amman) was owned by the Ammonites. Continue reading “From Jordan to Galilee”

Israel: an orientation

Israel and her setting among the surrounding nations

For the next couple of weeks, I will be in Israel, with a group from Riverview Church. We’ve invited you to join us on-line each day each day as we visit the home of our faith: Israel where it all began.

Today is an orientation. Israel sits in a crucial location where continents meet: Asia, Europe, and Africa. This whole region has always been strategically important, and so it continues to be a trouble spot. Continue reading “Israel: an orientation”

The kingdom story so far (Genesis – Matthew 6)

Want a quick overview of the story of the kingdom of God? Here it is: the plotline from Genesis to Matthew 6.

God designed earth to operate under heaven’s management. God designed people as his representatives, to care for the earth and its creatures on his behalf. Grasping power that should have been in God’s hands led to hostility against God and violent conflict with each other. It’s what’s wrong with the world as we know it: a beautiful world, where people do ugly things.

Our heavenly sovereign wanted to repatriate us under his governance, but he would never force himself on us. He allowed the nations to go their way. Then he chose a family to build a designer nation to showcase his rule, so the nations would see the blessing they were missing. Exodus tells the story of God rescuing this family from human rule to be the first nation ruled by God.

Continue reading “The kingdom story so far (Genesis – Matthew 6)”

What is seeking the kingdom?

We’ve finally reached the verse that launched this blog. So what did Jesus mean by “Seek the kingdom”? What is God’s kingdom? How do we seek it?

Open Matthew 6:33.

Because we don’t understand the ancient world of kingdoms, Matthew 6:33 is one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible. It’s very popular in journals, study guides, and spiritual formation books. These writers want to make the application as personal as they can for their individual reader. As they understand it, I enter the kingdom through personal faith, and I seek the kingdom through my devotional life and spiritual disciplines. The goal is to encourage me to personally seek God, so his kingdom comes into my heart and his righteousness comes into my life. Great personal goals, but it’s not the kingdom.

Here’s just one example of “kingdom” applied personally. This is what the Word Bible Commentary series says about the command to seek the kingdom (Matthew 6:33): Continue reading “What is seeking the kingdom?”

Free course: Jesus, Liberator and King

If you’re in Perth, Western Australia, you’re invited to a course I’m teaching as part of Riverview Church’s Foundations 2 series:

  • Subject:  Jesus — Liberator and King
  • Where:  Riverview Church, 1 Thorogood St, Burswood.
  • When:  7:00 – 9:00 pm, 1 May – 12 June 2016 (skipping 5 June holiday).

Continue reading “Free course: Jesus, Liberator and King”