The View From The Mountain
For the next couple of weeks my daily devotions will be drawing inspiration from the Holy Land, which is where I will be during that time frame--leading a group of 33 pilgrims.
At some point today our group of Holy Land pilgrims will be landing in Tel Aviv, Israel and will begin the arduous process of going through customs, retrieving our bags and somehow getting all 34 people in our group to the bus that will carry us to the Sea of Galilee.
It's possible that on the way we will be able to make a stop at Mt. Arbel, a cliff that rises sharply on the west side of the Sea of Galilee to a height of nearly a thousand feet above the lake itself.
Did I mention that the Sea of Galilee is not actually a "sea?" It's a freshwater lake that is essentially seven-and-a-half miles wide and thirteen miles long. It's known in the Bible as the Sea of Galilee, but also the Sea of Tiberias and Lake Gennesaret (a word that means 'garden of riches').
As you stand on top of Mt. Arbel, looking down on the Sea of Galilee, you are suddenly struck by the fact that almost all of Jesus' recorded messages and miracles took place on a very small slice of land along the northern shore of the Sea.
In Matthew chapter 4, Jesus begins his ministry in the Galilee region when John the Baptist is arrested:
"12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali..."
It wouldn't take you all day to walk the distance between the three main towns where Jesus ministered, walked, talked, performed miracles and from which he called most of his twelve disciples. These three towns (Chorazim, Capernaum and Bethsaida) are just a short walk from the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Of all the places that God could have chosen to reveal his plan for saving the world, He chose this tiny place. It was surrounded on all sides by pagans to the north and west, and Samaritans to the south. It was the kind of place you only went to if you had to, or if you were on your way to somewhere else.
As you stand on Mt. Arbel, looking down, you realize anew how God prefers to show God's grace and mercy to the world. God's preference is to reveal God's glory through the broken, the outcast, the forgotten people and places of the world. Jesus is proof of this.
The Roman Empire is no more. There are more Christian churches in Rome than any other city on earth. The religious elites who opposed and falsely accused Jesus have been relegated to the dustbin of history.
God's plan to use what the world might seem as "foolish," worked---and it's still working even today. May you find hope in this brave and startling truth when you struggle to feel strong enough to keep following Jesus.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.