A Rocky Walk to Capernaum

Syrian tank near Sea of Galilee, tb111800206
Syrian Tank on Golan Heights (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

Not everything explosive in the Golan Heights is related to warfare! The Avital Volcanic Park is located there on the site of a dormant volcano that last erupted about 100,000 years ago.  Confirming this ancient volcanic activity, the hills and fields throughout Israel are chock full of basalt rocks that poke through the earth.

Basalt (Black) Stone Wall from 1st Century Capernaum Synagogue (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

The Israelites used these black stones to build their villages, homes and synagogues, leaving the world historical evidence in ancient rocky foundations, viewable in a myriad of archaeological sites that dot the Holy Land.

Wado Qelt and Ascent of Adummin (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

When Jesus “went up to Jerusalem” from Galilee, He ascended through 70 miles of basalt covered wadis, valleys and hills. In addition, while ministering throughout the Galilean region, He walked over rock-strewn paths that encircle the Sea of Galilee and beyond to Nazareth, Kursi, Caesarea Philippi and Bethsaida. Rocky walks were a way of life for Jesus and His disciples, they couldn’t be  avoided or overlooked.

Capernaum Synagogue and Village Homes (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

Rock Strewn Discussions

Walking to Capernaum after the Transfiguration, two interesting conversations take place between Jesus and the twelve disciples, each a discussion of man’s idea of power, fame and fortune! When you put the three synoptic Gospels together for Transfiguration event, found in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9, you find that the disciples left at the bottom of the transfiguration mountain were waiting there along with the usual crowd that followed Jesus from place to place.

Apparently during their wait, a distraught father asked them to heal his demon possessed son and while their inability to throw the demon out may have confused and embarrassed them, it didn’t stop them from wondering what kind of fame and fortune was coming their way. Surreptitiously, they quibble amongst themselves about who will receive the most powerful positions in the coming kingdom.

Mount Tabor (Courtesy of Bible Lands Pictorial Library)

Rocky Perceptions

Peter, James and John, invited to be on the mountaintop with Jesus while the rest waited below, witnessed the divine power available to them. However, even the inner three, privileged to view the glorious event, couldn’t stay focused on what it all meant.  While still on the mountain in the presence of holiness, Peter advises Jesus about how to treat His visitors, Moses and Elijah. He nervously rambles on about building huts for everyone, and then later on, John jealously gripes about another man doing miracles in Jesus’ Name.

You would think that this event, where the Father removed the veil of His Son’s humanity and revealed Him in all His divine glory, would stop such mundane talk. But no!  We hear squabbles, jealousy, whining and foolishness.  People are people, even those in Jesus’ close inner circle.

Mosaic of Jesus Between Moses and Elijah

The conversation regarding who gets to sit on Jesus’ right hand is dismissed with a straightforward….”you have no idea what that position would cost.” However, John’s complaint concerning men doing miracles in Jesus’ Name brings a sharp reprimand.  “Do not stop him!” Jesus said, “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me.   Anyone who is not against us is for us.  If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.”  Mark 9: 39 – 41 (NLT)

The Rock In Your Eye

Essentially, Jesus’ point of view is….Don’t reject people because every little detail isn’t theologically correct. They are still working on their faith, still learning, still moving toward the same destination you are.

Perhaps John was troubled by the success this man was having. He wasn’t one of the twelve, yet he was casting out demons and worse yet – he was successful at it! This is classic human nature. A rival is all the more intolerable if he is a successful rival.

Such jealousy is also typical among Christians.   If there is a difference in theology, a breaking of tradition, or different music, the work accomplished is often discounted.  So often our “church battles” are caused by generational differences or human frailties and are not theologically based at all.

No matter the vehicle, if the Gospel is being preached and the name of Jesus is being spoken, someone who needs to hear it will be reached. We can respectfully agree to disagree without condemning the media being used, the person delivering the message and the place it occurs because the fact is….Jesus can use anyone willing and anything available to reach the heart of mankind.

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