I am writing from Tel Aviv on the last night of an unforgettable trip to Israel - tomorrow I fly home. Tonight I'm staying in an Air BnB about 5 miles outside of the city on the number 83 bus route (that's all I can tell you).
Jesus you will be expecting, but Sonya? Well, this morning, driving back from Tiberias to Tel Aviv, I took a deliberate diversion to Magdala and the Galilean Boat Chapel called Duc in Altum. I did so because since last year I have wanted to visit the chapel and see a painting that a member of Holy Trinity (Sonya!) spoke so movingly about following a trip there with a party from HT. The painting (below), depicts the encounter between a heamorrhaging woman and Jesus (Mark 5:25-29)
The encounter in Mark's gospel is told like this:
25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
The encounter, like the painting that attempts to portray it, speaks of Jesus as the healer, sent by God to restore and reconcile to Himself those who come to him in faith. The physical healing that the woman received is a picture of the salvation that comes from and through Jesus.
It is a striking painting because of its size, because of its focus on that secret and private moment as the woman exercises her faith, but also because of its location. It is situated in the geographical area that Mark tells us this encounter took place - on the shore of Lake Galilee:
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake.
The cobble stones that make up the floor of the chapel are part of an unearthed floor of the former busy market town of Magdala dating back to Jesus' time.
The visit to Galilee - even more so than the visit to Jerusalem's buildings and historic sites - has been faith-affirming, and given me the privilege of walking where Jesus walked (the Sea of Galilee itself being the exception), and getting into my mind some of the geography and scenery of the Bible.
If today's visit to Magdala was good, then yesterday's trip with Rev. Prof. Peter Walker (Lecturer, Historian and Author) was a 'Top-Ten-Days-of-my-Life' experience. His tour began with a Sunday morning Communion service on a boat on Lake Galilee, continued with a visit to Caesarea Philippi and the springs that are the source of the Jordan river, then lunch on the border of Lebanon and finally a visit to the ancient city of Dan which was a main town on a trade route to Damascus.
As we visited sites with ever more ancient datings Peter pointed out that civilization has spread westward, and therefore a date that may seem like the dawn of time to us in the west falls well within recorded history for those in the Near and Far East. He made this point as we stood in front - and in awe - of Abraham's Gate, dated c.4,000 years old, built on foundations even older.
I return to Redhill tomorrow reminded that our faith is a historic faith - you can visit the places where Jesus walked, talked, healed, died and rose again ('ve just realized that I've skipped over the Tomb visit...) - but that, like the woman in Magdala, we can encounter him ourselves and know his presence, power and peace in our lives today as we come to him in faith. And you don't need to visit the Holy Land to do that!
'Jesus said to her "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering."'