Our first full day in Galilee began in Cana, the place traditionally associated with Jesus’ first miraculous sign. The Lord was a guest at a wedding, and he turned water into wine during the festivities (John 2:1-11). A beautiful Catholic Church stands on the location, with ancient Jewish and Christian ruins visible underneath. There is something quite powerful in Christ’s choice to sanctify a wedding with his presence, and we had an opportunity to reflect on this during our visit.
A great highlight of the day was the opportunity to celebrate the renewal of wedding vows with eleven couples. This was a truly special moment for us. We have folks married 50 years, folks married 8 years, and everywhere in between. Tina hosted a “wedding reception” before dinner this evening for the whole group. What a great gathering!
We visited Nazareth next, beginning with the Greek Orthodox Church that has “Mary’s well” inside. This is one of two major sites associated with the announcement of Mary’s conception by Gabriel the angel. One tradition holds that Mary received the news while drawing water at the local well. A more likely site is the Church of the Annunciation, which we visited next. This magnificent basilica is the largest in the Middle East and is built over caves believed to have been Mary’s home (or part of it) in Nazareth. The church stands over the visible remains of an octagonal Byzantine church built next to the cave and contains artistic renderings of the Annunciation to Mary from countries around the world, each with its own cultural signature.
After lunch we stopped at Nazareth Village, a recreation of first-century village life in Nazareth. We saw crops planted with ancient methods, olive trees and vineyards, a threshing floor, a wood shop, and an ancient wool weaving demonstration. They have a replica of a first-century synagogue also, where we learned more about Jesus’ teaching there in Luke 4 when the Lord read and expounded on Isaiah 61.
From there, we completed our touring on Mt. Precipice in Nazareth. This is the place where the crowd tried to throw Jesus over the cliff in the above mentioned episode in Luke 4. The late afternoon view of the Jezreel Valley below and Samaria in the distance was jaw-dropping. The edge of the cliff is imposing, and a fall from that height would surely be deadly, so the hostile crowd in Nazareth meant business when they heard Jesus speak a message of salvation that included hope for the Gentiles (which would include their detested enemies, the Romans).
Tomorrow we will be on and around the Sea of Galilee, the places where Jesus spent the majority of his public ministry. We can’t wait!