Sing: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah UMH 127
The name “Tabgha” is a corruption of the Greek name Hebtapegai or “Seven Springs.” The Tabgha Valley is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, also variously called the Sea of Kinneret, the Lake of Gennesaret, the Sea of Tiberias, or Lake Galilee. The lake is approximately 64 square miles or 41,000 acres. It is 13 miles x 7 miles at its longest and widest. Tabgha is a small valley which forms a natural amphitheater overlooking the lake below. Local Christian tradition places three major events of Jesus’ ministry in this valley: The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7); the first feeding of the multitudes (Mark 6:30-44); and Jesus’ resurrection appearance to seven of his disciples (John 21).
During our January visit the valley was beautifully green, the storm clouds continued to move away, and we were blessed with a beautifully sunny morning. Our guide, Nader Mascobi who is a Palestinian Christian, told us that this lovely, peaceful valley lies between two sites of violence and carnage.
The first site was on our left as we rode our tour bus to Tabgha. In yesterday’s photo of a rainbow there is a large hill on the left hand side, this is Mount Arbel. On the north slope of Mount Arbel there are cliffs which are dotted with caverns. In 38 BC, the caves in the Arbel Cliffs were occupied by Jewish zealots who were resisting Roman rule. They were pulled out of the caves with hooks and ropes by troops under the command of Herod (the Great) when he was trying to consolidate his rule of Israel.
The second site of carnage is a battleground from the Hasmonean period (about 145 BC) which lies to the north of Tabgha on the plains of Hazor (1 Maccabees 11:67-74). This was one of many battles between the armies of the Seleucid Empire of Syria and the Jewish Hasmoneans. This particular battle was between troops commanded by Demetrius II Nicator (Seleucid) and Jonathan, the first ruler and high priest of Israel.
This area which had seen more than its share of bloodshed was the spot which Jesus chose to proclaim the availability of God’s kingdom with:
- words – the Sermon on the Mount;
- deeds – the feeding of the five thousand;
- and, by founding his Church – commissioning Simon Peter to care for his flock.
There is not a person or a place which God cannot cleanse and make holy!
Thanks be to God!