This is an excerpt from Joanna’s wonderful book, Jerusalem Diary: Searching For The Tomb And House Of Jesus.
The Sea of Galilee has a poetic history. It is also called Lake Kinneret, as it forms a big concentration of fresh water in a very dry land. The word ‘kinnor’ in Hebrew means ‘harp’: a musical instrument producing very sweet sounds. The whole sea is said to carry the sounds of Yeshua’s teachings. Geographically, it is about twenty-one kilometres long, thirteen kilometres wide and over two hundred metres below sea level.
The rooms of the Casa Nova are large, if austere. A big old bed with an iron bed-head in the middle of the room, short, white window curtains and an old closet. I throw myself on the bed, trying to process what has happened to me on the trip so far. I am lucky — both men have planned everything for me, have already been to places I am now seeing, and are the most amazing guides and friends. Friends’ is Steve’s favourite word. What is Martin’s favourite word? ‘Favourite’ is itself not a word Martin would use lightly. Martin is too logical to construct someone or something as his favourite. ‘Family’ is the word he uses most often and it means the world to him. Martin is about family. After family comes friends, and I feel very privileged that this quiet, subdued man now considers me his friend and is there for me as I fall through my personal dramas. He doesn’t pretend he understands them or can relate to them. He has enough grace and compassion in him not to judge me. He mentions in passing that he only witnesses ‘the immense suffering you are going through on this trip’. He witnesses how every day I pull myself up from it, rising to the adventure and our companionship every morning. He sits quietly by my side as I write frantically in my journals. I carry two journals during the trip: an official journal — which is my guide for this book — and an unofficial one, in which I am processing my feelings. Martin, a friend, is there for me when I feel like I am dying of emotional pain and confusion. He is there for me in his quiet presence.
In the afternoon we walk to the left of the hospice and enjoy the view of the hills all around the sea. These are the places Yeshua visited frequently, traversed daily, as a Teacher.
‘I wanted you to come here’, Steve says to me as we sit on one of the rocks on the beach, with Martin looking for shells on the shore. ‘This place isn’t about Yeshua’s death. It’s not about his suffering. It’s not about blame and carrying guilt. These hills and lake are about his happy years — about the fulfilment of his destiny as a great spiritual teacher who wanted us to achieve what he achieved spiritually. These were his happy years, when he walked with his devoted disciples along these hills, taught in the synagogues, met his apostles, left his trail as a Teacher.’
I breathe out heavily. This is exactly what I need to hear as far as my relationship with Yeshua is concerned. If I can’t relate to the gory images of a suffering man-God in Catholic churches, or the gruesome processions to commemorate his suffering during the Easter celebrations, I can relate to Yeshua as a maturing Teacher. A man young in years, but possessing great spiritual insight and depth as a Teacher. A man loved by his friends and disciples. A man who chose an alternative destiny: he could have married, had a family and job, but chose otherwise. He knew the priority of inner growth. He knew how important it was that we connect with God through love and compassion. My Peace I give you. A man who wanted us to feel the inner Peace that is available to us, if we only make the effort to look with innocent eyes — beyond our desires, fear and anger, beyond conditioned minds telling us what we need to do to be happy only to leave us with dust in our mouths. He wanted us to be grand, to rejoice in our magnificent destiny as God’s children. Here, in the hills around the Sea of Galilee, he taught these truths.
Steve knocks on my door while it is still dark.
‘I’m sleeping’, I yell, but he insists I get up. I put on my clothes and follow him to the roof deck on top of the hospice. The sun is just rising like a red ball coming out of the sky.
‘Look’, Steve whispers. ‘That’s Mount Hermon.’
In front of us is a mountain with its snow-covered peak in full view.
I am glad to know that these same vistas were available to Yeshua, that this is where he spent his adult years. There is no speculation. Here he definitely walked, taught and felt connected to the natural beauty of the world.
‘You can’t help but feel elated in Tiberias’, I say as we go downstairs. We knock on Martin’s door but he is already having breakfast in the dining room. I can’t eat.
‘Let’s walk around the lake like he did’, I say over coffee.
Martin and Steve look at me as if I am losing the plot.
‘Like real pilgrims’, I try again, without success.
‘The car’s already waiting outside’, Steve says. ‘I arranged it yesterday.’
We go outside. Steve sits in the driver’s seat. I sit next to him.
‘I feel like I could walk on water today’, I exclaim.
‘A perfect day for a pilgrimage’, I try again.
‘Drive before she convinces you otherwise’, Martin orders Steve. ‘I’m not walking anywhere. It would take a few days to walk around the Lake.’
The sky above the lake is blue and punctuated with delicate white clouds. The morning light makes the lake and the green hills around nearly translucent, as if they are floating above the ground. Everything seems weightless. My heart is weightless. My mind, for once, is not fixated on Melbourne and what is going to happen upon my return.
Our first stop is the Boat Museum.
Some of his closest disciples were fishermen. Certainly they had boats. This was how they earned their living. The mosaic in St Peter’s Church in Tiberias showed a boat with two people in it. I was transfixed by that image; now I might be looking at the very same boat. The boat in question was discovered by two fishermen, Moshe and Yuval Lufan, from Kibbutz Ginosar. Its discovery caused lots of commotion because the boat had been built in the first century, and was significant for Jewish history as it could have been used during the Jewish rebellion against the Romans. The discovery was even more exciting for Christians, as it could have been the boat which Yeshua sailed with his disciples. The boat is made of twelve types of wood and is apparently an example of great craftsmanship. It was built with love. Steve tells me The Urantia Book mentions that Yeshua built a boat and used different types of wood to make it strong and graceful. I don’t know what is true, but it is easy to believe that the boat was built by Yeshua’s loving hands.
In my soul, in my soul’s eyes, I can see Yeshua building the boat. With his loving hands. In full Presence. His disciples standing around him, helping him, passing him tools, but mostly just being there, witnessing the Teacher. How fully Present he is, they think as they watch him, watch his hands touching the wood of the boat as if he were caressing it — as if the boat was a child of God, the most precious being on Earth, the first being on Earth. Blessed. They watch him and feel his Presence. They feel the Presence of Something. Is it the Presence of the ‘Father’ he is talking about? They do not know, but the Presence is there in his every move, in his every breath — in every word he says or does not say. He just is. In a full Presence that brings tears to their eyes. Their Teacher so Present. My Peace I give. My Presence I give you, he says. It is in him and it passes through him to them. It passes into anyone who comes to meet him. The Presence. The Love. Yes, the Love. They breathe in relief. He loves them. He loves them with a Love no one has known before. He loves them with the Love he gives to everyone. Equally. His hands moving with enjoyment over the wood of the boat. He turns and looks at me with soft amusement in his eyes. He turns and looks at them with soft amusement in his eyes. Everything pauses. For a moment …
I leave the display and Steve and Martin behind, and walk to the small, empty pier on the lake.
‘I’m by the Sea of Galilee, where he lived his best years’, I keep thinking, still strangely elated. Years of grotesque images I don’t understand of a crucified man-God, two millennia of theological discussions, of mindless prosecutions of heretics and the Jewish population, and the desperate attempts of the Church to control our perceptions of Yeshua and his teachings drop off me like unnecessary ballast. I feel even lighter as I walk onto the pier. Long, green grass grows in the marshy areas along the pier. It is completely empty.
‘This was how Yeshua would have seen the shore from a boat’, I think. If he looked now, he could see me. I feel a gentle pat on my arm, as if he is walking next to me. I don’t dare turn around.
I hear a voice: Sail with me.
I freeze. It is useless to ask where the voice has come from.
Suddenly my heart bursts open. For a moment I am completely free, completely contented, completely at peace. And when the moment passes, I start crying as if I will never stop.
‘What on earth does this mean’, I think through tears, ‘and what am I supposed to do now?’