So here are our three favorite miracles from yesterday (April 29):
— The Church of the Wedding Feast in Cana: As Christian miracles go, I have to love the one described in John 2:1-2:9. Jesus and Mary are at a wedding party in Cana, and she whispers to him that the guests are itchy for some wine, but the hosts don’t have any. Jesus finds this annoying (his mom bugging him to do something he’s not ready to do, namely reveal his awesome power), but he gives in and miraculously changes 6 pots of water into wine. As wine lovers, Steve and I had to see the place in Cana to which the pilgrims flock. Off one of the main thoroughfares, we spotted Church Street, snagged a parking spot on the street and made our way up the narrow stone-lined street through which obvious bus-loads of pilgrims were tramping. The gift shops (with names like the Waterpots, The First Miracle, Cana Wedding Wine) also confirmed that we had found the right place. The entire Bible passage is also installed in the wall outside.
The church that was built and named after the miracle is a pretty little thing, as is the garden surrounding it, but the pilgrims don’t spend much time on either; they tromp down a set of stairs, to a basement room housing a huge stone urn.
In 1879, some folks unearthed some ancient stone jars, decided they were probably the miraculous urns from the BIble, and built the Franciscan church in response. When Steve later googled the church and the miracle, we read there’s controversy over this claim. But it obviously isn’t bothering the pilgrims. We arrived around 4 p.m. and must have seen 10 busloads pass through, bearing passengers from all over the globe: Japanese, Brits, Italians, Germans, Filipinos, and more.
— The Church of the Loaves and Fishes miracle
You find this one at Tabgha, on the Sea of Galilee shore, just up the road from Tiberius (where we stayed). Another beautiful little church has been built on the site where folks believe Jesus multiplied a handful of loaves and fishes to feed the crowd of 5000 that turned out to hear him preach. Again, the evidence (why THIS spot?) is probably shaky; we found no posted explanations. But the alter of the church is built over a cool looking rock on which he supposedly worked his magic. Once again, I have to love any miracle that focuses on successfully feeding an unexpected crowd.
Though it’s an obvious stop on the Jesus Circuit around the Sea of Galilee, this astonishing site is only Jesus-related, rather than BIblically inspired. In 1986, a drought year when the lake was extremely low, two local kibbutznik fishermen found a fragment of wood and started digging in the muck. They soon realized it was the remains of a very old wooden boat. They called in experts, who quickly confirmed that it was VERY old, and a massively complicated rescue and restoration effort ensued. It took years but eventually succeeded, and tests eventually concluded that the 12 types of wood used to build and patch the boat dated back to the first century. In other words, this boat may well have been sailing on the lake when Jesus and his disciples were fishing on it. They could have passed it; even worked in it. Today the boat is housed in an ultra-modern facility that tells the story in a very thorough and sophisticated way. We walked away deeply impressed.
Now we’re in the Old City in Nazareth, where we spent the night in an old Arab mansion that’s been converted into a guesthouse. (Most of the folks who live in Nazareth today are Arab Israelis.) We’re planning to take a 2-3-hour walking tour of the city at 9:30, then drive through the West Bank (along the Jordan River) to Jerusalem. The only miracle that would surprise me is if it turns out to be boring.