By midmorning on the second full day of our tour of Israel, we had already explored the Golan Heights and Banias. Next we drove to the traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount—The Mount of the Beatitudes.
On the hour long bus ride, we took in views of rolling hills as we returned to the Galilee region. At last we ascended the mount and parked at the Church of the Beatitudes.
After leaving the bus, we walked across the parking lot to the beautiful church. It may not mark the exact location of the Sermon on the Mount, but the teaching probably took place nearby.
I was struck by the beauty of our surroundings as we traversed the path to the church. We made our way through the cloisters to a quiet spot.
We paused to listen while one of the pastors in our group read the Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-11.
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
As he read, I peered through the latticework at the surrounding vegetation. Flowering trees, verdant grass, and other greenery flourished.
Sounds of worship filtered to us as another group sang inside the church. After the music faded, we quietly entered.
One of the first things that caught my eye was the beautiful tiled mosaic floor.
In the center of the octagonal church stood a small cross. Nearby, a Latin Bible was open to Matthew 5.
Looking up, I gazed at stained glass windows surrounding a beautiful gold dome. Each window contained the Latin text of one of the Beatitudes.
We took our time returning to the bus. The flowers in the surrounding gardens captivated us.
Stopping to admire a fountain, I giggled at the irony of two signs referring to it. The first displayed a verse offering living water. The second warned visitors not to drink the water.
Near the exit, stones were arranged in the shape of two fish. Five loaves of bread were depicted on a nearby table. It was a beautiful reminder of the miracle that happened nearby at Tabgha, the next stop on our tour of Galilee.
I wish we’d had more time to explore the Mount of Beatitudes. I longed to wander through the grass on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. What would it have been like to hear the words of the Gospel straight from Jesus on this very hill?
If more than 5,000 people were reluctant to depart from here, why should I be in a hurry to leave?