Rising above the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes is prominently situated above the Lake not far from Capernaum, Gennesaret (modern day Ginosar Kibbutz), Korazim and Magdala. The entirety of Jesus’ activities during his Galilean ministry took place within walking distance from the mountain, which is the reason Bible scholars named this region “the fifth gospel.”
While the exact location where the Sermon on the Mount was delivered may be debated, the site where the beautiful church building and gardens are located has been recognized for over 1,600 years ever since a byzantine chapel was erected there during the fourth century.
The beautiful Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel adorning the mountaintop today was built in 1937-38 following plans by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. Pope John Paul II celebrated a huge Mass at this site during his historical visit, and the “Jesus Trail” that sprawls throughout the Galilee connects the mountain to other sites associated with the Lord’s teaching and miracle working ministry in the region.
It is noteworthy to recognize that the repeated phrase in most of our English translations, “BLESSED ARE YOU,” is in fact based on a complex Greek adjective, “makarios,” which conveys not only blessedness, but primarily the sense of happiness, wellbeing, security and overall prosperity! The word the translators chose in the Hebrew New Testament translation is “ASHREI,” relating the sense of absolute bliss, delight and joy!
Think about it. In our day and age so many folks are obsessed with finding personal happiness and well-being, chasing after motivational trainers, life coaches and self-help books & seminars on every corner. Yet, the secrets of true happiness were shared 2,000 years ago with a humble audience gathered to hear the words of an unusual Galilean Rabbi on a remote mountaintop overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
His words and teachings on the Mount of Beatitudes “upset the apple cart” of that day’s culture and social norms long before He literally upset the merchants’ tables at the Temple Courts. In a materialistic world where the strong ruled, the rich governed, and the bullies ran the show, Jesus had the laser clarity and courage to tell the truth from heaven’s perspective!
He said that we are blessed when we acknowledge our spiritual poverty and need of God; that we do well when we honestly mourn; that we should be happy when we hunger and thirst for righteousness or act humbly, mercifully and peacefully; and that we can rejoice when we are persecuted. Not only that, but He had the audacity to directly connect those character traits to our eternal wellbeing, saying, “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matt 5:12.
These truths changed the world as we know it, and these blessed words still echo across the wind swept hilltop on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.
See you in Israel soon.