They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Up on a Mountain to Pray – Mt. Arbel

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place where he prayed” – Mark 1:35

Mt. Arbel, Galilee, Israel – This high mountain, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, affords one of the most breathtaking views of the area that Jesus spent most of his public ministry in. Josephus tells us that there were over 200 towns and villages around the lake called the Sea of Galilee during Jesus’ day. Almost all the people living there earned their living by farming or fishing. From the top of Mt. Arbel, you have a panoramic view of the whole area where Jesus walked and lived. You can see Capernaum, Bethsaida (where the Jordan River empties into the lake), the Mt. of Beatitudes, Korazin, and the Decapolis (home of the demoniac). A lot of Jewish history is also in this mountain. Herod the Great came here and killed hundreds of Galilean Zealots that were hiding in the steep cliffs on Mt. Arbel to crush their rebellion against his authority. The mountain is a landmark in the area and can be seen from almost anywhere for miles in any direction.

Our group of disciples came to this mountain and climbed it to learn about all the geographical places and to also learn another fascinating lesson abut the relationship between a rabbi and his talmidim (disciples). At the base of the mountain is the small fishing village of Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. We left early in the morning, at daybreak from Magdala, and made the arduous ascent through the cliffs, to the summit. It was very tough physically and at one point we had to climb vertically and cling to metal pegs that were driven into the cliffs. Once on top however, the view was breathtaking. We could imagine Jesus and his disciples as they moved from village to village around the lake. While we were on top, we heard the following story about the relationship that a Jewish Rabbi had with his talmidim:

Rabbis were passionately committed to the young men that they had chosen as their disciples. They felt totally responsible for their physical and spiritual growth and well being. It was a common practice for a rabbi to get up early in the morning, well before light and make a very strenuous climb to a place where they could overlook where their disciples were sleeping. The harder the climb for the rabbi, the more it emphasized his commitment to his flock. After reaching his observation point, the rabbi would look below and begin to earnestly pray to God on behalf of his disciples. He would pray large portions of the text out loud and ask God to make those scriptures come alive in the hearts of those young men under his tutelage. It was a very gratifying experience for the teacher as he pleaded to God on behalf of his unsuspecting students below.

After just making this tough climb ourselves, we could feel the commitment and the sacrifice that the rabbi had for his talmidim. He was willing to do the hard work it took to make sure that they became just like him and were instructed correctly. We then read the Mark Passage and saw that our Rabbi Jesus also got up early in the morning and went out to pray for his disciples.

Who are your disciples? According to Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus instructed us to go and make disciples and to teach them to do everything that He had taught us. Are you earnestly praying for them and their walk with Jesus? If we are to become like Jesus, we will have to have disciples and we will have to commit to praying for them. It will take a high level of commitment on our part. Mt. Arbel burned in my spirit the need to be a man that lives and prays the text and that is actively pursuing someone to train to walk in the footsteps of our Rabbi, Jesus.

Pentecost: Where Were the Disciples?

Southern Stairs Today with Excavated Mikvehs

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
– Acts 2:1 

The events that took place in Acts Chapter 2, where God poured out His spirit and empowered His small band of followers is the pivotal event in New Testament Christianity. Where did this amazing event take place? Most Christians assume that it took place in the upper room where the disciples had been staying. However, a closer look at the Text and some research into the historical setting of the Feast of Pentecost provides strong proof that the events of Pentecost actually took place in an entirely different location. Let’s see what the evidence shows.

  1. Luke 24:53 says that the disciples stayed continually at the Temple praising God. The Feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot in Hebrew, was just starting in Jerusalem as the book of Acts begins. It was one of the three great pilgrim feasts that every Jewish male was required to attend (see Deuteronomy 16:16). Where would these Jewish believers, who were continually in the Temple Courts anyway, have been on the first day of the feast of Pentecost? They would have been at the Temple!
  2. Acts 2:6-12 states that huge crowds of people from every nation gathered to hear Peter speak. Where would there have been room for great crowds of people, who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, during the time of day that the Temple services would have been held? It would have had to have been somewhere in the Temple area, the only place where there would have been that much space!
  3. In Acts 2:15, Peter told the crowd gathered that it was 9:00 in the morning. This would have been the exact time for the morning Pentecost service in the Temple. Certainly the disciples and the crowd would have wanted to be present for the Pentecost services.
  4. In Acts 2:2, it says that the sound of a violent wind filled the whole house where they were sitting. The Temple is frequently called, “The House” in the Old Testament (see e.g. 2 Samuel 7:5). Even in Acts 7:47, the Temple is called, “The House”. The House where they were sitting was the Temple!
  5. Peter spoke of the Tomb of David as being there (Acts 2:29). David was buried in the “City of David” (I Kings 2:10), which is the part of Jerusalem that is the closest to the Temple Mount.
  6. In Acts 2:41, it says that three thousand people were baptized in response to the apostles preaching. One of the only places in Jerusalem with that much water to baptize three thousand people would have been at the southern entrance to the Temple, where there were located numerous “mikvoth”. These were ritual baths used by the worshipers to ceremonially cleanse themselves before entering the grounds of the Temple. These pools, which already symbolized the removal of the uncleanness of sin, and their proximity to where the crowds would have been gathered, gives further evidence to Pentecost happening in or around the southern stair entrance to the Temple grounds.

All this evidence overwhelmingly points to the events of Acts 2 taking place on or near the southern stair entrance to the Temple. Hundreds of thousands of God fearing Jews from all over the known world (Acst2:5) were gathered to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Shavuot (Leviticus 23:15-22). At this ancient Jewish feast, God came in the form of tongues of fire and settled on the new believers. God moved out of his old “House”, the Temple, and moved into a new “House”, the hearts of the believers. All of this took place in the framework of Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled at this miraculous event and it all happened at the place God had his people build a place for Him to dwell!