Mount of Beatitudes—Beauty that Illustrates Truth
by Wayne Stiles
The hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee frame the lake like a portrait.
In spring, the hillsides burst with wildflowers, fresh grass, and spectacular color. The tranquil slopes tower above fruit crops and fertile fields that stretch across the lush Plain of Gennesaret.
No matter where I stand to view the picture, the subject seems to be smiling.
(Photo: Mount of Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
Numerous places around the lake offer splendid panoramas.
- The best view, by far, is atop Mount Arbel. Windy and requiring a walk, the vast landscape stuns every first-timer.
- Another grand vista is the view from Kfar Haruv on the eastern side—I can see the whole lake from tip to tip. Impressive, for sure.
But the picturesque view from the Mount of Beatitudes offers visitors more than simply a beautiful view.
It offers a place to consider truth taught there by One who knew it.
Along the northwestern shoreline, the ruins from a small, fourth-century chapel cover a rock-cut cistern. Called the Church of the Sermon on the Mount, its deteriorated crumblings lay to the north of a small monastery.
The Sermon on the Mount (Really, the Slope)
At the top of the slope, once called Mount Eremos, a modern church towers over the crumbling one it has replaced below. Driving up the incline requires a few hairpin turns that snake back and forth beside the valley.
Once on top, the road curves east and rewards the traveler with a marvelous view of the church that gazes out over thirteen miles of water.
(Photo: Overlooking the Sea of Galilee from Mount of Beatitudes)
- Franciscan sisters built the beautiful chapel in 1938 with the support of Mussolini. Designed by Antonio Barluzzi, the church supports a cross with a stained dome that towers over its structure made of gray cinderblocks.
- The building’s eight sides commemorate the eight “beatitudes” that began Jesus’ celebrated Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10).
- The Mount of Beatitudes marks the traditional location of the sermon.
- Thick Saint Augustine grass spreads out below numerous palm trees and surrounds colorful flowerbeds. Tidy gardens descend to a small, covered, semicircular sitting area that overlooks the lake. It’s a great place to sit, read, pray—or just enjoy the view.
The hillside below the church would have provided plenty of space for a large crowd. And the view? Stunning.
Jesus Used Beauty to Illustrate Truth
Jesus drew upon the splendor of the verdant slopes to illustrate a point in His sermon:
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will he not much more clothe you? —Matthew 6:28–31
No doubt, the view from the Mount of Beatitudes provides a beautiful portrait of the Sea of Galilee. But it offers even more. The lovely surroundings afford each visitor a tranquil place to meditate on the truths that were taught there.
(Photo: Lily in Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)
The Lord spoke the words to the worriers of the first century. By comparing the value of flowers to people, Jesus sought to comfort the worriers.
Jesus used truth about flowers to ease anxieties. We should look at flowers more often. (Tweet that.)
Beauty still illustrates truth.
More than simply a picturesque view of the lake, the Mount of Beatitudes offers a perspective on living.
That’s seeing a lot further than thirteen miles.
Question: What illustrations in nature can help us with our worrying?