Well Angie and I have just got back a week ago from visiting the Holy Land. This was her first time and we both had an amazing time.
When I first went to the Holy Land some years ago it changed how I saw the Bible and helped to bring it alive. This happened to a greater extent than I expected it to. When you read the ministry of Jesus and see the places where he lived and the context he lived in then you can’t keep reading the Bible in the same way. It brings alive the words of Jesus and puts legs on them.
For example, when you see the old road from Jericho to Jerusalem (and not the new multi-lane highway with it’s Good Samaritan inn!) and see the desert and the winding nature of the road you can so easily visualise the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the road Jesus took to go to Jerusalem. Also the desert region surrounding Jericho and the Jordan can appear so barren and empty and the idea that Jesus spent 40 days in the area living just on water (and we complain living in comfort of fasting for a day or two!!)
Or going to visit the ancient towns at the north of the Lake of Galilee – Capernaum, Bethsaida and Korazin. Walking in the area where so much of Jesus’s Galilean ministry occurred. There are all sorts of fascinating connections made. That in a small place like Bethsaida that Jesus chooses three and maybe five of his disciples (Philip, Andrew and Peter. Possibly also James and John). What are the implications of this for us leading churches – that in our congregations may well exist people that Jesus would see as great Christian leaders and that we’ve overlooked?!? Or that Bethsaida was in a different area (under Philip the Tetrach rather than Herod) and that therefore the Tax collector Matthew may have been a collector of road tolls between the two territories.
What is always interesting to see is how different places create a spiritual response. For some it’s the River Jordan, for others its the Sea of Galilee or one of the ministry places of Jesus, or parts of Jerusalem. Whichever it is there seems so often to be a deep spiritual connection for so many people. In our trip this time we read the scriptures, prayed and sang at the different places – connecting up the bible with the places we visited which was very powerful.
There were some places I hasn’t had the opportunity to visit previously which were really worth it. The most surprising was Nazareth Village which shows people first century village life. I usually try to avoid theme park type places – but I was really impressed by what they achieved and the small taste it gave of first century life – showing carpentry, weaving, making olive oil and a replica of a first century synagogue. Really well done and acted and inspiring.
Also, I hadn’t had time to go the City of David (which is off to the left of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) and was the original city. We saw some of the ruins that they have excavated which was fascinating and the deep water tunnels excavated in the time of King Hezekiah about 700 BC – indeed I walked the 1/3 mile through the water tunnel which still has water running down it.
Although it was my third time, it was a wonderful experience! It shows that there is always so much more to see and experience and each of my visits has been very different.
But we also have to remember that there is a living context as well. The Holy Land isn’t a theme park created for Christian pilgrims. I will come back to that aspect in my next post as I believe that it deserves a post of its own!
Usual tip: Click on a picture to see a larger version and the comments I have made