Sharing my photos with my family from two weeks in Israel, I knew I had to fly through to keep their attention. I have hundreds of photos, but not even my family wants to go into my adventures in that level of detail.
Today, I will spare you the hundreds and offer you a few photos and hopefully some insights that will help you to experience at least a little of the wonderful journey I made while I was there.
After landing in Tel Aviv, we made a beeline for the Sea of Galilee and spent the first week on the shores of where Jesus grew up and taught on a daily basis. So many of the stories in the Bible are from this area at the top of the Sea. We walked in Capernaum, Nazareth, and in the countryside where Jesus fed 5,000 people and taught the people about the Beatitudes. We went out to sea in a boat with a warning that we were not allowed to jump off – presumably to stop all of us who wanted to try our hands at walking on the water.
The land here is much the same as it was when Jesus was here. The city of Tiberius is developed and modern, but that is about it. It was so easy to place yourself in Jesus’ time. The centuries permeate the ground here. Everything about it made me feel that our own history in the United States is so very, very young.
Sea of Galilee summary – This life was grounded, connected, simple, yet hard. People worked here, they longed for more here, they worshiped here, and they searched for the Messiah they knew would come. They could see Jesus in person – some of them saw who He was, some of them didn’t. We may not see Jesus in person, but He is very visible in our world. Some see who He is, some do not. We’re not so different after all.
Like Jesus, our final destiny was Jerusalem. None of us were ready to leave as the buses headed across the countryside. The Galilee is a place of beauty and peace, and it was daunting to think of heading into the city and maintaining our spiritual focus. We had little to fear.
Standing on the Mount of Olives, we looked over Jerusalem and saw the story laid out before us. From the Mount of Olives, Jesus walked into Jerusalem and celebrated Passover in the Upper Room. Walking on the road next to Caiphas’ house where He would shortly be brought before the high priest, Jesus and the apostles made their way back to the Mount of Olives to where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Imaging walking free, knowing that in just a few hours you would return as a prisoner, only to be freed after your death. I wonder if Jesus paused there a moment before continuing on. It definitely made me pause.
From the Garden, the story ramped up and so did we. Walking the Way of the Cross, carrying our own crosses through the streets of Jerusalem until we arrived at Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was a moving experience. As we attended Mass next to the empty tomb, we heard the story of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb and frantically asking where they had taken Jesus’ body.
He is risen, He is not here. We could touch all the places where He had been, but He wasn’t there anymore. Instead, He is much closer than He ever was in person.
We sat on the steps of the Temple Mount and listened to Jeff Cavins teach, much like the crowds at Pentecost would gather to hear teachings of rabbis and leaders. But, we knew that on one particular Pentecost, they heard a very different teaching from Peter as the Holy Spirit filled him with wisdom and courage to proclaim what had happened fifty days before. Can you imagine being there for that? Standing on the steps, I surely could.
Finally, it was time to leave and we finished our journey in the city of Joppa. Jonah had been sent from here with a message of repentance and forgiveness to the Gentiles of Nineveh. Peter left from here to meet with the Gentile Cornelius and a message of salvation and acceptance. And we left here with a mission to spread the Gospel to all who will listen, regardless of who they are, because they are all children of God who need to hear the message and the good news we have to share.
My journey is over, but somehow, I feel like it has only just begun. Thank you for coming along.
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