There is an old hymn that has these words,
I walked today where Jesus walked, and felt his presence there.
For many years, these words have been the inspiration for me to want to go to the Holy Land. In many of the Bible classes I have led, people who have gone to the Holy Land presented information and pictures of their trip. I was finally able to convince Deb that our time had come for this visit.
People often asked me, “Why do you want to go there?’ and “Is it safe?” My first answer was always the words to the song listed above. I wanted to walk where Jesus walked and feel His presence. Secondly, upon much investigation, I was convinced that Israel was safe and I also spoke with people there who felt the same way.
My goals were to see Old Testament sites as well as places where Jesus lived, performed miracles and was put to death. We visited sites involving Elijah, and Saul and David as well as Herod. We visited Nazareth where Jesus grew up. We visited where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount as well as where He fed the 5000. We visited Capernaum where Jesus lived during much of his ministry. We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and we all sang “O Happy Day, where Jesus walked.” What a moving moment. One major goal for me was to be baptized in the Jordan River. I actually was dunked and Deb was sprinkled. Again, what a moving moment.
Another goal was to visit Herod’s fortress at Masada. That was followed up by a swim in the Dead Sea and a visit to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Both were major parts of Holy Land history.
We made trips to Jericho and Bethlehem which are both in Palestinian control at the present time. In Bethlehem, we entered the Church of the Nativity where Jesus supposedly was born. This was too commercialized for us as it took over two hours for a brief picture of the location. One interesting thing in Bethlehem was that we were there on the start of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, and we saw the people headed to the mosque for prayers. We also visited the place where John the Baptist was born.
Commercialization was also true in Jerusalem where we went to the Church of the Holy Seplechre where Jesus was supposedly crucified and buried. Again, another long wait. There is another place called the Garden Tomb where some say Jesus was crucified and buried.
But seeing Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane were truly high points. We followed that up by going to the Western Wall where Jews go to pray. Deb and I both went up to the wall to place prayers in the wall. We sang “Amazing Grace” as a group in a church in Jerusalem. We also went to the room where the Last Supper supposedly took place. The highlight of Jerusalem was to walk the Via Delarosa, the street Jesus walked as he carried the cross. We toured the Christian, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim quarters of the Old City; because it was Saturday, all the Jewish shops were closed.
On our last Sunday, we had hoped to visit Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust museum. But it was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot and it was closed. We did get to tour the Israel Museum.
I by no means mentioned everything we did. But our trip was more than I expected. Our guide was very knowledgeable on both the Old and New Testament. He kept us to a tight schedule and we were on the move continually.
And so, was our trip a success? Did I get to visit Old Testament sites? Yes. Was I baptized? Yes Did I see Masada and swim in the Dead Sea? Yes. Did I see holy places in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jerusalem? Yes. Did I walk where Jesus walked? Yes. And most important, did I feel his presence there? Absolutely YES.