Out and About :: Holy Land

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Earlier this year I had the privilege of traveling to the Holy Land. I didn’t plan to blog about it, but since coming home I’ve had many conversations that have led me to write – to encourage others who may be considering this trip and also to record my thoughts so I don’t forget the impression this trip made on me.

There are a couple of overarching themes that emerged while I was in the Holy Land.

First, this trip is different from any other. It really is a pilgrimage, not a vacation. I love to travel, and I’m fortunate to have visited France, England, Scotland and Ireland. I’ve seen where Shakespeare was born, where Wordsworth gazed upon Tintern Abbey, where Dickens penned the Pickwick Papers, and where Oscar Wilde is buried. These trips were amazing.

My feet on a stone at the Temple Gate near the teaching steps

But to walk in the steps of Jesus. To see the things He saw and to stand near where He would have stood to read the Torah, to teach, to feed the multitudes, to heal the sick, to look out and weep over Jerusalem – this is a wholly (and holy) different experience. It is one thing to walk where people who are dead have walked. But to walk where Jesus walked – who I believe is alive and whose story is not yet finished – is amazing.

A second idea was a new appreciation of the global Kingdom of believers. Everywhere we traveled, we saw and met fellow believers from other parts of the globe. In the US, it is so easy to get tunnel vision and think of Christianity as an American religion when in truth, it is far from that. It was encouraging to see brothers and sisters in Christ from Korea, Germany, Russia, China, Israel and Palestine. To see them visiting the same sites we were visiting and for the same reasons – because we share the same faith. It was a great reminder that as Christians, we’re a part of a global kingdom, not an American one.

Magdala Stone amid ruins of 1st c. synagogue in Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene.

The third thing that made this trip meaningful is how it has enhanced the way I read scripture now compared to before. Before the trip I heard several people use this metaphor – before you go, you read scripture in black and white. When you’ve been to the Holy Land, you read it in color. This is a great metaphor. What I would add to it is this: (as it reflects my experience) I’ve read the Bible my whole life. When that’s the case, it can become stale. Going to the Holy Land has made my reading of scripture more tangible in a way that it wasn’t before. Being able to visualize places described – be it regions or towns or buildings – makes scripture feels more real.

So go! If you have ever had an inkling to visit the Holy Land – don’t put it off. Your faith is waiting to be encouraged.

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