We recently returned from a ten day trip to Israel with thirty-six of our neighbors and friends. It was my sixth pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I am often asked why I continue to go back to the same place again and again. There are many reasons my wife and I become tour hosts for this fascinating adventure. Probably the best reason to return is the opportunity to introduce folks to the joy of discovering the place where Jesus lived.
The expressions we often hear include: “I’ve been waiting my whole life to get here;” or “It’s hard to believe I am walking where Jesus walked.” The looks of excitement, astonishment and pure joy are priceless.
You can make this trip in many ways. Some go just to visit a ‘new’ place, others go as biblical students, trying to understand the Bible better, while many make this a pilgrimage. That is, they want to have a closer experience with God, using the sites as opportunities to better know and understand the God of Creation and the Word. It is always our hope and prayer that members of our group will become pilgrims.
The Bible comes alive while visiting places that were previously just names. As one of our group shared, “I read the scripture Sunday in church, and could say, ‘Now I know what that really means.’” Placed in real contexts, Bible stories and teachings come alive and drastically alter our understanding of long familiar passages.
One such passage that captivated all of us was the teaching of Jesus concerning his teaching about moving mountains by faith. Try to contact a member of our group and ask how that story came alive for us.
One of my favorite places is the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed before going to the Cross. We learned that olive trees, when cut down to their roots, can grow again out of those same roots. That means the trees there today may be the same ones that Jesus prayed beside two thousand years ago. So we were truly where Jesus prayed for each of us, and you.
Dan MacDonald, D. Min.
Tel Hai Resident