I just returned from my first trip to Israel. From Galilee to Jerusalem to Masada, this trip was absolutely stunning and filled with those “Oh, wow!” moments. I would love to tell you everything I learned, but plenty of books have been written describing the exact things I saw.
My expectation in going was that this would be an emotional trip. Sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane. Walking the Via Dolorosa. Staring at Golgotha. Peering into the empty tomb. Many of these sites were breathtaking and generated contemplative thinking. I knew it would be amazing to walk where Jesus walked.
But I found something more amazing than trekking in His probable pathway. I found myself recognizing that the “magic” is not putting my foot in the same place He put His. The greatest value of the trip to Israel became for me the desire to walk LIKE Jesus walked, not WHERE He walked. Imitating Him. Abiding in personal holiness.
Honestly, there were a few things which disappointed me. The Orthodox church has turned several of “the locations” of Jesus into shrines. The Church of the Nativity. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The place is worshiped. Their is expected “magic”.
I guess this is why my favorite places where different. Galilee. Tough. Blue collar. You can imagine carpenter’s hands at work here, along with fishermen at their trade. Gethsemane. Plain. Rugged. Lonely. Jesus struggled in this wooded garden. Golgotha. Rocky. Ugly. A bus barn that transports would-be travelers nestles at the foot of the mount. Just like the people who would have walked by the three men hanging on the crosses would have been displayed to demonstrate the might of Rome. The Garden Tomb. Cool. Damp. Average. Also empty. “Nothing-in-it Tomb” as my son Seth calls it. That’s right buddy. Nothing in it. It’s still empty.
The trip exceeded my expectations. Not because I felt closer to God. But because, now that I am home, I want to live more like Christ than ever. Walking in Israel was great. But I have to walk in Ponca City, Oklahoma. In His footsteps right here. I can’t wait to go back. Between now and then, I have some walking to do.