Some reflections which impacted me, which gave new meaning to many hymns, which added color to familiar Bible stories and forever made them three-dimensional in my mind. I hope these little accounts will also bless you, as we pilgrimage together to that New Jerusalem which will come down one day from God out of heaven.
All God’s faithful people are pilgrims, New Testament writers tell us, moving through this world to a better and permanent place (Heb. 11:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:11). In June 1999, Sara Faye and I were privileged to make a pilgrimage in another sense, as 54 of us joined archaeologists Dr. John McRay and his wife Annette for 14 life-changing days and nights in Israel, Greece and Rome, tracing the steps of the patriarchs and prophets, and especially of our Lord and his Apostles. Click on the links below to access devotionals with photographs at various locations.
This was a true pilgrimage, not merely a tour — punctuated throughout by periods of worship, singing prayer and Scripture readings. We read the Sermon on the Mount at the place Jesus probably spoke it; remembered the stilling of the storm during a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee; recalled Jesus’ baptism as one of our own party was baptized in the Jordan River. Jesus’ temptations came alive as we drove through the harsh Judean wilderness, as did the Gospel stories of his ministry when we drank water from Jacob’s Well in Samaria and walked the streets of Nazareth in the Galilee.
On the Mount of Olives we read the account of Jesus’ agony as he approached the Cross. We sang in an underground darkened dungeon where Jesus might have been kept between his mock trials — walked first-century stone steps that Jesus certainly walked from Caiaphas’ palace — beheld an empty tomb that believers have identified since 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection as the one Jesus borrowed briefly from Joseph of Arimathea.
In Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, we viewed the sites and remembered the scenes of God’s covenant people from Abraham’s day, and Joshua’s and David’s. We sat in the open-air theatre in Caesarea where Herod received worship and was smitten with worms, explored the cliff-top ruins of Masada, floated in the Dead Sea, saw the Dead Sea Scrolls and visited Qumran. We stood beside orthodox Jews who prayed at the Western (“Wailing”) Wall, and observed devout Moslems at the Dome of the Rock — both marking the site of Solomon’s Temple, and the latter the place where Abraham began offering his son but was stopped by God. We viewed the Valley of Hinnom (“Gehenna”) in Judea and Mount Megiddo (“Armageddon”) in the Valley of Jezreel — literal sites with names rich in prophetic symbolism. We walked the Agora and stood on Mars Hill in Athens, where Paul preached to the Greek philosophers — visited ancient Corinth — prayed in the Mamertine Prison in Rome where Paul once awaited his death.
I first thought to share day-by-day accounts, but found the task altogether too overwhelming. Instead, God willing, now and then I will relate some reflections which impacted me, which gave new meaning to many hymns, which added color to familiar Bible stories and forever made them three-dimensional in my mind. I hope these little accounts will also bless you, as we pilgrimage together to that New Jerusalem which will come down one day from God out of heaven.
Until then, God be with you and yours,