Walk Where Jesus Walked in Israel (It’s Not as Easy as you Think)

It’s a blessing to go to Israel to walk where Jesus walked. But you might surprised to know that it’s not easy to experience Jesus on a typical tour, even though you’re on the trip of a lifetime in the land of the Bible!

Some Challenges of Tours in Israel

Most people when they go on a trip to Israel to Walk where Jesus Walked are not prepared for the challenges and distractions they’ll encounter. The schedule is too full. The group moves too fast. The guide says too much (especially about Israeli politics!). You have to put up with noisy crowds and vendors. You need to keep your wallet away from pickpockets. You encounter competing religious groups staking out and protecting their turf. You’re probably alert to the possibility of terrorism. You’re not sure whether to be comforted or frightened by teenage Israeli soldiers with machine guns. In all these things you do your best to take in the holy sites and their connection to Jesus and the Bible, but it’s hard!

You don’t want to be a consumer collecting trinket souvenirs! You don’t want to be a stressed out tourist snapping pictures in a desperate attempt to hold onto something! You want to “Walk where Jesus Walked” — with Jesus! You want to experience Jesus. Why else would you set aside ten days or more, spend thousands of dollars, and travel to the other side of the world?

We’re Not Tourists — We’re Pilgrims!

When Kristi and I helped lead a group to Walk where Jesus Walked in Israel we were prepared to resist the tourist mode. We didn’t want to hurry. We didn’t want to be overloaded with information. We wanted to walk with Jesus, to experience the risen Christ in our midst. So we used Scripture meditations and prayers to engage our hearts with the Lord. We set aside time at the holy sites to find a quiet spot to pray and reflect. We journaled. We shared hearts with one another.

Each morning we led the whole group in saying an affirmation, “We’re not tourists — we’re pilgrims!” Then at each holy site we huddled with fellow disciples of Jesus for Scripture devotions, conversations, and prayers.

The Bible study, pilgrimage reading, and praying that we did before venturing to the Holy Land really helped us to have a holy experience while we were there.

Walking with Jesus at the Sea of Galilee

Visiting the Old City was awesome, especially walking the ancient Via Dolorosa. But we discovered that the best place to find Jesus was at the Sea of Galilee. As we sailed across the lake I imagined myself as one of Jesus’ disciples in the boat and Jesus walking on the water toward us. And I meditated on Peter’s bold prayer: “Lord, if it’s really you then tell me to come to you” (Matthew 14:28).

When we reached the other side of the lake it was lunchtime. I was hungry. But more than being hungry for food I was hungry for Jesus. Really hungry. Who cares about eating when you’re hungry for Jesus? In fact, I’ve learned that Fasting is Feasting if you use your fast to help you meditate on Scripture and to pray. So I took a walk by myself and searched for my Lord, hoping for some way to make contact with him… and hold on for dear life!

One of the ways I met Jesus in Galilee had to do with a rock. There are rocks everywhere in Israel – also in the Bible where a rock is the most common symbol for God. For instance, we pray with David, “My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (Psalm 18:2). Imagine yourself on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, seeking Christ with me…

Just a Simple Rock

Just a simple rock
Found on a solitary walk;
Yet, an answer to prayer:
Being with Jesus my only care.
This Ebenezer is shaped as the Sea of Galilee
From which it came with many a memory:
Soft and smooth as the stormy seas he made calm,
His dear presence a healing balm,
Like the sea called Gennesaret Lake
(For it’s harp-like music and shape)
Where heaven’s waves lap so sweet and gentle
As they sing the words of Jesus: “Peace.  Be Still.”

Just a simple rock
Found on a solitary walk;
A sacred stone to rub a prayer
To Jesus here, there, and everywhere.
It was pure white as my holy Lord
Until by my dirty fingers it was grayed;
With my touch of faith in Jesus
He receives my sin to give me his holiness.
Oh how I delight in the wonders of his grace
As I see the smile on his face!
Where the Gadarene demoniac was set free
I also met Jesus and offer testimony.

Just a simple rock
Found on a solitary walk.
When noisy crowds press in on the street
Following Jesus to the lake is my retreat.
What joy to walk where Jesus walks,
To keep in stride with him and talk and talk.
His yoke is light and easy –
Tied to him I always want to be.
When he walks on the water
And bids, “Come to me. Come closer,”
On Jesus alone I fix my eyes
So I too can walk on water by-and-by.

A Pilgrimage Prayer

Dear Jesus, we are pilgrims seeking you, whether on a special trip to holy sites or in the mundaneness of daily life. We know that you’re not only at the Sea of Galilee but you’re also in our busy streets and lonely houses. You’re present with me now as I type out these words at my computer in Irvine, California and you’re with each one who is reading these words at whatever spot on this globe he or she is sitting on.

Jesus, right now we long to walk with you and to know your loving kindness. We are desperate to overcome our blindness and get a glimpse of your beauty. We’re so hungry for your manna from heaven – just a Word from your heart will fill our souls.

In the midst of our stresses and struggles, our delights and our dreams, you alone are our Rock – eternal, strong, true, and comforting. Help us Lord in our life pilgrimmage to hold onto you in simple things like the rock you gave me at the Sea of Galilee.  Amen.

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