I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked
Our world appears to be infinite. The more scientists measure the universe, the more they realize it is immeasurable. The more they seek to describe it within boundaries, the more they realize it is boundless. The more they try to comprehend it, the more they realize it is incomprehensible. One day soon a rocket will be launched into space. Part of its payload will be a telescope. From outside of earth’s atmosphere, it will allow scientists to peer deeper into the universe than men have ever looked before. And the more they will see, the less they will know. Paradoxical perhaps, but the new knowledge will raise more questions than it will answer. Knowledge has a way of doing that. But, if ”The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7), men won’t find it on a distant star, the Milky Way, an unknown galaxy or another planet.
The truly important locale among the myriad of bodies that move unerringly through time and space is the planet Earth. It is here on the earth that God created the animal world – it is here on the earth that God fashioned man from the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living soul – it is here on the earth that God gave man dominion and authority to rule as king – it is here on the earth that God chose to place His great name, display His nature and manifest His glory. The angels of Heaven fix their gaze on this terrestrial ball because it is here on the earth, among fallen men, that God chose to work out His plan of redemption.
If the earth is the important planet in our universe – and it is – then Israel is the important place on this planet. It was to this planet and that place that the Son of God chose to come. We may have chosen another land, another people, another way – God didn’t. And if you want to walk where He walked, you must walk the land of Israel.
I walked today where Jesus walked in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was the village where King David was born. And since Jesus was of the royal lineage of David, He would also be born there. God would use Caesar Augustus, emperor of Rome, to see to it Augustus passed a decree requiring everyone in the Roman world to return to the city of their ancestry for taxing. Since Mary and Joseph were both of the lineage of David, they were required to make the difficult, hilly, one-hundred-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And there she would give birth, and God would visit this planet.
Bethlehem had always been a small obscure village. It was about five miles south of Jerusalem and north of the important biblical cities of Beersheba and Hebron, along what was known as the Patriarchal Highway because Abraham, Isaac and Jacob traveled it so frequently. Rain falling to the west of Bethlehem runs down to the Mediterranean Sea. Rain falling to the east runs down the Judean wilderness to the Dead Sea.
Bethlehem was located within the boundaries of the tribe of Judah and was one of the two southern tribes (the other was the much smaller Benjamin) which stayed loyal to Jehovah when the kingdom was divided.
The name Bethlehem is a combination of two Hebrew words, “Beth” and “Lehem” which, when taken together, mean house of bread. The land around the village was farming land, and the crops would be taken to the village to be sold. And since this was the “farmers’ market” where the women did their grocery shopping, it became known as Bethlehem – the house of bread. It was in the hills around Bethlehem that gallant (what a refreshing word) and godly (what a glorious word) Boaz commanded his workers to go beyond the requirements of the law and allow the Moabitess Ruth to glean in the fields (pick up that which the reapers had left behind), even among the sheaves. He commanded that “handfuls” be deliberately left behind to provide for Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 2:15-17).
It was there at Bethlehem – the house of bread – that the One who is the “bread of life” came into the world to satisfy all who will, by faith, partake of Him.
I walked today where Jesus walked in Nazareth. Nazareth was a small village in the time of Christ, almost midway between the Sea of Galilee on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west. Located 1,230 feet above sea level in the hilly region of lower Galilee, it was on a major trade route artery from Egypt in the south to Syria in the northeast and beyond. Familiar biblical mountains, like Mount Carmel, Mount Tabor and Mount Gilboa, almost encompass Nazareth. And to the immediate southeast lay a valley that Napoleon Bonaparte called the most natural battlefield in the world. The Bible calls that valley Armageddon (Rev. 16:16), and it is here that many end-time, climactic events will occur.
It was Nathanael, the one of whom the Lord said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn. 1:47), who rhetorically inquired, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (Jn. 1:46). Clearly, in the first century Nazareth did not enjoy a good reputation; nonetheless, Jesus spent most of His life there (Lk. 2:51- 52). And He preached His first sermon there (Lk. 4:16- 30). It was at Nazareth, in the synagogue, on the Jewish Sabbath, that He identified Himself as the One appointed “to preach the gospel to the poor [in spirit]; … to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:18-19).
The “acceptable year of the Lord” is a reference to Israel’s Jubilee year which was to occur every fifty years. It was intended to be a time of deliverance and the setting free of captives. Jesus told them that He had the cure for their spiritual needs, that He was the promised Messiah. But He knew well what their reaction would be. “And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself” (Lk. 4:23). That is, take care of yourself; don’t worry about us; we can handle our own needs. The people of Nazareth rejected the Lord. As a result, He left the city; and, so far as the biblical text is concerned, He never returned to it.
How indescribably tragic for men to reject the Great Physician out of a fallacious pride that says, ‘I’m the captain of my ship, I’m the master of my fate. I can go it alone – I don’t need the Great Physician’s help.”
I walked today where Jesus walked along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. One of our Bible teachers in Israel had lent me his car. I had no guide on that occasion and had never been that way before. As I drove over a small knoll in the road, about three miles down the steep incline before me, with the early afternoon sun casting her shadows on the rippling water, lay the Sea of Galilee, gently nestled between the Golan and Galilean mountain ranges.
If there are those moments of legitimate Christian mysticism, then that experience was one of those instances for me. My mind was flooded with biblical facts of the region, and my soul soared to the heights in worship. So much in Israel is “maybe,” “perhaps,” “tradition says,” “some suggest”. But not with the Sea of Galilee. The water level may vary; it can be rough or smooth; but the Sea hasn’t moved or changed. It’s as it was when the Sovereign of all things stood on the deck of a little boat and said to her, “be still” (Mk. 4:39), and she was.
The Sea of Galilee is a deceptive thirteen miles long, seven and one-half miles wide and thirty-two miles in circumference. She’s in a valley almost seven hundred feet below sea level and as much as two hundred feet deep. The historian Josephus called her, “The Ambition of Nature.” And the rabbis said of her, “Jehovah has created seven seas, but the Sea of Galilee is His delight.” Men have so flirted with her that they have given her different names: Chinnereth (Num. 34:11; Josh. 12:3), Gennesaret (Lk. 5:1), Sea of Tiberias (Jn. 6:1; 21:1), and the familiar Sea of Galilee (Mt. 4:18; Mk. 1:16). In her waters Jesus performed the miracle of the draught of fish (Lk. 5:1-11), stilled the wind and waves (Mt. 8:23-27) and walked on the water to His disciples (Mt. 14:22- 33).
The city of Tiberias is on her western shore. But that was a Roman city named after Tiberius Caesar, and there is in the Gospels no mention of Jesus ever entering it, perhaps an indication of the Lord’s attitude toward the Roman empire. A little farther north is the small village of Magdala (Mt. 15:39), and from this village came Mary Magdalene. Still farther north is the plain of Gennesaret, traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand (Mt. 14:13-21). The village of Capernaum is located on the northwest shore, and it was here that the Lord made His headquarters after leaving Nazareth.
Much of His healing ministry occurred in this region: the centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13), Peter’s mother-in-law (Mt. 8:14-15), great multitudes (Mt. 8:16-17) and a paralytic (Mt 9:1-8). But there was a geographical reason. Nearby Tiberias was built as a Roman city for one reason. Through- out the area were natural hot springs, and the Romans loved their bathhouses. For the multitudes, there was the belief that these hot springs had great therapeutic value (and there is still today). As a result, the infirm would come from great distances to bathe in these “health giving” waters. Therefore, when the compassion and power of Christ became known, great numbers of infirm folk made their way to Him for healing. His power has not abated through the centuries, and many who realize they are sin sick still flock to Him for the greater miracle of the healing of the soul.
I walked today where Jesus walked in Jerusalem, city of gold. Jerusalem traces its ancestry back to the Patriarch Abraham. After rescuing his nephew Lot from an invading army which had taken him captive, he encountered a man by the name of Melchizedek who was king of Salem and priest of the Most High God (El Elyon). The name Melchizedek is derived from two Hebrew words, “Melech” meaning king and “Tsedek” meaning righteousness. Melchizedek, therefore, means king of righteousness. And he ruled over the city of Salem meaning peace. The name Jerusalem comes from Salem and means city of peace. This man was, therefore, a king of righteousness ruling over the city of peace. This first allusion to Jerusalem hints of its ultimate destiny. Jesus is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 6:20), and He will one day rule over Jerusalem. This city, which has known more wars than any other, is one day destined by divine design to be the city of peace ruled over by the King of righteousness. And only when that occurs will there be world peace.
It is impossible to separate the Jewish people or their history from their land. God unconditionally gave the land of Israel to Abraham and his legal descendants (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:6-9). Abraham offered Isaac at Jerusalem (Gen. 22:2). David captured Jerusalem from the warlike Jebusites and made it Israel’s capital (2 Sam. 5:6-9). Solomon built the Temple at Jerusalem (2 Chr. 3:1-2). And during the long dispersion from the land, pious Jews prayed, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning” (Ps. 137:5). Herod rebuilt the Temple at Jerusalem. Prophetically, there is yet to be a Tribulation Temple and a Millennial Temple at Jerusalem.
The Jewish people went into Egyptian bondage. But after four hundred years, they returned to Israel. In 722 B.C., the ten northern tribes went into Assyrian captivity, and in 606 B.C., the two southern tribes went into Babylonian captivity. But in 636 B.C., a remnant returned to Jerusalem from both captivities. In 70 A.D., the Romans sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and scattered the Jewish people throughout the world. In 1948, almost nineteen hundred years later, out of the ashes of the Holocaust, once again God said to His people, Go home. And they returned to Israel. But not until 1967 and the Six Day War in June of that year did they recapture their beloved Jerusalem.
And still the matter is not finished. Terrorism continues unabated in and around the city of “peace.” The struggle is ultimately a spiritual one and will not be successfully resolved until the King returns. In the interim, a liberal press, for political reasons and with gross ignorance, distorts what is truly occurring, totally divorcing current events from the context out of which they arose. At times the media bias is so horrendous that the public raises its voice in objection. And then a well-known media personality says, “We have examined the allegations against us and find them to be unfounded.” Only the media can try its own case, be its own judge and announce its own verdict. And with that, objections cease. The press is not a news media – not really. What it is is the most powerful political force in America’s history. And the public is being led like a lamb to the slaughter, while governments, for political expediency and economic gain, remain silent or rise up to condemn Israel.
Not so, the Son of God; He loved the city of Jerusalem. He agonized over her – wanted to draw her citizens to Himself – but they would not have Him to rule over them (Mt. 23:37). And so He said they would not see Him again until they were ready to say, “Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mt. 23:39).
And in due course, outside the northern wall of the city, Jesus gave His life “a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28). He had come to die – to climb on the cross for the sins of the world. And nearby, in an indescribably beautiful garden, is the empty tomb. His Heavenly Father had been satisfied with His substitutionary death and raised Him from the grave.
One day Jesus invited men to take up their cross and follow Him (Mt. 16:24). And as a result of that statement, people sometimes, when explaining a trial or hardship in their lives, can be heard to say, “This is the cross I must bear.” But a wayward child, an unfaithful husband, an economic catastrophe, a physical infirmity – these kinds of things are not the cross Jesus had in view. He was speaking of His death, burial and resurrection.
Men can walk today where Jesus walked in lowly Bethlehem. They can visit the synagogue where He preached in prideful Nazareth. They can browse the ruins of unrepentant Capernaum where He taught His disciples, healed the multitudes and said, “if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day” (Mt. 11:23). They can follow His trail down the Mount of Olives, or stand where He stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, or walk the Via Dolorosa (way of suffering) in Jerusalem.
Yes, men can literally walk where Jesus walked. The feelings can be genuine, the emotions high, the attitude sincere. But unless they heed His gracious invitation to take up their cross and follow Him – trusting in His once-and-for-all sacrifice for their salvation – they will not have truly walked where Jesus walked in days of long ago.