Following in Jesus’ footsteps

Twenty-two of us arrived in Tel Aviv late on a Sunday evening to embark on a week visiting sites central to the history of Israel and Jesus’ ministry. 

I left home a little wary of the cliché, ‘following in Jesus’ footsteps’, but have returned strangely affected from having done just that. To walk down the ‘mount of the sermon’, to sit where over breakfast Jesus restored Peter, to enjoy a late afternoon cruise on Lake Galilee, to pause at Gethsemane and break bread at the Garden Tomb was to have familiar Scriptures come vividly to life. I was struck afresh that Jesus ministered among ordinary people in a very ordinary tucked-away corner of the world, using everyday images to illustrate his teaching, and yet changed the world more than any other person in history.

While the power of history brought alive is one thing, trying to understand the complexities of modern Israel is quite another. We were tourists but we couldn’t help being observers of modern Israeli life. Contradictions abound in the amazing way a modern ‘western’ nation has emerged so rapidly, in the encroachment on Palestinian territory by the Israeli government, in the faithful witness of Palestinian Christians, in the recipe for tension but the apparent ease with which folk ‘at street level’ just get on with life despite their differences. Taking sides in debates about Israel is a dangerous pastime and we all returned realising the situation is even more complex than we suspected.

This was very much a shared experience. We were expertly led and looked after by Geoff and Mary Norridge, who knew just when to refer us to relevant scriptures, when to leave us alone with our thoughts and when to gently chivvy us to the next location. We enjoyed each other’s company greatly – there is something about floating in the Dead Sea, covered in mud, with new friends, which is very silly but very good for building relationships! This was definitely the way to see Israel for the first time. You don’t have to think about your itinerary, you are expertly guided throughout the week, you meet interesting new people, you get a glimpse of modern Israel and, best of all, you will forever more read familiar Scriptures with clear images in mind. Why wouldn’t you want to go?

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