The Journey HomeApril 15, 2011 - 5:00 am
“‘At that time I will gather you;
at that time I will bring you home.
I will give you honor and praise
among all the peoples of the earth
when I restore your fortunes
before your very eyes,’
says the LORD.” — Zephaniah 3:20
Visiting the Holy Land is unlike any other trip you may ever take. From watching the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, to overlooking the expanse of the Jezreel Valley where the final battle of good and evil is to take place, to making the actual ascent to Jerusalem, the very stories of the Bible come to life.
Realizing that you are walking in the footsteps of the patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, and apostles imbues each place with added significance, and yes, holiness. Atop Mount Carmel, you can imagine the prophets of Baal’s voices as they urged their god to light the altar. Walking among the ruins at Capernaum, you can envision the crowds clamoring after Jesus as he came to heal and to preach.
Even enjoying the local dish, St. Peter’s fish, at any one of the local restaurants along the Sea of Galilee, will invoke the story of the dish’s namesake, Peter, who on Jesus’ instructions, caught such a fish and found a coin in its mouth — enough to pay the owed taxes! Eating this dish anywhere else is, well, just another fish fry.
Many Christians who visit Israel have a love for her already. But even those who are just “along for the ride” can’t help but be swept up in the emotions as they catch their first glimpse of the Holy City, or as they walk around the area near the Southern Wall and hear the tour guide say, “Jesus, in all likelihood, walked on these very steps.” I think it safe to say that few make the journey to Israel and return unchanged.
I have the privilege of witnessing this life-changing event each year as The Fellowship sponsors its Journey Home Tour, bringing first-timers and veterans alike to make this pilgrimage. The tour is memorable for me as well. I am always reminded of the biblical verse “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). For so many years, Israel and Jewish people everywhere felt as if we were alone. Now we have friends — Christians who hold fast to God’s promises to His people — who are standing by us to help us in so many ways.
To see a group wide-eyed in wonder as they walk in the footsteps of the Bible, to see the tears of joy in their eyes as they realize that they are instrumental in comforting those in need and strengthening the Jewish state — this is more than a pleasure. It is a joy, an honor, and a God-given privilege.
My prayer is that all people of faith will be able to make the journey home and experience for themselves God’s holy place at least once in their lifetime. Trust me, you will be happy you did so.