I Walked Where Jesus Walked
It was my dream to visit the Holy Land. While in seminary I got the opportunity to go on a traveling seminary to the Middle East which included Jordan, Egypt, and Israel. The three-week trip to the land of faith and history was an experience of a lifetime.
While most students were on winter break, I traveled with a group from Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia from Friday, January 3 through Friday, January 24, 1997. The select group was 43 of us, including my three Old Testament and Hebrew professors along with other faculty members, staff, and students.
Objectives of the Middle East Trip
There were several objectives of the traveling seminary for which all students received credit.
- To learn first-hand about the geography, archaeology, cultural achievement, and relationships of the ancient world according to the Bible
- To gain a greater understanding of the three religions of the Middle East, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity
- To talk with religious leaders in the Middle East about their economic, political, and social needs
- To deepen the knowledge of Christianity in the Middle East and to see how it compares with the biblical account
- To travel some of the routes the Israelites took when leaving Egypt heading toward the promised land.
- To visit some of the places mentioned in the Bible
- To tour the land where Jesus lived, taught, and died
- To walk where Jesus walked during His ministry
Itinerary While in Jordan
On Friday, January 3, 1997, I traveled from Richmond, Virginia to New York to take an airplane to Jordan. We arrived in Jordan on Saturday, January 4, after a very long flight. On Sunday, January 5, we traveled by bus to Gerasa (Mark 5:1). We visited Rabbath (Joshua 15:60).
Monday, January 6 was a very busy day. We traveled by bus to Madeba (1 Chronicles 19:7), Kir-hareseth (2 Kings 3:35), Petra (Judges 1:36), and the Dead Sea (Zechariah 14:8).
On Tuesday, January 7, we hiked through Siq into the mountainous basin of Petra.
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. It is a symbol of Jordan and Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. We walked for what seemed like miles. Then all of a sudden we entered the city of Petra that was carved directly into pink rock. It is literally made out of sandstone in the desert.
Petra is the spot where Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came forth, and where Moses' brother, Aaron, is buried.
On Wednesday, January 8, the group took a bus to Aqaba (1 Kings 9:26). Then we rode in a boat across the Red Sea (Exodus 14:2) to Nuweiba. We ate dinner at a monastery at Mt. Sinai, the site where Moses received the Ten Commandments on tablets from God (Exodus 19:3).
We camped at the base of the mountain. Most of the group traveled up the mountain in the middle of the night so they could be on top of the mountain to witness the sunrise (Exodus 24:9-11). I didn't go on the trip up the mountain in the dark. My classmates said camels took them as far as they could go, and they had to walk and crawl the rest of the way. They admitted they were huffing and puffing when they reached the top, but it was worth it to stand on top of Mt. Sinai when the sun came up. Just think Moses climbed the mountain twice at the age of 80.
Itinerary While in Egypt
After leaving Mt. Sinai, we traveled by bus on January 9 to Cairo. We rode on the same route that the Israelites walked when they left Egypt (Exodus 14:19).
While in Egypt on January 10, we visited the Nile River, and the Great Pyramids (Exodus 4:9). Then we visited Memphis (Hosea 9:6).
The Great Pyramids in Egypt
In the top photo, there is a huge pyramid that was close up.
In the bottom photo, three pyramids can be seen in the background.
We flew from Cairo to Luxor (ancient Thebes) on Sunday, January 12. We spent a day in the Valley of the Kings in ancient Thebes on Monday, January 13. The next day, we fly back to Cairo to connect with a flight to Tel-Aviv.
On Wednesday, January 15, we traveled by bus to Caesarea, the place mentioned in the Book of Acts in connection with Cornelius, Peter, Philip, and where Paul was imprisoned before being sent to Rome for trial.
We also stopped at Megiddo (Joshua 12:21) and Acco (Judges 12:21). The large group split up to visit private homes. I was in the group to visit Fr. Elias Chacour to discuss his book Blood Brothers.
Itinerary While in Israel
In the late afternoon, we arrived in Nazareth, Jesus' hometown (Matthew 2:23). We spent the night there in a place called St. Margaret, a beautiful 30-room hospice on a high hill with a breathtaking view of the Old City in Nazareth.
We spent the entire day of Thursday, January 16 in Galilee, where Jesus and His disciples spent a lot of time (Matthew 4:18). We shopped in Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle of changing water into wine (John 2:11). We bought wine there to use later in a sacred Holy Communion service.
On Friday, January 17, we visited Capernaum (Mark 4:13-22). We left Galilee and visited the Sea of Galilee and Beth Shan (1 Samuel 31:10). We traveled south to Jerusalem passing through Samaria where Jesus had a one-on-one conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4–42).
We traveled by bus around Jerusalem and passed the Kidron Valley (2 Samuel 15:23) where David fled from his son Absalom. We visited the City of David (Luke 2:4) and the Mount of Olives where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5, 6, and 7). Then we spent time at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed as His disciples slept (Mark 14:26-36). We visited Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (John 11). During the rest of the day we went on a walking tour of the Old City.
On our 17th day of the traveling seminar, we attended a worship service at St. George's Cathedral where the sermon was in a mixture of English and Hebrew. Afterward, we visited people in their homes. I was in the group that visited and had a conversation with Canon Naim Ateek, author of Justice, and Only Justice.
On Monday, January 20, we traveled by bus to the little town of Bethlehem. While in Bethlehem, we visited the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus (Matthew 2:6). It is the oldest major church in the Holy Land.
We didn't expect to go to Hebron because it had been locked down because of unrest. While we were in the area, Hebron opened up and we were able to visit the place where King David first reigned (1 Samuel 5:1-5),
On January 21, we toured the western parts of Jerusalem and had free time to shop. We also walked the Via Dolorosa. That is the processional route in the Old City of Jerusalem that Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion (Matthew 27:31–33, Mark 15:20–22, Luke 23:26–32 and John 19:16–18).
On January 22, the group visited Masada and traveled by bus down the steep slopes of the Judean hill country. We visited Qumran and En Gedi. We stopped by the Dead Sea (Deuteronomy 3:17). It is also called the Salt Sea. No living things such as fish and plants can live in that body of water because bacteria and microbial fungi are present.
On Day 21, we visited Jericho, one of the world's oldest cities. Students were required to give a presentation at some of the stops. It was my turn to give a report about Jericho when we arrived there (Joshua, Chapters 3-6).
Jericho is the place where Joshua and his men marched around the walls until they fell down. Jesus passed through Jericho where he healed blind beggars (Matthew 20:29) and called Zacchaeus a chief tax-collector down from a sycamore tree (Luke 19:1–10). The road between Jerusalem and Jericho is the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
We left Jerusalem and made a brief stop at Transjordanian, an area to the east of the Jordan River. We had dinner on our final night at Kan Zaman, a famous Middle Eastern restaurant with buffet food galore.
Holy Communion Served on Last Day
January 24 was our final day of the traveling seminar. We met on top of Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the promised land even though he could not go into it. I had just been ordained to administer communion on November 3, 1996. It was the first time serving communion. Whenever I do so to this day, I remember that windy day on top of Mount Nebo looking out over the promised land. We used the little wooden cups we bought from Nazareth where Jesus and his father were carpenters. We used the wine we bought from Cana.
That was our last event in the Middle East. We left Amman, Jordan and spent the night in New York before arriving safely back home in Richmond, Virginia.