20 New Things Learned and Experienced on My Fourth Holy Land Pilgrimage

I honestly don't know why any pastor--and any follower of Jesus, for that matter--would not be interested in making a pilgrimage to the land of Jesus, the apostles, the patriarchs, and the prophets. If we can all recognize the benefit--the necessity--of reading our Bibles and studying them and applying their teachings, it shouldn't be hard to see how important to our spiritual lives would be an experience that makes our Bibles even more alive, immediate, inspiring...right?

For all I've learned on previous trips to the Holy Land, I continue to learn more and more each time I go. And, more even than the facts and images and perspectives I pick up is the experience, the increasing impact of actually reading the Sermon on the Mount ON the mount, of hearing Psalm 48 while approaching the city of our God, of smelling the Salt Sea while contemplating Sodom and Gomorrah. No words can describe such experiences that seem to pervade spirit, soul, mind, and body, and stay with you forever.

This time around there were yet more things I learned that I had not known, or had forgotten, or failed to grasp:

1. The modern city of Amman, Jordan, corresponds to the Biblical city of Rabbath Ammon, capital of the Ammonites.

2. I have in my mind's eye clear images of Ammon, Gilead, Moab and Edom, and their relationship to each other and to other Biblical places.

3. I visited the Western Wall at night for the first time:

4. I learned that locals in Jerusalem will not throw bread in the trash; it is too special, even sacred. And if they see it on the street or sidewalk, they will place it on a windowsill or ledge.

5. It was driven home to me in a new way (in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre) how precise the Gospel is when it describes Jesus' tomb as being "close at hand" from Golgotha (John 19:42).

6. I learned that the massive Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, enclosing as it does the entire footprint of the tiny Biblical village of Nazareth, is no doubt on the same location as the annunciation, and of Mary and Joseph's home, and more:

7. I learned that the Church of St. Anne is the only Crusader church surviving intact inside the Old City.

8. The Syrian Orthodox Church and Convent of St. Mark in the Old City (which I had not previously visited) is on a site maintained since the first century as being the location of the home of Mary, John Mark's mother, and thus the possible site of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the disciples (which is quite possibly different from the "upper room" of the Last Supper):

9. I learned that Horatio Spafford, author of It Is Well With My Soul, lived in Jerusalem at one time...and it was from his window that Major-General Charles George Gordon spied what has come to be called "Gordon's Calvary":

10. I sailed on the Sea of Galilee at sunset for the first time. Wow.

11. While I'm sure I've been told this before, this time it sunk in that the famous and ancient mosaic of the loaves and fishes at Tabgha contains two fishes, but only four loaves....probably because the fifth loaf was the communion bread on the altar above in the Byzantine church it once adorned:

12. I learned that in ancient (as in modern) times, "Egypt" was pretty much confined to the thin ribbon of towns along the Nile, as everything else to the east and west was desert.

13. I learned that Israelites are actually portrayed in an engraving at Karnak, depicting the events of 2 Chronicles 12:1-12 (that's the Pharoah at the left and the bearded Israelites in the lower right quadrant):

14. I learned that my mental picture of the Nile was MUCH too small.

15. I learned that "Copt" refers not only to Egyptian Christians, but historically to all native Egyptians.

16. I learned that "King Tut" should be pronounced "King Toot."

17. I learned that Hatshepsut, a female Pharoah in the 18th dynasty, may well have been the "pharoah's daughter" who drew Moses out of the Nile (if one accepts the "early Exodus" based on Judges 6:1), an idea that would make her successor, Thutmoses III, the possible Pharoah of the Exodus.

18. I have a much more defined--vivid--mental picture now of the "Via Maris" and "King's Highway."

19. That whole thing about the alabaster jar of expensive oil (Matthew 26:6-7)? MUCH more meaning now. Alabaster is perfect for storing oil because the alabaster absorbs--extracts--water from the oil. Oil stored in alabaster=much more pure. Seems to suggest more going on in that passage than first meets the eye.

18. I learned that Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too) AND the Care Bears speak fluent Arabic.

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