A few days ago I was in Israel leading a tour group. It was my 18th time, I believe. I have lost count. But as you travel around the Holy Land you soon discover that these cities, towns, villages and “off-the-beaten-path” places still have the same names they did when the Bible was written thousands of years ago.
Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho exist today, and so do the Jordan River, Nazareth and Sea of Galilee. These and other biblical names have been used for communities and cities all over the United States as well. Nineteen states have towns called Bethlehem, for example.
In the Holy Land there are places you visit where events in the Bible took place. Some of the places cannot be verified as the exact location and then there are a few places where one can say with certainty “this happened here.” For example, you can visit the river Jordan but there is no way to know the exact spot where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. The river, by the way, due to damming over the last few decades for irrigation, is 100 feet across at its widest point and only 10 feet deep.
The Mount of Olives from where Jesus ascended into heaven is still the Mount of Olives. From the top you can see the entire “Old City” of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount, a place sacred to both Jews and Muslims. Walk down from the top of the Mount of Olives you come to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus prayed the night he was arrested.
My favorite place in Israel is the Sea of Galilee and the area surrounding it. It is beautiful. The lake is seven miles across and 14 miles long. This is where Jesus began his ministry and did many of his miracles such as walking on the water and feeding thousands of people with food he created supernaturally. It’s also the place where he taught the Sermon on the Mount and healed many of the sick.
Traveling across Israel it is almost surreal to know that you are standing in places where these stories from the Bible that many of us have read all of our life actually did happen. This is indeed the land of Abraham, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul and Mary.
The places the Bible mentions are real. Millions go there each year. But what about Jesus Christ? Was he really the Son of God who came to earth from heaven? If the biblical account of Jesus is not true, then it’s the greatest conspiracy of deception in human history. If it isn’t true, who made all this stuff up and made it into the best seller of all time?
There was a disciple that actually walked with Jesus and yet doubted his physical resurrection from the dead. His name was Thomas. In John 20 Jesus suddenly appears to him and says this: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
Thomas did so and said: “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus responded to Thomas this way: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
That would be you and me, if you are a believer. If you count yourself a skeptic, I encourage you to read the gospel of John and consider the claims of Jesus. You don’t have to go to the Holy Land to learn of the Holy One.
Community columnist Tim Wildmon is a Lee County resident. He is president of the American Family Association, but the column represents his personal opinion unless otherwise noted. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.