Our Holy Land pilgrimage: Where Jesus walked

Several years ago, my husband Pete and I took the trip of a lifetime – a tour of the Holy Land. The tour, hosted by St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rock Island, Illinois, invited us to see the stories of the Bible unfold while we walked “as a pilgrim along the paths of Christ and the early Church.”

Titled “Peace Not Walls,” the trip went beyond simply touring the famous archeological and historical sites. We got to see the international church in action by visiting programs sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation, met personally for conversations with people on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and attended a church service conducted in three languages simultaneously.

Needless to say, visiting the holy sites themselves was an amazing experience. In many places, churches or shrines have been built in the exact locations where – based on best estimates by historians, archeologists and others – events mentioned in the Bible are believed to have taken place. Some of the churches themselves are hundreds of years old and still conduct services.

Shepherd’s Field (above) is believed to be the place where an angel appeared to shepherds and announced the birth of Jesus. The site is considered one of the best places from which to view Bethlehem as it would have been seen by the shepherds. Below are the ruins of a fourth-century Byzantine church at Shepherd’s Field.

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (above), built in 565 A.D. over the site where Jesus is believed to have been born, is the oldest continuously functioning Christian church in the world. Today, custody of the church is shared by the Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Orthodox churches. Below, a 14-point star in the middle of the grotto located under the Church of the Nativity’s main altar is said to mark the exact spot where Jesus was born.

Tourists flock to the place along the shore of the Jordan River (above) where Jesus is believed to have been baptized. We saw a number of people getting baptized at the time of our visit. In the photo below, one can see in the distance a monastery built where Jesus is believed to have been tempted in the wilderness. (The monastery is nestled about halfway up the hill toward the right in the photo.)

In the photo below are the ruins of what is believed to be the house Peter shared with his mother-in-law and his brother Andrew. It was in this house that Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the paralyzed man and others.

The Church of the Multiplication (above) was built on what is believed to be the site where the miracle of the loaves and the fishes took place. The Church of the Beatitudes (below) is located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the traditional “mount” where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.

The Garden of Gethsemane (below) is where Jesus experienced the agony in the garden and was arrested the night before his crucifixion.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (above) is built on what are believed to be the locations where Jesus was crucified, buried and rose from the dead. It is considered by many to be the most important holy site in Christianity, and is visited by more than a million pilgrims each year. Inside the church (below) one can see the Stone of Anointing, where the body of Jesus was laid down in preparation for his burial after he was taken down from the cross.

The photo below was taken in the garden outside the tomb where Jesus is believed to have been buried, and where the women were told, “He has risen!”

13 thoughts on “Our Holy Land pilgrimage: Where Jesus walked

  1. Of all the sights I have seen the Holy Land was the best. There are more beautiful places but none have the impact a trip to Israel has. Even though we have been three times I would go again if the money was there and my health would hold up. It’s not like a vacation, one is learning and being inspired every minute.

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  2. Pingback: Our Holy Land pilgrimage: Where Jesus walked — Seriously Seeking Answers – QuietMomentsWithGod

  3. While it is marvelous to experience the sights and surroundings of the places Jesus walked, was executed, buried and rose again, it is important to remember Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 24 about not one stone being left on another. When Rome sacked Jerusalem in 70CE, they wanted what gold was left in the palaces and temple and leveled it to the ground. The best reports are that they also razed the trees for the wood and literally left a landscape that would rival an atomic bomb site in modern times. Thus, all the venerated sites in Israel are at best guesses and dramatizations such as one could see in any megachurch in the USA. That is not to discourage pilgrim-wannabes, but to recognize there is nothing “holy” in a physical stone or location that will someday “melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:10-12). What disturbs me in these kinds of photos is people kissing the stone or bowing at the “exact location Jesus was born.” Really? I am thrilled and a little jealous that you got to tour Israel as it has been on my “bucket list” since college days 40+ years ago, but keep it all in perspective. THANX for the beautiful pics and review!

    Love and prayers,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Our tour guides were pretty good about pointing out that these so-called “exact locations” were usually best-guess estimates, and also discussing some of the controversies around these estimates. Yes, we saw a lot of people “kissing the stone or bowing at the exact location Jesus was born,” and I couldn’t see myself doing that. I think what disturbed me more, though, was the commercialism around some of these sites. Vendors everywhere, selling stuff. The words “money-changers in the temple” came to mind more than once. Visiting the sites was an amazing experience, nonetheless.

      Liked by 1 person

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