“And he said to them, 'Follow me…'” (Matt. 4:19)*
The pilgrimage to the Holy Land is considered by many as a life-changing experience. There is an absolute bliss felt during this unique spiritual journey. Part of the reason for the Holy Land being so affecting is the spiritual predisposition of visitors; they come here to seek God, to be blessed.
Team MX3 embarked on this three-country journey to follow the footsteps of Jesus. Some, if not most found this journey a way to get closer to Jesus and discover the roots of their Christian faith. The pilgrimage took us to some of the most poignant of places which had played such an important part in Christ’s life. Each site seemed like a piece of a mosaic that when taken together created a rich understanding about a thousand years of history inspired by each corner of the Holy Land. Places and events mentioned in the Bible came to life during the sixteen days of travel.
Egypt was the first stop of the tour. A country is known for its rich history; the ancient times depicted the glory days of Egypt. Now all that is left are the ruins of the once great pyramids, temples, and statues. The highlight was the hike to Mt. Sinai where God revealed to Moses the tablets of the ten commandments. With a bold heart and unbreakable spirit, we started to trail just after midnight. Amidst the rocky terrain and the pitch black darkness, the ascent to the peak leaves you with a breathtaking view of the sunrise. Once can truly feel grandiose of God’s creation atop Mt. Sinai.
The group also had the blessed opportunity to have an intimate worship at the Sea of Galilee. Jesus performed many miracles here in front of His disciples like the feeding of the of the five thousand. The praise and worship songs resonated throughout the calm waters of the Sea of Galilee which is also called Kenneret or the Lake of Tiberias.
Like dots on a trail, the group headed to the City of Jericho, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. This is a place which is a testament of how faith and obedience can break even the highest and hardest of walls. The many battles faced by the Israelites came alive to the pilgrims as we set foot on the ruins of Masada. Reading the Bible now has a different meaning as the discovery of the many scrolls of the old testament were unveiled in the visit to the Qum Ram caves. The well preserved and translated scrolls of books of the Old Testament were unearthed in the caves of Qumran.
Each turn in the city of Jerusalem is punctuated with a gasp in awe. The coral and sand colored walls and cobblestone covered pathways lead to many important sites. Every destination widened our understanding of stories in the bible as we walked the way of the Via Dela Rosa, the Pool of Bethseda, Capernaum, the Mountain of Temptations, the Mountain of the Beatitudes among others. A Christian will find it spiritually uplifting to pray intimately at the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed for his disciples.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is built upon the summit of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. There are chapels for Greek Orthodox, Coptic Christians, and Armenians — each run by a different religious community. While this church is important, the city's overall religious focal point is Temple Mount, marked by the Golden Dome as its summit. This place is considered by many to be the closest place on earth to God in heaven. This where it is believed that Abraham offered his son Isaac and also where Jesus will be in his second coming.
A visit to Israel will not be complete without visiting the Western Wall, one of the holiest places on earth for Jews. The wall is what remains of the main Jewish Temple after Roman invasion. Just as how Jews do their rituals, people who visit the wall place prayers printed on paper into cracks in the wall and stand where they've stood since ancient times to pray.
The last few days were spent in Jordan where we had a wonderful time basking in the Red Sea. During the two-hour drive to Petra was filled with mesmerizing views of the mountains and beautifully sculpted cliffs. Petra, a lost citadel whose prime landmark is the curved, colonnaded wonder Al Khazneh (“The Treasury”) is the Nabateans’ finest achievement. Seeing it on films and documentaries many times did not dimish the spectacle of seeing it for real.
Another meaningful stop over is at Mount Nebo situated above the Dead Sea and a place famous for its mosaics. Moses is said to have stopped here and seen the promised land after leading the Israelites on a 40-year hike out of Egypt. Albeit not being able to enter the Promise Land, reliving what Moses saw is a testament to God’s faithfulness to his promises.
Despite the deeply personal nature of the Holy Land experience, the pilgrimage itself unites all believers as one. It unites them in Christ, in Faith and in their contribution to preserve the precious Christian heritage in these holy places. As we saw the faces of the people as they traverse in groups in Jerusalem, or approach the Wailing Wall, or see the Dome of the Rock for the first time, or see what has become of Golgotha now and that the tomb in the garden is empty, you know that for many people a trip to the Holy Land is a genuine trip of a lifetime and not single soul who was ever there will be the same.