Today, we have a guest blog written by Pastor Jerry Mantooth or Monte Vista Baptist Church, in Maryville, TN, and is a reflection on time in Israel. Pastor Jerry led a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land in 2019 and is looking forward to new travel opportunities in the future. We appreciate his words and reflections on his time traveling with Faith Journeys. If you have a pilgrimage experience you’d like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is nothing quite as inviting as the Galilee in the Spring. Fields of poppies are in full bloom, new lambs take their first step, the winter rains bring a cascading flow to the headwaters of the Jordan River in Banias, and the Jezreel Valley lays as a patchwork quilt of new crops below the peak of Mt Tabor.
There is nothing quite as moving as seeing the city of Jerusalem laid out before you as you cross the Mount of Olives. While walking through the narrow streets of the Old City you can almost hear the voices of the prophets and kings. You can feel the heartbeat of Jesus when standing on the Southern Steps outside the Temple Mount, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, or touching the Herodian stones that were part of the Temple complex.
Over the years, these places have instilled new life and energy in me. On a recent trip to Israel, I was surprised by the impact of Caesarea by the Sea. The design of Herod’s city is a masterpiece. The artificial seaport, amphitheater, hippodrome, palace, and aqueducts alone make it a site worth seeing. Caesarea was not part of the Old Testament story or Jesus’ journeys. Eventhough Paul was imprisoned here, my interests were more historical than spiritual.
Sitting in the amphitheater and overlooking the sea, I took the time to read about Peter’s vision in Jaffa and the revelation that the division between clean and unclean foods was gone, and all things created by God were clean. I read about the servants of Cornelius, a Gentile, who came to Peter and invited him to come to Caesarea. I imagined what it must have been like in this magnificent Roman city for Peter to stand at the threshold of a door that he had never stepped through before and breaking with everything he had been taught, took that first step into a different world. I read about Paul’s imprisonment, the opportunities he had to stand before government leaders and boldly tell the story of Jesus, and his departure from this port to Rome.
Caesarea was a turning point in Christianity. This primarily Jewish movement crossed over into the Gentile world and it would never return. Caesarea became a turning point in my journey. It was here I heard the call to let go of beliefs I had held tightly for far too long, to break down barriers that separate us into factions, and to trust God because he was about to take me across a threshold into unknown territory.
I am back at home now. I am glad I lingered in Caesarea because God used what I experienced there to prepare me for this next leg of my journey and ministry.