On the third morning of my trip to Israel, I was reading one of the Gospels on my hotel balcony overlooking the Sea of Galilee when I noticed something was different.
All of my life when I read the Bible stories about Jesus’ birth in Nazareth, His turning the water to wine during the wedding feast at Cana, casting the demons out of the demoniac at Gadara, or any other Bible story, my mind had concocted images. These images where drawn from classical paintings, Bible story books from my childhood and a fertile imagination.
Now I had walked the ancient streets of Joppa where Jonah caught a ship to run from God. I had listened to a sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus preached. I had ridden a boat across the sparkling blue waters of the Sea of Galilee that Jesus calmed. I had visited the excavated ruins of Herod’s Promontory Palace at Caesarea Maritima and now my vision had changed.
Before, I saw the stories of the Bible through a glass darkly but after just three days I was seeing the stories with the clarity of high-definition television. My imagination yielded to actual memories of places I had seen, archeological evidence reviewed, and a better knowledge of the local geography, terrain, plant life, and cuisine.
My tour of the Holy Land gave me a new visual reference to add to my personal library of Bible commentaries, lexicons and history books. Being there made the Bible come alive and helped me see Jesus better than anything else. Indeed, seeing Israel is so helpful I am already planning a second trip to add volume II to my visual reference library.