Sixth in a series on Israel and what we can learn from the Jewish people.
Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” Mark 6:3-4
God gave my wife and I a wonderful opportunity and a life-changing experience to share God’s love to Jews, Muslims, nominal believers and Arab evangelical Christians in Israel at a Bible Conference in Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus (Matthew 2:19-23). It was sponsored by our dear Arab brother Pastor Philip Saa’d, his lovely wife, Violet, and their church in Haifa, Israel.
Perhaps in God’s way of preparing us for this important conference, we had traveled to the Holy land a few years before as tourists after receiving a free trip. Because it was shortened due to the ongoing Intifada (Arab uprising), we only briefly stopped in Nazareth (which is a majority Muslim city), visited some of the more popular sites and then drove on to the ruins of a first century Roman city called Sepphoris (now part of Zippori National Park), which was only three miles from Nazareth. It once was the capital city of Galilee. It had been burned down by the Roman Governor Varus but was believed to have been rebuilt by King Herod’s son, Antipas, who would have been a contemporary of Jesus. It was an impressive site with some roads still in tact, a well defined water system and various walls and buildings.
One of the most interesting thing to us, however, was that as we were leaving Sepphoris and turned toward the main highway that would take us away from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee and our overnight stay in Tiberias, we noticed that just a few hundred yards away from that junction was a prominent dirt road that seemed to parallel the highway back to Nazareth. When we inquired of our guide about it she said it was actually a trail that led over the hill to Nazareth and most likely dates back to the first century. It was now a portion of what is called, “The Jesus Trail” which one can walk all the way from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee. Oh, how I wish we would have seen it sooner!
In the first century, Nazareth was a very small and inconsequential village. One of our Lord’s first disciples, Nathanael, let us know that by his response to his brother Philip’s announcement that he had found the Messiah, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He exclaimed, “Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:45-46). Sepphoris, on the other hand was a very large and cosmopolitan city and many speculate that workers who were needed to rebuild it would have come from Nazareth and other surrounding villages. Some even speculate that Jesus, with his father Joseph, may very well have been part of the work force that helped in this project because of their carpentry and masonary skills—and they would have walked that very path—morning and night.
Now with that background, fast forward with me six years later to our Bible conference held in Nazareth. Because our hotel was located at a high point in the newer part of the city, it overlooked the countryside and our hotel room faced in the direction of Sepphoris. Looking out our window, we could actually see that same dirt trail, only now we were viewing it from the other side. Yes, it was the same path we had seen a few years earlier. It was “The Jesus Trail.” Oh, how I wish I could tell you that when I found that out, I ran down to the lobby, out the door and walked that road, all the way to Sepphoris, but I didn’t. Drats!
But I can tell you one thing I’m going to do the next time I visit Nazareth, if God allows. I’m going to walk that portion of “The Jesus Trail” (all three miles of it), all the time believing that Jesus will be walking with me—as we go to work together to rebuild a city. He will be there, of course, for He said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
So how about it my friends out there, do you want to sign up and come along with us on our next trip to Israel? I promise you we’ll walk “The Jesus Trail” this time!
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better.