by Virginia Bantz | Union University
Before going to Israel, reading the Bible was like looking at a series of black and white photos. I got an accurate picture of Christ’s life, deity, and ministry and the narrative is complete, though lacking some minor supporting details. After going to Israel, reading the Bible is like watching a movie adaptation of a book. I have sailed on the Sea of Galilee. I have walked from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Temple. I have seen synagogues He preached in. The picture will not be fully complete until I get to Heaven, but as I read the Bible I feel like I am experiencing God’s Word for the first time.
Reading the Bible used to seem somewhat commonplace; I’ve read the words dozens of times and it all started to blend together and seem mundane. Now that I have walked where Christ walked, the Bible has come alive. Every passage has so much more meaning. When I read the Sermon on the Mount, I know what the townspeople saw as they listened to Jesus teaching on the slope below them. They saw the beautiful turquoise of the Sea of Galilee shimmering just below Jesus, maybe wishing they could swim as they sat in the hot desert sun. They saw the jagged edge of Mount Arbel in the distance, and looked at the far end of the lake to the city of Tiberias. They saw the fishing boats bob around the lake, the same lake that later yielded the two fish that fed 5000.
Now as I read my Bible I am constantly looking at maps and doing research. Did I travel on the road to Emmaus? Most likely. How long was the journey from Capernaum to Jerusalem? A five-days walk, but we drove it in 3 hours. The black and white photos I used to have in my mind all now have deep, beautiful histories that tie into what I saw. My Bible reading time is now about integrating the pieces of my experience in Israel with what I have read in the Bible my whole life. I will soon reread the story of the Gentile Pentecost in Acts 10, but this time I can picture Simon the Tanner’s house, where Peter looked out over the Mediterranean Sea as God showed him that the Gospel is for the whole world. The Bible has always been living and active, but it is now more alive in my life than ever.