by Ellen Howard | Union University
I have often been amused by the fact that everything in the gospel of Mark happened “immediately.” Jesus was baptized, and “immediately, the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. After feeding the five thousand, Jesus “immediately made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, to Bethsaida.” I always just assumed that Mark’s abuse of the word immediately was a result of Mark being a hyper person. This also makes sense with the tradition that Peter had an influence on Mark’s gospel, and anyone who has paid attention to Peter in the Gospels and Acts knows that he is as hyper as a toddler. However, after I visited the Biblical sites and saw how close together everything is, the word “immediately” began to feel more appropriate. When the local synagogue is next door to Peter’s house, what other word could someone use?
This is just one of many examples of how visiting the Holy Land has changed how I read the Bible. So much of the Bible makes more sense to me now, and I’m grateful for that. It’s one thing to read about a stone in front of a tomb. It’s another matter to see a first century tomb and realize that what you’ve read for years suddenly makes sense. I remember being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. I sat on the edge of the boat, letting my legs hang over the edge in the hope of getting a tan and looking out over the water. As I looked at the mountains on every side and the water beneath me, the reality of where I was hit me for the first time. The water splashing beneath my feet as the boat pushed it aside was the water that Jesus walked on, the water that Jesus calmed with a phrase.
The shore I was admiring, a moment before for its beauty, was the shore where Jesus spent most of his life—where he fed the multitudes and preached and even hung out with his disciples cooking them breakfast. I was in Jesus’ home. And in that moment, I realized that I would never read the Bible the same way again.
I cannot help but picture that sea when I read about Jesus being on the shore or the sea. I can’t read about the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law without seeing the ruins of Peter’s house, surrounded by the ruins of two different churches. The Bible has a new significance, makes more sense, and feels more real than ever before, all because I saw where it happened. The long term impact that this trip will have on my faith is unimaginable, and therefore, I will always treasure my memories of Israel.