Earlier this year, I, along with over 100 others, travelled to Israel on the Back to the Bible Canada Israel Experience. It was my sixth experience in the Holy Land, and with each one, I am gaining greater familiarity with the nation, its geography and the places where my Bible intersects with the Promised Land. Now that I’m back and have had ample time to reflect, I’d like to share with you three impressions from this trip.
Firstly, Israel is relatively safe for tourists. Many in our tour expressed that friends and loved ones were concerned for their safety. But once we were there, all realized how misplaced these fears actually were.
Did you know tourists in Israel are a lot safer than tourists in New York, Miami or Los Angeles? So, I can say with confidence that Christians really should go to Israel.
Israel continues to remain at the centre of the world’s attention. And that attention can often distort how we perceive it. But it remains a fact that Israel is relatively safe for tourists. One should not hesitate to go.
Second, Israel truly opens up our understanding of the Bible in a unique and rich way. A visit to Israel ought to be an invitation to the richest Bible study you have ever done. And for me personally, with each visit, I get a new and increasingly deeper perspective of the Bible.
One of my insights on this trip happened as we visited Caesarea Philippi. Remember the incident from Matthew 16:13-20, where Jesus asked his disciples who men said he was, and then who they said he was? Following Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus responded by telling Simon that he would be called Peter, and on this rock, He would build His church.
Several things come to mind. First, the Catholic Church has long claimed that Peter is the rock and that this statement confirms the infancy of the papal office. Others have sharply disagreed. But when one actually gets to Caesarea Philippi, one sees things from a new perspective. Let me explain.
Caesarea Philippi is about a three-day walk from Capernaum, the centre of Jesus’ ministry at that time. This begs the question: why did Jesus bother with a three-day walk in order to ask that question? But looking around Caesarea Philippi, one is taken by all the symbols of Roman power, including the grand rocks that housed a temple dedicated to the god Pan, along with other Roman and Greek deities. There in the heart of Gentile paganism and Roman imperial power, Jesus chose to tell his disciples that upon this rock, He would build the church. Many Jews thought of Caesarea Philippi as the gates of hell. And here, in this place, Jesus seems to be saying that He will build His church upon the very rock of pagan idolatry, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Being in Israel opens up the Bible story in a way that nothing else can.
Thirdly, Israel opens up our hearts for renewal. In my six visits to Israel, I have had significant encounters with Christ.
With each visit, I have been impressed by the reality of the living God who stands ready to encounter me. Israel is a place like none other. I am always enriched after my time in the Holy Land, and I know you would be too. In 2021, Back to the Bible Canada will be journeying back to Israel, and I’d like to invite you to join us!
See and experience the Holy Land like never before
Join us from April 11 - 19, 2021 for The Israel Experience hosted by Back to the Bible Canada, with Bible Teacher Dr. John Neufeld, Laugh Again’s Phil Callaway, and special musical guests! The Holy Land is a spectacular journey of faith!Click here to register now