by Brian Ferry, guest contributor to Bible Lands Explorer.
Scripture invites us into a world of sights, sounds, and smells.
In seminary I did poorly on exams that required me to detail the journeys of Jesus or Paul as they traveled from place to place. I felt a disconnect as I tried to envision their steps on paper. My own experience of the text was what you might call disembodied: theoretical, rather than flesh and blood, dirt and dust.
In his book You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith compares "learning street names in an abstract sort of knowledge--a manlike knowledge that sees a town from a vantage point 10,000 feet in the air" to knowledge gained from living in a place. It is the difference between distant observation and personal experience.
The latter was the kind of knowledge I wanted of Jesus's land.
So when a friend told me about hiking the Jesus Trail I was captivated. Not only did I recognize a gap in my understanding of biblical space, but I was attracted to the idea of learning by going outdoors.
The Jesus Trail gave me an embodied knowledge of the world of the Bible. You could say it helped me transition from 2D to 3D.
We walked in the Galilean countryside and got a sense of the terrain between Nazareth and Capernaum. We stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, sensing how far it is from one side to the other. We experienced hillsides and valleys. We saw a shepherd with his sheep in a grove of olive trees. We stood on the Mount of Olives and looked over to Jerusalem (I understand now when the Scripture speaks of going up to Jerusalem). We stood beside the bank of the Jordan River--as it turned out--on the very Sunday that many Christian traditions celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. In fact, a crowd of worshippers from what appeared to be a variety of Christian traditions were there to remember and celebrate with us. And much, much more.
The Psalms encourage us to "taste and see that the LORD is good" (Ps 34:8). Jesus invited Thomas to "see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side" (John 20:27). We are asked to remember how Jesus ate bread and drank wine during the Lord's Supper (1 Cor 11:24).
The Christian faith is an embodied faith. It is 3-D, physical and locative, not 2-D and disembodied.
Eugene Peterson put it this way: Jesus "became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood" (John 1:14, MSG). The fancy term for this is incarnation.
The Jesus Trail made my faith and experience of the Scriptures more 3-D. Images spring to life in my mind and imagination when I read biblical stories and sing hymns. If you have the opportunity, come and see. Come and walk the Jesus Trail.
Brian is an Assistant Pastor and Church Musician with the New City Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. He and his wife Cheryl have three children. Together they do life in an urban light neighborhood on the eastside.