Following in Jesus’s Footsteps



By Karen Jurgens

About nine years ago I experienced a trip of a lifetime. Landing at the Israeli airport in Tel Aviv seemed like a dream where the pages of my Bible came alive and allowed me to live inside those stories.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Early morning in Tiberias

Our tour began in Tiberias, a town nestled on one edge of the Sea of Galilee. After a good night’s sleep my jet lag lifted, and reality hit. Drinking early morning coffee on the balcony of my hotel room, I gazed past the sunrise and across the sea to Jordan’s distant shore. White doves floated in azure skies, making the experience surreal. It was like stepping into another dimension. Although Jesus’s physical presence in this town had been absent for more than two thousand years, this was a place where Jesus had walked, and I could feel His eternal presence.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

The first day we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, followed by a fish dinner on the shore. It made Scriptures come alive as I remembered stories of His disciples pulling in their nets bursting with fish, or waking Jesus during a storm, or Peter walking on the sea at Jesus’s command.

Following in Jesus's Steps by Karen Jurge

The Temple in Capernaum where Jesus taught

Following in Jesus's Steps by Karen Jurgen

In Capernaum where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount

Especially wonderful was visiting Capernaum, a town Jesus cursed because the Jews had refused to believe in Him. We walked through the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus preached, climbed the hill where He delivered the famous Sermon on the Mount, and visited Peter’s house where the Lord healed his sick mother-in-law. The little Catholic church built next to the sea was full of that same sweet peace, and His Spirit whispered that we stood on holy ground.

Ascending to the top of Masada, a fortress erected by Herod the Great, also proved incredible. Its stunning panoramic view surrounded us as we walked through the ruins, sat in the remains of a temple, and listened to the story of how 960 Sicarii rebels had exhaled their last breaths there. What these Jews had experienced as they waited to be overcome by their enemies kept swirling through my mind. How frightening!

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

View from Masada


Would a trip to Israel be complete without a dip in the Dead Sea? We changed into swimsuits and took the salty plunge. No worries if you couldn’t swim because it’s impossible to sink! Some people smear on the mineral-rich sea mud and soak for hours to gain maximum benefits. The strong residue left on your skin feels like a rubber glove, but it comes off after a good, soapy scrubbing.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Bathing at the Dead Sea

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Floating in the Dead Sea

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

Slathering up with mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea

Have you been baptized in the Jordan River? Many tourists can’t wait for the chance to follow in Jesus’s tradition when John (the Baptist) baptized Him in those waters two thousand years ago. What an awesome experience!

Do you enjoy museums? We toured several sites, including Qumran. About 75 years ago shepherds discovered 981 Qumran Caves Scrolls. Viewing some of these ancient holy documents behind glass cases was a rare privilege.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

The caves at Qumran

Another interesting place was the Holocaust Museum. Each room, nook, and cranny held displays that related a story of the past. Families, torn apart and shattered, told their individual stories through audio-visual and written displays. A separate building honored the children, and a recording eternally repeats their individual names 24/7. Specks of light like stars shone in the darkness as tourists walked through the narrow corridor, representing each precious life.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgen

The Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem

I was especially anxious to visit Bethlehem. Jews are not allowed to enter it anymore, so our guide exited our tour bus, and a Christian Arab replaced him. He led us to the famous Church of the Nativity. We descended a staircase to the bottom level where a huge star marked the spot where Jesus was supposed to have been born. I imagined the divine scene with cattle lowing around the straw-filled manger, flanked on either side with Mary and Joseph worshipping the newborn King. It was a moving experience.


Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

The city of Bethlehem

During our tour, Christian tourists were allowed entrance into the area outside the Temple Mount. The golden Dome of the Rock could be seen almost anywhere in Jerusalem. It was fascinating to see the vast space next to the Dome and realize that the third Temple is prophesied to be built there someday soon. In the Jewish part of the Old City, we saw artisans inside a glassed area working on the golden menorah for use in this third temple.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

The Dome of the Rock

In the Old City, we reverently traced the steps where Jesus bore His cross on the Via Dolorosa. From the Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, nine stations mark the Trail of the Cross.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

A Christian pilgrimmage in Jerusalem

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

Ancient olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Next was the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives. After prayer in the grove of ancient trees, we had a service inside the church grounds. Then we walked down the road descending into Jerusalem, retracing Jesus’s steps as He rode on a donkey. I imagined the palm branches waving and the cries of “Hosanna! Hosanna in the Highest!”

Afterward, we visited what may have been the Upper Room and enjoyed a time of praise and worship. We reveled in what it must have been like during Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles that day.

Prayer at the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) was another moving experience. The stones seemed to vibrate with God’s holy presence as I laid my hands on them and prayed. I wrote my requests on a slip of paper, rolled it, and wedged it between the rocks.

The highest climax for me was entering the garden tomb, the Protestant holy site, and witnessing its empty grave. Our tour concluded with holy communion as we remembered Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. I am convinced that He is alive! Everyone says that you’re permanently changed after visiting Israel. And that was absolutely true for me. I’ll never be the same.

Following in Jesus's Footsteps by Karen Jurgens

He’s alive!

Writing Prompt: If you have been to Israel, write about your most meaningful experience. If you haven’t but would like to go someday, write about what you are looking forward to seeing the most and why.



On my personal blog I have a segment I call digging deeper. I had decided weeks ago to write on the word Shalom. It’s not an English word but most of us have heard it, know it. With all that has happened, in my local community where two police officers were shot and killed Sunday evening, Newton, Aurora, Oregon, and the Middle East (the list goes on and on), I thought it appropriate to revisit portions of a blog I wrote during the Easter season.

So here it is:

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of prayer, repentance, taking care of the poor and fasting. I’ve also been thinking about the forty days Jesus spent in the desert and the forty days Moses spent on the mountain and how those forty days tie into Lent.

As I began to pray over what I should blog about today, God very clearly told me to urge His church to pray for Jerusalem.

But now I have chosen Jerusalem for my Name to be there, and I have chosen David to rule my people Israel. 2 Chronicles 6:6 (NIV

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” Psalm 122:6-7

Many of you know that the Hebrew word for peace is shalom, but do you know that the word shalom means nothing missing, nothing broken?

I love Psalms 137:5-6 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. (NIV) The Jewish Study Bible says, “let my right hand wither . . . if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.”

On a side, according to the commentary in the Jewish Study Bible (JSB), the breaking of glass at the end of wedding ceremonies is to remember Jerusalem at their happiest moments.

The commentary also suggests that if the right hand is useless and the tongue sticks to the roof of the mouth, then it is near impossible to play music or sing praises.

Are the prayers for Jerusalem an Old Testament edict only? I don’t think so.

As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

There is that word peace again~nothing missing, nothing broken. But more importantly, this incident occurred right after the triumphal entry.

And Paul’s letter to the Romans says, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

During the preparation for this Easter season, please remember to pray for Jerusalem, especially with the escalation of violence in the Middle East.

It’s me again, today, December 18, 2012. What do you think of when you think of Jerusalem? Definitely not peace. It’s been the center of conflict for thousands of years. When David made this holy city his capital it was the capital over the tribes of Judah. After Solomon’s death, it was the Capital of Judah. There are so many things in the Bible that point to Jerusalem, this city of Zion, past, present and future. The Bible talks about the ‘new’ Jerusalem.

יְרוּשָׁלַם  Jerusalem

According to Strong’s Concordance, Jerusalem is the teaching of peace. The past days have been difficult, not only for our Nation, but for the entire world. Well, to be honest, many people have lived difficult lives since they took their first breaths, but in a nation where we are blessed with prosperity and liberty, even those of us find it hard to make ends meet, these days have been difficult. Our understanding lacks, our words are few, our tears many, especially since these horrific events happened as we prepare for our holiday seasons, but may our prayers be many. Prayers of comfort, prayers of peace.

Christmas is supposed to represent a time of joy, a reflection of the greatest gift given to mankind by our Creator, but too often it is filled with stress. Christmas should be a time for giving with cheerful hearts. No, not with expensive, breaking the bank kind of gifts, but ones that come from the heart.

I was just telling a friend of mine that my heart breaks at the thought of the children who won’t have anything under the tree this year, if they even have a tree. My heart cried at the little tags still hanging from the Angel Tree at one of your local Walmarts. My children have plenty. They have two praying parents, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. They know, without a doubt, their parents love them. They know they are cared for, not just in a monetary sense. Those children, represented by a piece of paper, may not know such things. Not that I believe a package of socks will give them that sense of well-being, but if the heart is in the right place, I believe God will bless the receiver and make them feel cared for.

So during this Christmas may we be ‘teachers of peace’ the kind of peace where ‘nothing is missing and nothing is broken. May we be used on God’s behalf to bless others.