The land around Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine, was remarkably beautiful one October morning last fall. Green vineyards and silvery olive groves added patches of color to the brown hills. But my blistered feet were aching for a rest, so I was glad when I saw a man picking dates from a tree in front of his spacious house. Marwan, a 41-year-old lawyer, invited us to join him and his wife and brother for coffee.
Before his family arrived, Marwan told us that when he was very sick as a boy, his Muslim mother promised God that she would make him a Christian if he would heal her son. Marwan got better, and his mother regularly took him to church. "I now believe," he told me, "that Jesus will return one day and save everyone. But I am not a Christian."
When his wife and brother joined us, they explained that another man had been crucified in Jesus' place, and that Jesus was taken without dying to heaven. Marwan quietly disagreed: "Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead."
As my photographer son, Ross, and I discovered on the new Jesus Trail—a 40-mile path from Nazareth (Jesus' boyhood home) to Capernaum (Jesus' ministry headquarters) that winds through Jewish and Arab villages—Nazareth's most famous citizen still attracts disciples and divides families in the land of his birth. We wanted to ask Jews, Muslims, and Arab Christians what they thought about the man from Galilee.
What we found surprised us. In this ancient place dominated by Jews and Muslims, Jesus exerts extraordinary power. Just as he did 2,000 years ago, he continues to fascinate the masses, inspire persecuted disciples, and split families and communities.
Maoz Inon, the secular Israeli who co-founded the Jesus Trail, is a good example of ...