Herod the Great; Jesus the Fit (part 2)
In part 1 of this article, Marshall Shelley describes what his trip to Israel taught him about Herod the Great. Here in part 2, he describes what he learned about Jesus.
One of the best reasons to visit the land of Israel is to see the biblical sites in 3-D. I don't mean donning a pair of plastic glasses to experience theatrical special effects. I'm referring to experiencing not only the length and breadth of the Bible lands, which is helpful in connecting the dots on the maps with the actual distances, but also the third dimension--the height and depth of the terrain.
This is important to me for two reasons. First, I was raised in Colorado and now live in Illinois. Mountains inspire me, whether I'm looking up at them or enjoying a vista from a peak. Psalm 121 is a favorite: "I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth." It's a psalm of ascent, meaning it was meant to be recited while looking up and walking upward. After being used to seeing mountains every day, I now live in a state that is, uh, topographically challenged. A psalm of ascent isn't quite the same in Illinois.
Second, the topography of Israel is important because it reveals something about Jesus. The man was fit! I hadn't seen this in Scripture until I visited the land where he walked. I came away impressed that Jesus was fit in at least three ways.
Jesus was physically fit. The land of Israel is topographically rich. As you travel, you are constantly going up and down. Having hiked in both Colorado and Illinois, I can attest that hiking in the mountains is more strenuous than in the flatlands. And Jesus walked a lot and in very hilly terrain. Elevation matters! Just from Nazareth to the neighboring town of Cana, 6 miles away, is a slope of 500 vertical feet. Whether you are going or coming, your legs will feel that one.
The Sea of Galilee is 682 feet below sea level. That doesn't sound like much until you visit the place and descend from the surrounding heights. About halfway down the steep grade, you pass the sign saying you are at sea level. You still have 682 vertical feet to go.
By comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall. As a high schooler I climbed down every one of the 897 stairs from top to bottom. Afterward my thighs burned and my legs were trembling from that descent.
From that sea level sign, I realized the vertical drop from there to the Galilee shore was every bit of the Washington Monument ordeal, and then some. Actually it was an additional descent the equivalent of a 12-story building.
Guidebooks in Israel say that to walk the 60 km trail from Nazareth to Capernaum, the fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, takes 3-5 days. One guidebook offered this warning, without a hint of irony: "Wear sturdy hiking boots. Do not attempt this in sandals." It was a laugh-out-loud moment. But it made the point without having to say it: Jesus and his disciples, who walked that grade regularly, in sandals, had to have been physically very fit.