Herod the Great; Jesus the Fit (part 2)
Jesus was historically fit. Not only was Jesus physically fit, a visit to Nazareth convinced me that he was also historically fit.
I hadn't realized it until I got there, but Nazareth is a mountain town, on a ridge approximately 1,650 feet above sea level. As a Colorado boy, I felt at home walking the inclines of Nazareth's streets.
More significantly, the panorama from the top of the ridge is not only spectacular but historically rich. It's a living history lesson. From there you can see:
Mount Tabor, where Deborah and Barak defeated Sisera's Canaanite forces (and later where Jesus' Transfiguration likely took place with Moses and Elijah).
The valley where Gideon and his 300-man force routed the Midianite army.
Mount Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan were killed by the Philistines.
Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated 400 prophets of Baal after God miraculously sent fire to consume his sacrifice.
Har Megiddo.The strategic crossroads city where many battles have been fought throughout history and where the climactic battle of Armageddon is foretold to occur.
I wondered if Jesus ever contemplated the historic richness of this place. How could he not? He certainly knew the Hebrew Scriptures. To me it felt like walking with my dad, a history professor, along Boston's Freedom Trail—with significant sites at every turn. You are overwhelmed with the closeness of the past, and your part in a much larger story.
Seeing what Jesus could view from the ridge near Nazareth, it became clear in a way I'd never seen before that Jesus was historically fit.
Jesus was spiritually fit. Three experiences in particular impressed me with Jesus' spiritual fitness. One was walking the hillsides where Jesus would either stay up all night or get up very early in the morning to pray. Jesus took seriously his time with the Father. If he did, how can I not also spend time in prayer?
A second experience was driving through the wilderness near Jesus' baptismal site, where Scripture says "he was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil" (Luke 4). After 40 days, he was hungry and the devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." The wilderness is a barren, intensely rocky environment. When all you can see is stone, and you've had nothing to eat for more than a month, that temptation to turn stones to bread must have been powerful. But Jesus overcame the temptation.
The third experience was following the path Jesus took from the Garden of Gethsemane to Caiaphas's house to the site where Pilate examined and then condemned him, and then along the Via Dolorosa to the place traditionally identified as the site of the crucifixion.
Walking that distance, almost four miles, knowing that for much of it, Jesus, having been arrested, was likely roughed up and beaten, makes you appreciate his fitness, strength, and determination. Climbing the stairs, ascending the slopes, making your way through the crowded and narrow streets, seeing the places where it's believed that Jesus fell, only to get up again and continue his journey to the cross—it all deeply impressed me with the spiritual strength that Jesus had. How tempting it must have been to just give up!