THE SYROPHOENICIAN WOMAN OF MARK 7:26 [part 1]

A short story by JQuisumbing

It had been a long five weeks. Elpida knew she had been away from home longer than she desired. But when she had received a message from a fellow Greek acquaintance who had come to her some seven years ago, she had to go. On the back of a slow moving cart drawn by a pair of oxen, one of a dozen transporting wheat to Tyre, her eyes were glazed, mesmerised on the passing dusty road under her dangling feet.

“Elpida… Elpida?” Elpida looked up to the craggy old face of the cart driver who left his place up front. She blinked twice then glanced at the empty seat.

“Who is doing the driving?”

“Ah… the road is fairly straight for three miles. My oxen will not veer… I hope,” he chuckled. “You have been quiet back here for some time. I thought maybe you fell asleep and fell out.”

“No… I was just deep in thought.”

“And by the look of your face in this entire return trip, you were not successful in your search.”

She slowly shook her head and stopped with her head bowed.

“Well, let us see,” said the old cart driver thinking to change the subject. “When we last talked, you were telling me about the reason you left Greece. You stopped short of the unknown god. Who is the unknown god again?”

That is a good question. To this day, she still did not know. At one time, she was a seeress to the Temple of Hermes. This always amused her. As a young girl, she was abandoned by her relations to the priests of this impoverished and unpopular small temple just in the outskirts of Athens. Hermes was not as widely venerated as the more prominent gods and goddesses of Athens. Since his temple lacked the kind of in-pouring of gifts like the other temples, the priests saw in her a cunning opportunity to increase their coffer. The priests did not hesitate to train her the art of being a seeress. The training took no more than three days. Her part was to rant on cue and always end with her eyes rolled back and twitch crazily on the floor. Her reward was a clean bed and good food to eat. And there was food aplenty, especially after the priests scoured the district announcing that they had sheltered a child touched by the gods. But her time there was not just play acting. One of the older priests took it upon himself to educate her. She was taught to read and write and the secrets of herblore. When she grew to womanhood and the temple had other little girls to fill her place, she was given other tasks, one of which was to visit other temples basically to spy on them.

It was on a narrow street to the Acropolis that she came upon an unusual non-descript shrine in a recessed alcove between two houses. She thought that it was ransacked and it’s carved image was stolen for what was left was the carved pedestal base and inscription. But then an old couple walked up to it left a handful of flowers on the pedestal. Elpida approached it curiously. She lifted the flowers and found that no statue ever sat upon the pedestal. She bent down to read the worn out and somewhat small inscription on the base which read “Agnostos Theos”, that is “Unknown God”.

To be continued…


Author’s note:

Though this short story is basically fiction, the character of Elpida is based on an actual female personality described in Mark 7. She was a gentile who showed great faith.

There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them were not named at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit

Module 6 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 6, we will visit the Bible sites of where the Holy Spirit led followers of the Way from Asia and then through Europe during the early years of the church. So, let us start in the…

1 – Middle East

Before ascending to Heaven, Jesus Christ gave His disciples the Great Commission.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

The question is, how did they do it? The chosen twelve disciples still had SIN issues. Simon Peter, the leader, said he would never abandon Jesus but he ended up denying Him three times. Except for one, ten of them abandoned Him and was not even there when He was crucified. And sadly, the one who betrayed Him, did not believe enough that he could still have been forgiven, if he did not commit suicide. Everyone of them (like all of us) could not fulfill the Great Commission by themselves. With Jesus in Heaven, what were they to do? Well, as promised, God sent help. For this, we go back to the…

Click LINK 1 – UPPER ROOM

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m making an assumption that you already know that you are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. And if you went through Module 5a, you would also know that this place is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. I guess that I don’t have to remind you that the Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). As special as that was, this room was witness to an even more spectacular event. For true Christians all around, it was called Pentecost.

The Christian Pentecost

For the Jews, Pentecost is the Feast of Harvest which is mentioned in the five books of Moses. This feast came during the months of May and June. It was at this time, that the Chosen Twelve (including Judas’ replacement), Jesus’ mother and siblings, with a 100 or so other believers were gathered together in this room to pray. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-4)

This filling of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was different than the Spirit filling that occurred during the Old Testament. In the Old Testament it was mostly temporary. But Jesus said in John 14, that this time, the Holy Spirit will be with them (and yes, with us who believe) FOREVER (14:16).

What exactly happened here? Jesus said that they (& us) became born again (John 3:3-8). Everyone who were filled with the Spirit became NEW creations (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Being filled with the Holy Spirit meant change. What kind of change? And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability (Acts 2:4). Peter especially showed a great change and we will see this at our next site.

Click LINK 2 – JERUSALEM MODEL

You are looking at southern side of the Temple Mount of the Jerusalem Model. I chose this site as a probable location of where the Apostle Peter (newly Spirit filled) may have addressed for the very first time a large crowd about the Gospel of Christ. Meanwhile, let us go to to the actual site of the Temple Mount’s south wall.

Click LINK 2a – SOUTH WALL

You are standing before the south wall of the Temple Mount. Of course, this is not actual stone wall. The first century structure is really underground. But imagine that this street was the plaza before the southern entrance into the Temple complex.

Peter’s Sermon

In Acts 2, after the Holy Spirit entered the disciples in the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit made such a big noise, the people of the city heard it. Among the people were Jews from foreign lands that spoke the languages of the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya, Cyrene, Rome, Cretans and Arabs (2:9-11).

When the Spirit-filled disciples came out of the upper room, the Jews from the different land heard the disciples speaking their languages. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “How is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?” (2:7) Many thought that they were drunk out of their minds.

Enter the Apostle Peter who boldly exposed the good news of Jesus Christ to them. The entire sermon can be read in Acts 2:14-36. Here is the amazing point, Peter never thought that he could ever give a sermon like this ever. He probably felt that he was inadequate especially since a few months back, he denied the Lord. But he did give the sermon and guess what, because of the Holy Spirit in him, about 4000 new believers were added to the church.

Let’s jump a few years ahead. The church in Jerusalem grew and grew and grew. To most, this was a good thing. But then the Holy Spirit never intended the church to be in just one place. After all, Jesus did tell His disciples that…

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

As the church grew, so did the persecution. Non-believers clashed with members of the Way (early Christians). Then, when the religious leaders came into play, it became deadly.

2 – Stephen, a Man of Grace

There was man named Stephen who was chosen by the Apostles to be one of seven deacons of the church in Jerusalem. In Acts 6, he was a man filled by the Holy Spirit with grace and power. He had performed great wonders and signs among the people. Some tried to debate with him, but they were unable to cope with his wisdom and the Spirit by whom he was speaking. So, they made up false accusations of blasphemy against him and turned him over to be tried before the religious leaders, the Sanhedrin. He testified before them with a summary oration of biblical history starting with Abraham leaving his home in Mesopotamia to the time when Solomon built the Temple for God. At first, some members of the Sanhedrin were loving what they were hearing until his defense of his faith in the Jesus being the Son of God whom they crucified enraged his Jewish audience. He was taken out of the city, through what tradition claim is the…

Click LINK 3 – LION’S GATE

The Lions’ Gate, a.k.a. St Stephen’s Gate, is one of the Gates of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is associated with the ancient Sheep Gate. After the trial, Stephen was forcibly taken out and they began stoning him… 

They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)

More persecution hit the church which actually caused Jerusalem believers to leave the city to foreign lands bringing the Gospel with them which Jesus intended when He gave out the Great Commission. Among those that were scattered was…

3 – Philip the Evangelist

Philip the Evangelist was one of the seven deacons appointed to tend the believers of Jerusalem, thereby enabling the Apostles to freely conduct their missions. His energetic preaching, however, earned him the title of the Evangelist and the Holy Spirit led him to minister successfully in Samaria. So, let us go to what was once a…

Click LINK 4 – SAMARITAN CITY

You are standing on some ruins of a Samaritan city on top of Mt Gerizim. This archaeological excavation is part of the nearby Samaritan Museum, which is an Ethnographic Museum that explores and present the culture of the “Samaritans” people. The museum is the only museum in the world dedicated to Samaritans and their language. 

Philip began proclaiming Christ to the Samaritans. The crowds were paying attention with one mind to what was being said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed or limped on crutches were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city. (Acts 8:5-8) Among them was the conversion of the infamous magician named Simon Magus (vs9–13). Philip was so successful that when the apostles heard what he did, they sent Peter and John to pray for them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. When they began laying their hands on them, they were receiving the Holy Spirit. (vs14-17)

Then an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Get ready and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (Acts 8:26)

So, let us go on a…

Click LINK 5 – ROAD TO GAZA

You are on one of many National Trails of Israel, west by south-west of Jerusalem. This is not exactly the actual site where the angel told Philip to go to, but it does parallel a modern highway that will take you to Gaza.

So, it was like on this dusty road that the Holy Spirit guided Philip the Evangelist to rendezvous with an Ethiopian official riding on a posh 4-wheeled chariot. Coaxed by the Spirit to get closer, Philip heard the official reading out loud a Messianic passage from Isaiah 53:7. Philip saw an opening to use the passage to share who Jesus Christ was to him. The official was so convinced that he asked Philip why he should not be baptized (by water) right there and then.

The work of the Holy Spirit is never done and even an Apostle need to learn from Him. Let’s go to a church at the coast. Let’s go to…

4 – Lesson for Peter

Click LINK 6 – JOPPA

Welcome to the inside of the St. Peter’s Church which is a Franciscan church in the historical part of Jaffa. Jaffa was once known as Joppa, a trading and fishing port where once the Prophet Jonah tried to run away from God by going to sea. About a block from the pier, the church was constructed on its present location because of the significance this city has to Christianity. It was in Jaffa that the Apostle Peter raised Tabitha, one of Jesus’ disciples, from the dead according to the Acts 9:36–42.

Zoom-in onto the painting behind the Altar. That painting depicts the lesson that Peter needed to learn. You see, the Holy Spirit had to break Peter away from choosing tradition to obeying the Lord. In a vision, a sheet of all sorts of animals were presented to him including non-kosher* ones. God then told him to kill and eat. But Peter refrained siting that he had never eaten anything unholy and unclean. Then a voice would say that, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” To make sure he got it, this test happened three times. (Acts 10:9-16)

Peter was perplexed in mind to what it all meant. But the Holy Spirit made it all clear.

[* Kosher means food satisfying the requirements of Jewish law]

So, let us go about 33 miles up the coast to…

Click LINK 7 – CAESAREA

You are virtually standing among the archaeological ruins of Caesarea which is an affluent town in north-central Israel. It inherited its name and much of its territory from the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima. It was built by Herod the Great about 25–13 BCE as a major Roman port and it served as an administrative center of the province of Judaea in the Roman Empire.

In Acts 10:1, we meet an unusual God-fearing Roman centurion named Cornelius. And he too received a vision to send for Peter. Four days later, Peter was knocking on his doors. After which, he confessed that he understood the lesson that the Holy Spirit was teaching him. Peter proceeded to share the Gospel to Cornelius and his entire household, but before he could lay his hands on them, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message (v44). 


When it came to the Gospel, the Lord uses even the most unusual people.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8,9]

Enter…

4 – The Apostle Paul

We first met Paul back in Acts 7. Of course, at that time, he was known as Saul of Tarsus, a young Pharisee on his way up the ladder into Jewish leadership. Saul was there when Stephen was stoned to death. He was there, not as a spectator, but as an honored participant (v58). That was when the great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and leading the attack was a very zealous Saul. He ravaged the church, entering house after house; and he dragged away men and women and put them in prison (Acts 8:1,3). It did not stop there. When he heard that members of the church escaped to as far as Damascus, he intended to chase them down and drag them back in shackles.

So, we will g0 north, about 133 miles from Jerusalem to an even more ancient city of…

Click LINK 6 – DAMASCUS

Welcome to the House of Saint Ananias also called the Chapel of Saint Ananias. It is an ancient underground structure located in old Damascus, Syria. This site is said to be the remains of the home of Ananias. We’ll get to his identity in a sec, for now, please zoom-in on the three framed relief sculptures above the altar. These reliefs depict how the Spirit chose the most notorious person in early Christian history and converted him to become the most influential Apostle who wrote 14 out of the 27 books of the New Testaments. Let us start with the right one.

Relief 1 [Act 9:3-9]

On the road to Damascus, Saul was struck by a brilliant light, fell to the ground, heard a voice from heaven identified as the voice of Jesus asking, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” After receiving instructions, Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Relief 2 [Act 9:10-19]

Enter Ananias of Damascus, a believer who left Jerusalem to escape persecution. One day, the Lord told him to go to Saul and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight. Ananias was reluctant, for he knew Saul’s reputation. But the Lord revealed that Saul was to be a chosen instrument of His. So, Ananias came before Saul, regained his sight and was filled with the Spirit.

Relief 3 [Act 9:20-24]

Saul began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” He kept increasing in strength and confounding Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jews plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also closely watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.

Many years later, we find Saul (now Paul) in…

5 – Asia Minor (Turkey)

Click LINK 9 – ANTIOCH

Antioch was a Hellenistic city by the Orontes River. Its ruins lie near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey, to which the ancient city lends its name. Antioch was one of the largest cities in the first-century Roman world, accommodating a population between 100,000 and 300,000. The city was home to a wealthy and thriving Jewish community. The first mention of Antioch in the New Testament is in reference to Nicolas, a Gentile convert to Christianity who was one of seven Greek-speaking (Hellenist) leaders chosen to serve as deacons at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7).

The church at Antioch played a crucial role in the book of Acts. Here believers were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). With its mixture of Jews and Gentiles, the church at Antioch became fertile ground for the growth and spread of Christianity and a model congregation in the early days of the new Christian church. It was from here that Paul and other believers were sent on a mission by the Antioch church… inspired by the Holy Spirit, of course… to bring the Gospel to all of Asia Minor (Turkey).

Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch, in the church that was there: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. [Acts 13:1-3]

Paul’s Journeys

Apostle Paul 1st, 2nd & 3rd Evangelical Missions

The Apostle Paul traveled over 10,000 miles proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His journeys on land and sea took him primarily through present day Israel, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Paul walked the roads built by the Romans to facilitate their control over their Empire. In 2 Corinthians 11: 25-27, he described being shipwrecked; in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from his own race, dangers from Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea; experienced toil in hardship, through many sleepless nights, through hunger and thirst, through frequent fasting, through cold and exposure.

I wish we could visit all the places that the Holy Spirit led the Apostle Paul to. One of these days, I’ll create a detailed itinerary tour specifically of his journey. For now, we can only visit 6 particular sites starting on the island of Cyprus at…

Click LINK 10 – SALAMIS, CYPRUS

Salamis was an ancient Greek city-state on the east coast of Cyprus, at the mouth of the river Pedieos, 6 km north of modern Famagusta. Nearby is…

Click LINK 10a – ST BARNABAS MONASTERY

St. Barnabas Monastery near Famagusta is dedicated to the patron saint of Cyprus, St. Barnabas. The church is now an icon museum housing a stunning collection of Cypriot artefacts dating back as far as the 7th Century BC which are kept in the monks’ old cells. Barnabas was Jewish and hailed from Salamis. He travelled to the Holy Land to study law and whilst he was there studying, he met Paul, the apostle, and was converted to Christianity. He was made the Archbishop of Salamis and when he returned from the Holy Land to Cyprus, he became a preacher, taught others about Jesus Christ.

According to the Acts 13:5-12, after landing at Salamis (eastern Cyprus) and proclaiming the Word of God in the synagogues, the prophets and teachers, Barnabas and Paul of Tarsus, traveled along the entire southern coast of the island of Cyprus until they reached…

Click LINK 10b – PAPHOS, CYPRUS

You are standing on the ruins of the archaeological site of Nea Paphos which is located in southwest Cyprus. Nea Paphos was founded on the sea near a natural harbor. It was here that Sergius Paulus, the Roman governor, was converted after Paul, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, confronted and rebuked the Sorcerer Elymas who was advising the Roman governor to not listen to Paul’s teaching. The Holy Spirit caused Elymas to be blind.

Now, let us go to…

Click LINK 11 – ANTIOCH PISIDIA

Welcome to the ruins of Antioch of Pisidia which was a city in the Turkish Lakes Region. This ancient city was at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Central Anatolian regions, and formerly on the border of Pisidia and Phrygia, hence also known as Antiochia in Phrygia. The site lies approximately 1 km northeast of Yalvaç, the modern town of Isparta Province, Turkey.

Paul the Apostle and Barnabas, as recounted in Acts 14, visited Antioch of Pisidia in the course of Paul’s first missionary journey, and Paul’s sermon in the Jewish synagogue there caused a great stir among the citizens and the ensuing conflict with the Jews led to Paul being stoned and then their expulsion from the city. They returned later and appointed elders for the Christian community there. Paul also visited the region in both his second and his third journeys. Paul’s “persecutions and sufferings” at Antioch are spoken of in 2 Timothy 3:11.

During Paul’s second mission in Acts 16, the Holy Spirit, strangely enough, actually blocked him from preaching the Gospel in the northern regions of Asia Minor (Turkey). Instead, he and his companions were (more or less) herded toward the west coast. (By the way, it was here in verse 7 that the Spirit of Jesus was used in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.)

Let us go to our next site at…

Click LINK 12 – TROAS

You are virtually standing amongst the ruins of Alexandria Troas. This is the site of an ancient Greek city situated on the Aegean Sea near the northern tip of Turkey’s western coast, the area known historically as Troad, a little south of Tenedos (modern Bozcaada, Turkey). It was here that Paul understood why the Holy Spirit was blocking his way to bring the Gospel north.

Click LINK 12a – TROAS SHORELINE

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and pleading with him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” When he had seen the vision, they immediately sought to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the Gospel to them. (Acts 16:9,10)

6 – Macedonia/Greece

So, from Troas, they ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the following day to Neapolis, Macedonia; and from there to…

Click LINK 13 – PHILIPPI

You are looking at a 360 aerial view of the ancient amphi-theatre of Philippi. These ruins were once a major Greek city northwest of the nearby island, Thasos. Its original name was Crenides but was renamed after Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC. The present municipality, Filippoi, is located near these ruins and is part of the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Kavala, Greece. It was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.

The New Testament records a visit to this city by the Apostle Paul during his second missionary journey (likely in AD 49 or 50). On the basis of the book of Acts and the letter to the Philippians, early Christians concluded that Paul had founded their community. Accompanied by Silas, by Timothy and possibly by Luke (the author of Acts), Paul is believed to have preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi. One story stuck out for me…

Conversion in Jail [Acts 16:16-34]

During their time here, a slave woman who had a spirit of divination would hound Paul day after day. Annoyed, Paul commanded (by the authority of Christ’s name) that the evil spirit come out of her which it did. Then Paul got trouble from the master of the slave woman. Apparently, the woman’s fortune-telling ability once brought much profit to the master. Without the spirit meant no more profit. They were brought before the magistrate, convicted, beaten with rods and thrown into prison with their feet fastened into the stocks.

That night, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. The jailer thought that all the prisoners had escaped and was about to kill himself when Paul called out that they were all still there. This act of Christian behavior and faith eventually led the jailer and his household to saved.

The Holy Spirit led Paul down the Greek peninsula through Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea until they reached the center of Greek culture & philosophy, the great city of…

Click LINK 14 – ATHENS

Welcome to Mars Hill, best known as the Areopagus. It is a prominent rock outcropping located northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. (Look east – That’s the Acropolis up there on the mountain.) Mars Hill was sometimes used as an open air council or court of justice.

According to Acts 17, while he was waiting for his companions, Silas and Timothy to arrive, Paul was distressed to see Athens full of idols. According to a commentator, Paul’s soul was troubled and his heart was grieved, …he was exasperated and provoked to the last degree… he had a burning fire in his bones, and was weary with forbearing, and could not stay; his zeal wanted vent… and he gave it [by John Gill].  So, Paul went to the synagogue and the Agora (market) on a number of occasions to preach about the Resurrection of Jesus. Some Greeks then took him to a meeting at the Areopagus, the high court in Athens, to explain himself. 

Click LINK 14a – SERMON ON THE ROCK

Imagine Paul standing on this rock surrounded by a people who considered themselves as philosophers & stoics. Wise men in their own sight. Paul knew that the Athenians needed to be made to see that what they believed lacked a true foundation before they would accept his teaching. So, he started with something that they were familiar with. He started with one of their altars that had this inscription, ‘TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.’ He used what they didn’t know about this unknown god to introduce GOD.

Paul conveyed to them that the unknown God was not Zeus or some other deity, but the true God, Jesus Christ, who created all things and every man. The sermon ended with the mention of the resurrection of the dead. Some scoffed but a lot more wanted to hear more. and many believed. [Acts 17:22-34]

7 – Paul’s 3rd Mission

The church grew and Paul went amongst them again during his 3rd mission. And one of the places that he visited was…

Click LINK 15 – EPHESUS

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city located about 2 miles southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC by Ionian Greek colonists, when the western coastal region of Turkey was under Greek influence. During the Classical Greek era, it was one of twelve cities that were members of the Ionian League. The city was famous in its day for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC). The city came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC.

Acts 19 – It was here that Paul found some disciples of John the Baptist. Paul asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They answered that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit and also that their baptism was the baptism of repentance. So, Paul completed their education by sharing the full Gospel to them, which they accepted willingly. So, when he laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 

Since, we are here in Ephesus, we might as well visit one other site that is a favorite of many pilgrims.

8 – Apostle John & Mary, Mother of Jesus

According to tradition, Ephesus also became the final home of the Apostle John and the mother of Jesus. If you recall at the crucifixion, Jesus had handed the welfare of His mother, Mary, onto the hands of John. Jesus did this because He knew that His brothers as well as the Apostles (except John, of course) would eventually be martyred. So, the Holy Spirit (I assume) inspired John & Mary to leave Judea and migrate to Ephesus which already had an established church.

So, they had to have lived somewhere and… guess what I found???

Click LINK 16 – MARY’S HOUSE

The House of Mary is a Catholic shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, about 4 miles from Selçuk in Turkey. Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was taken to this stone house by the Apostle John and lived there for the remainder of her earthly life.

By the way, the Gospel of John may have been written here… well, not exactly in this place, but close.

8 – Journey to Rome

Let us leave the vicinity of Greece and Turkey… and go across the Mediterranean Sea about 750 miles to the island of…

Click LINK 17 – MALTA

Welcome to eastern side of Malta. Malta is a tiny nation made up of 3 islands. It is located about 60 miles south of Sicily and is about 160 miles from the boot tip of Italy. What are we doing here? Well, for now, I want you to be a tourist and explore this side of the island. Meanwhile, allow me to quickly summarize how the Holy Spirit led Paul to here.

At the tail end of Paul’s third mission, he called to himself the elders of the church in Ephesus and said this…

And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me.  [Acts 20:22,23]

So, Paul went back to Jerusalem knowing full well what to expect. And sure enough, while completing a Jewish purification rite, he was seized by the Jews that opposed his teaching to the Gentiles. They wanted to put him to death but the Romans intervened. The Jews were persistent and tried to get custody of him several time. But by the Lord’s grace, Paul’s Roman citizenship kept him away from their clutches. From Acts 22-26, he was tried before his own people, before 2 Roman governors and a Herodian king. Each time, his defense was the Gospel of Christ. Though his testimony won over the hearts of the judges, they could not resolve his case mainly because he, as a Roman citizen, demanded to be brought before the Roman emperor. So, off to Rome he went… and by ship.

Now, like every sea going adventure, they were bound to hit a storm… and so, they did. With their keel broken and leaks throughout the hull, Paul’s crippled ship limped into what today is called…

Click LINK 17a – ST PAUL’S BAY

You are virtually standing in-front of the Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck. I am not making this up. This little place is a Roman Catholic parish church in Valletta, on the western side of Malta. It is one of Valletta’s oldest churches. The Apostle Paul is considered the spiritual father of the Maltese. His shipwreck on Malta reads like an adventure story in Acts 27:14-44.

Now, the Holy Spirit has a funny and even strange way of giving us an opportunity for the Gospel. How?

When Paul, the crew and passengers landed on the beach, the Maltese showed them extraordinary kindness, for they kindled a fire and took them all in because of the rain that had started and because of the cold. As Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened itself on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” However, Paul shook the creature off into the fire and suffered no harm. Now they were expecting that he was going to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had waited a long time and had seen nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and began to say that he was a god.

[Acts 28:1-6]

Click LINK 17b – RABAT

You are standing in-front of the Basilica of St Paul in Rabat, about 5 miles from the bay where they shipwrecked. Annexed to this church is the smaller chapel of St Publius. Publius was an island leader whose father was afflicted with a recurring fever and dysentery. Paul, who was guest, prayed over him and healed him. The word of the healing got out and the rest of the people on the island who had diseases were coming to him and being cured. [Acts 28:7-9]

Under that chapel is…

Click LINK 17c – THE GROTTO

Sorry that it is a little dark down here. This underground grotto is the place where, according to tradition, Paul lived and preached during his three months stay in Malta in 60 A.D. Then Paul took ship for…

9 – Rome

Rome is the capital city of Italy. According to Wikipedia, Rome’s history spans 28 centuries. While Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it a major human settlement for almost three millennia and one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in Europe.

The Roman Forum are the remains of those buildings that during most of Ancient Rome’s time represented the political, legal, religious and economic centre of the city. Image & footnote from Wikipedia.

Click LINK 17 – PAUL’S TOMB

Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls, is one of Rome’s four major papal basilicas. The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle’s execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae

The Bible did not record the death of Paul. But in his last epistle addressed to Timothy, he knew his time was close.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. [2 Timothy 4:6-8]

But let’s go back a little. When Paul entered Rome, he was allowed to stay by himself, but always with a soldier guarding him. Essentially, he was still under arrest. Now, Paul called together the leading men of the Jews, and when they came together, he explained to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. For the people who listened, some were persuaded while others did not believe. So, as those who did not believe were leaving, Paul called after them with this prophetical warning…

“The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,

‘Go and say to this people: When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.” [Acts 28:25-28]

The final verses of the book of Acts spoke of the Apostle Paul spending the next two years, welcoming all who visited him including members of the elite Roman Praetorian guards, boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him. According to tradition, Paul never got to go before the emperor. When Emperor Nero increased persecution against the church in Rome, he ordered Paul’s execution.

Now, about 3 miles from Paul’s Tomb is one more site to visit.

Click LINK 18 – PETER’S TOMB

You are standing on the Piazza San Pietro or St. Peter’s Square located in the center of the Vatican City. Before you is the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica which was built in the Renaissance style.

Catholic tradition holds that Peter, after a ministry of thirty-four years, travelled to Rome and met his martyrdom there along with Paul on 13 October 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. According to Jerome, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. The obelisk now stands in St. Peter’s Square and is revered as a “witness” to Peter’s death.

9 – Apostle John & Revelations

Before we end this module, we have one last stop. Let’s go to…

Click LINK 19 – PATMOS

Patmos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. It was the location of where the Apostle John was sent when he was arrested in Ephesus during the height of the persecution of Christianity. The white building is the Monastery of St. John. It located approximately halfway up the mountain, along the road between the villages of Chóra and Skala. Within the monastery is a memorialized grotto called the…

Click LINK 19a – CAVE of the APOCALYPSE

This grotto marks the spot where the Spirit of Christ gave distinct visions of the future to the Apostle John. From those visions, he wrote the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Revelation – also called the Apocalypse of JohnRevelation to John or Revelation of Jesus Christ – is the final book of the New Testament and consequently is also the final book of the Christian Bible. Its title is derived from the first word of the Koine Greek text: apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” or “revelation”. 

The book of Revelation provides the clearest biblical portrait of the events of the tribulation, dealing with the specifics of that terrible time (chapters 4–18). The tribulation will be a time of judgment, a time when those left on the earth after the rapture will suffer deeply for their nonbelief. John pictured this judgment as a series of twenty-one events—inaugurated by the breaking of seven seals, the blowing of seven trumpets, and the pouring out of seven bowls. This grand judgment on the sinfulness of humanity shows the seriousness with which God views sin—payment will be exacted from those not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. [www.insight.org]

Revelation is not all bad news. Chapters 19–22 portrays Christ’s future triumph over the forces of evil and His re-creation of the world for the redeemed. Ultimately, the book—and the world—end in a final victory for truth and goodness and beauty. As Christians, we look forward to this and joyously shout…

HALLELUIA!

This ends our tour of Module 6. Thank you for joining me in  Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit.



Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2

Module 5a – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 5a, we will visit the Bible sites of where Jesus Christ walked during His last year of His ministry on Earth.

1 – Preparation

Jesus had done what He had to do in the north country. His final task was to happen in Jerusalem. But first, certain events needed to happen. So, our first stop is…

Click LINK 1 – BETHANY

This is a 360 aerial view of the southern side of the metropolitan city of Jerusalem. The drone that took this shot was hovering over the Mount of Olives. Look east. Then, look past the cluster of trees. Two thousand years ago, the village of Bethany was located there. And in that village was the home of some people that Jesus loved dearly.

Click LINK 2 – CHURCH of LAZARUS

You are inside the Church of St Lazarus. There are four frescoes painted under the four arches; north, west, east & south. Each of the frescoes represent a biblical scene of Jesus’ relations with Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Let’s start with the western fresco.

WestLuke 10:38-42 – Jesus met the 2 sisters, Martha & Mary for the first time. Mary was intently listening to Jesus. Meanwhile, Martha was working frantically to prepare and serve the meal for her quests. Frustrated, she scolded Him, asking Him whether He cared that her sister had left her to fix the meal alone. Jesus, in-turn, pointed out in a calm voice, that her need was not to be a perfect hostess but instead, to be spiritually fed by Him which was her greatest need.

NorthJohn 11:1-34 – Lazarus had died and was buried. Jesus had purposely stayed away. On the 4th day, He returned. Martha went to meet Him first. Her words to Him may have sounded more like a reprimand for being late. Jesus consoled her that Lazarus will live again. She mistakenly thought He was referring to the final resurrection. Then Jesus said these crucial words: “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (v25,26) When Mary came to Him next, her words mirrored Martha but her tone was that of a grieving young girl. Jesus wept with her and went to the tomb.

EastJohn 11:38-45 – When they came to the tomb, Jesus again was deeply moved. He ordered the tomb to be opened but Martha tried to stop it. Jesus reminded her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v40) This was His intent. After He prayed out loud, Lazarus came out of the tomb alive and many believed.

SouthMatthew 26:6-13 – Jesus’ final task was near. Jesus and all His followers were in Lazarus’ house for supper. Mary approached Jesus with a bottle of expensive aromatic oil which she lovingly dribbled on His head. Then, when Judas made a fuss about the perfume not being sold and given to the poor, Jesus acknowledged the righteousness of Mary’s deed and declared that what she did was to prepare Him for burial.

The next day, Jesus went to Jerusalem riding on a young donkey which was prophecy-come-to-life thing. The people lined the road waving palm fronds at Him. They recognized it as the coming of the King (Zechariah 9:9). When they went over the Mount of Olives, this was what was waiting for them.

2 – Jerusalem Ministry

Click LINK 3 – JERUSALEM MODEL

You are looking at a beautiful scale model of the ancient city of Jerusalem circa 63AD. The model is about 22,000 square feet and is located at the Israel Museum about 2 miles west from the Dome of the Rock. From this viewpoint on the observation deck, you are looking at the eastern side of the city. Note the image below of what you are looking at.

The scaled facsimile Temple you see was based on the Second Temple built by the returned Judean exiles, then opulently refurbished by Herod the Great. In Mark 13, when standing on the Mount of Olives, the disciples pointed out the lavishness of the Temple complex and was awed by it. But for Jesus, all it brought was tears to His eyes, for He saw its destruction (v2) which did occur 35 years from then. But we are getting ahead of the story. Let’s go to the…

Click LINK 4 – EASTERN WALL

You’re virtually standing on the eastern slope of Mt Moriah. Yes… the same mountain that Abraham almost sacrificed his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). What you are looking at, is the remnant of the east wall of the Temple Mount. Now, look east. That’s the Mount of Olives and that pyramid-topped monument is Zechariah’s Tomb, who was a priest whose stoning was recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:21. Below that is the Kidron Valley.

Imagine on that valley road, some 2000 years ago, hundreds of people waving palm fronds leading a man riding on a white donkey. The people were joyously shouting…

“Blessed is the King, the One who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38)

Among the crowd were Pharisees who were demanding that Jesus stop them of their praise. But Jesus came back with this, “I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!” (v40) Then, Jesus entered through the east gate which was also called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ into the Temple Complex. It was called the ‘Beautiful Gate’ in expectation of the arrival of the promised Messiah.

Click LINK 5 – TEMPLE MOUNT

Welcome to the southside of the Temple Mount. You are standing on what was once called the Court of the Gentiles. This courtyard was vast and was able to hold thousands of people. Now, what you see before you are the broken crowns of the columns that once surrounded the entire courtyard. They were called Solomon’s Colonnades.

When Jesus entered, it was during the beginning of the annual Passover Festival which was the celebration of what God did to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12). Jews from all over would congregate here to offer their sacrifices to the Lord and they would have to purchase the animals required. But here lied the situation, the money changers, with the blessings of the Temple establishment, would routinely cheat the people. Hence, whenever Jesus came to the Passover Festival, He would drive away the animals and turn over their tables, spilling their coins on the ground. Then, He declared, “My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!” (Matthew 21:13)

As Passover approached, Jesus sent two of the disciples into the city to find a man carrying a pitcher of water and follow him. That man led them to our next site…

Click LINK 6 – THE UPPER ROOM

You are inside the Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room. It is located on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City walls, west of the City of David. The Upper Room was where Jesus held the Last Supper (John 13). Of course, this room is not the actual room. That room was destroyed with the city back in 70AD.

The original Upper Room had witnessed, on that same night, the Son of God wrapping a towel around His waist then proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet (13:5-12). Besides all the spiritual lessons for His disciples, Jesus revealed that He would be betrayed by one of the Twelve (vs21-25). Of course, that would be Judas Iscariot whom the Devil entered (v27). We’ll see him again at…

Click LINK 7 – GETHSEMANE

Gethsemane is a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, east of the Temple Mount. Jesus went there after the Last Supper. It was a favorite place of His to pray as was His habit to seek isolated places for this purpose.

Going Through An Oil Press

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the BibleGethsemane is translated from the Greek to mean “an oil press.” Jesus going to Gethsemane to pray because of what awaited Him can be compared to Him going through an oil press… a spiritual and emotional press, that is.

Filled with anguish and deep dread over what He would soon experience, Jesus withdrew with His inner circle, the three disciples closest to Him, and took refuge here. Alone on His knees in the dark night beneath the shelter of olive trees, where He sweated blood, Jesus cried out to His Father God with these words.

“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus passed the final test. The set for the final scene was staged.

Jesus woke up His companions to tell them that His betrayer was here and sure enough, Judas Iscariot arrived to betray Him with a kiss (26:49). After which, Jesus was arrested and brought to our next site.

3 – The Final Act

Click LINK 8 – HOUSE of CAIAPHAS

Before you is the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu which is a Roman Catholic church located on the eastern slope of Mount Zion, just outside the Old (walled) City of Jerusalem. According to tradition, this church was built over the ruins of Caiaphas’ house. Joseph ben Caiaphas was the Jewish high priest who, according to the gospels, organized a plot to kill Jesus. He famously presided over the Sanhedrin trial of Jesus.

Click LINK 8a – GALLICANTU

You are now standing in the church’s courtyard and are facing a sculpture of Peter. Interestingly enough, the church took its name from the Latin word “Gallicantu” which means a ‘cock’s-crow’. Take note the small statue of the rooster above Peter. The sculptures depict a servant recognizing Peter as Jesus’ follower but he denied knowing Him three times. Then, the cock crowed as prophesied by Jesus a few hours before.

Meanwhile, Jesus was standing beaten and spat on, before Caiaphas and his ‘kangaroo court’ which he secretly assembled for one purpose. He wanted to declare Him as a blasphemer and have Him killed. (Matthew 26:65-68) But they could not kill Jesus themselves, so they brought Him to the Romans.

Click LINK 9 – FORTRESS ANTONIA

You are standing on the west side of the Jerusalem model. Centered on your screen, left of the man in a suit, is the Fortress Antonia which was built by Herod the Great for Mark Anthony. It was built attached to the northwest corner of the Temple Mount as a constant reminder to the Jews that it was Rome that was in control. It is not clear if Pontus Pilate held residences here but according to tradition, Jesus’ public trial was conducted before the main entrance into the fortress which takes us to the…

Click LINK 10 – CHURCH of the FLAGELLATION

You’re in the courtyard of the Church of the Flagellation which is a Roman Catholic church and Christian pilgrimage site located in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It is part of the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation, which also includes the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross. This church was built on the same site of the Roman fortress.

Imagine some 2000 years ago, Jesus stood before the Roman Governor awaiting the verdict of the highest judge of the land. And that verdict was ‘NOT guilty’! (John 18:38) But the High Priest and the worked-up crowd wanted Him dead. So, Pilate , trying to appease the mob, brought out a notorious criminal named Barabbas and had them choose between them for release. But the crowd chose Barabbas to be free. Pilate was still not willing, so he had Jesus cruelly flogged. After which, He was brought before the people again. He was bloodied from the scourging and cruelly imbedded on His head was a crown of thorns. But it did not appease the crowd which kept insisting for His blood. So, Pilate washed his hands on this affair and sent Him to His death. (John 19:1-16)

So, from here we go to…

Click LINK 11 – VIA DOLOROSA

This narrow bricked street is the Via Dolorosa which is Latin for the “Way of Suffering”. Every Holy Week, this street becomes the processional route of the cross in the Old City of Jerusalem. It represents the path that Jesus would have taken, forced by the Roman soldiers, on the way to His crucifixion. Pilgrims, some carrying heavy crosses, would work their way through this cr0wded and winding route, from where the former Antonia Fortress was, to the place that tradition say was the hill of Golgotha — a distance of about 2,000 feet. Along the way, they would pause at nine (9) ‘Stations of the Cross’, each one commemorating the events of Jesus as He carried the cross based on Luke 23. Below is 4 minute music video of the Via Dolorasa.

Then, after walking the Via Dolorosa, the procession would end at what… today, is the…

Click LINK 12 – CHURCH of the HOLY SEPULCHRE

This is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. According to traditions dating back to the fourth century, it contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site of Calvary or Golgotha, and the tomb that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea which was supposedly be nearby.

Nailed to the Cross

As a prisoner, Jesus was stripped of His outer garments leaving just a loin cloth enough to cover Him. Then, He would have been roughly shoved down onto the cross. He would have winced as His bare torn back touched the rough surface of the cross. He braced himself with expectation as His arms were stretched out onto the cross beam. Strong calloused hands pinned His forearms down with his palms facing up. The executioners then simultaneously set the tips of nine inch iron spikes over the prisoners’ wrists. They then, simultaneously pounded those nails through his wrists, expertly missing the arteries with no bones broken. The pain would have been indescribable.

The executioners turned their attention to His feet. First, they tied His knees together. Then, they bent His legs a little to the left about a quarter of the way up. They rested His feet on an anchored triangle shaped wooden block. With one foot over another, they drove another long spike through, pinning them securely on the sloped block.

Just as He was bearing up to the pain of those spikes being driven into His skin, His own cross was lifted up and manhandled into position. The jarring effect brought even more excruciating pain bringing Him to tears and then blacked out.

[excerpt from His Voice from the Cross by JQuisumbing]

The Bible recorded Him giving 7 statements on the cross. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the two that best spoke of His character.

The Son of God spent almost 4 hours nailed to that cross but yet His voice reflected His heart – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

At the end of His final hour on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” [John 19:30] In Greek, it would say ‘tetelestai’. Jesus was declaring for all to know that the task He set out to do… that the reason of His birth… was completed! Our debt of SIN was paid for by His blood.

Then He died.

4 – The Resurrection

Click LINK 12a – EMPTY TOMB

You are standing under the big dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. When this part of the church was being built in the fourth century, the rock-slope that the empty tomb was under was mostly excavated. What was left was the chamber and it’s opening. Then, they built this shrine over the tomb.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead has been at the heart of the gospel message from the beginning. Paul expressed what most believe to have been a creed of the early church.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5)

The empty tomb tells us that the grave could not hold Jesus. That He bodily rose from the grave. Jesus demonstrated his mastery over death and it holds promise for believers as well; that we also will have victory over death. And it’s all because the tomb of Jesus is empty. [www.christianity.com]

For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time… (1 Corinthians 15:3-6)

Two of those, Jesus appeared on the road to…

Click LINK 13 – EMMAUS

You are just outside the Benedictine monastery in Abu Ghosh (a.k.a. St Mary of the Resurrection Abbey). Who was St Mary? In Matthew 28:1, when Mary Magdalene went to see the empty tomb, she was accompanied by another woman also named Mary. Mary was a very common name among the Jews. It had been determined though that this particular Mary was none other than Mary the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 10:3 and Luke 6:15).

This monastery is about 7 miles from Jerusalem. By the way, there are 3 other sites that is being considered as Emmaus. Whichever is the true destination, what was significant was what happened on the road to Emmaus.

Two disciples, downcast by the death of Jesus, and confused by reports that His body was missing, were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They encountered a stranger who listened to their concerns, then gave them a Scripture lesson that made their “hearts burn within them”. (Luke 24:32) That stranger was the risen Christ whom they failed to recognize. And He said to them…

“You foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to come into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the Prophets, He explained to them the things written about Himself in all the Scriptures. (24:25-27)

5 – Final Instructions

In John 14:19, Jesus told His disciples that the world no longer is going to see Him. What He meant was that He was going to return to His Father in Heaven. But first, instructions needed to be given. So, we head back north to…

Click LINK 14 – SEA OF GALILEE BEACH

You are standing on a beach at the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. Behind is the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter which is a Franciscan church located in Tabgha. Yes, we are very close to where Jesus fed 5000 men.

What was special about this place?

Look out at the water and go back in time about 2000 years. Peter and the other disciples went out fishing all night. It was almost morning and they hadn’t even caught a minnow. Suddenly, a man on the shore shouted to them to cast their nets on the right-hand side of the boat. Peter probably shrugged his shoulders but decided to do it anyway. To their surprise, the nets got heavy with fish. Then, John peered hard at the figure on the beach and his eyes went wide and he told Peter that the person was Jesus. Without hesitation, Peter jumped into the water and swam to the shore where Jesus had hot coals and fo0d waiting for them.

Now when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

 Essentially, Jesus had reinstated Peter as chief among the Apostles.

Matthew 28:16 …the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them. 

That designated mountain is our next stop.

Click LINK 15 – MT ARBEL

You are virtually walking on a hiking trail on top of Mt Arbel. Elevation is about 594 feet above sea level. That body of water is the Sea of Galilee. Just below this mount is the town of Migdol once known as Magdala (home to Mary Magdalene).

It was here that Jesus gave the Great Commission to His Apostles… and as you read this now, this is your marching orders now.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

There is still one last mountain we have to climb.

6 – Ascension

Click LINK 16 – MOUNT of OLIVES

Welcome to one of the most visited sites on the Mount of Olives, the Chapel of the Ascension. It was here that eleven men got the best news, not just for themselves, but for all of us who believe.

Acts 1:6-8 And after Jesus had said these things… What things?

Well, the disciples asked Him, “Lord, is it at this time that You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus told them, “It is not for you to know periods of time or appointed times which the Father has set by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and as far as the remotest part of the earth.”

After saying this, Jesus was lifted up while they were watching, and a cloud took Him up, out of their sight. 

And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, then behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them, and they said… “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Jesus Christ will return!

This ends our tour of Module 5a. Thank you for joining me in  Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2.

Click here to go to MODULE 6: Trailing the Acts of the Holy Spirit



Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 1

Module 5 – Google Maps Tour of the Bible by Johann Quisumbing

In module 5, we will visit the Bible sites of where Jesus Christ walked during His first 2 years of His ministry. Now, the Son of God covered a lot of ground.

1 – Start of His Ministry

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world. (Hebrews 1:1,2)

The prophets said He was coming… and it was to a prophet that He made Himself known. So, we go to a place where the Prophet John the Baptist was crying out loud saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

Click LINK 1 – JORDAN RIVER

You are virtually standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan River. On this side as well as the more modern looking site across the river is the traditional site of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist which is about 6 miles east from Jericho.

For 400 years, the Israelites have not heard from God. For 400 years, they had to contend with the conquests of the Persians, the Greeks and now… the Romans. Then, a voice of one calling out in the wilderness (Matthew 3:3) made his appearance dressed like another prophet-of-old (who was Elijah). Jews from all over came to the Jordan River to see the wonder of God’s latest messenger. But little that they knew, One among them was the Messiah himself. He looked quite ordinary, like someone you’d not even notice.

He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. Isaiah 53:2

He came from Galilee… from Nazareth, to be exact. Why was He here? To be baptized like everyone else? Well, not exactly…

Why did Jesus, the Son of God, need to be baptized?

John the Baptist asked the same question. “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?” (3:14)

Jesus responded, “…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (3:15)

Righteousness? The ‘righteousness’ He spoke of was that John had to witness what came next.

After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (3:16-17)

After that, Jesus entered the…

Click LINK 2 – JUDAEAN WILDERNESS

The Judaean Wilderness or the Judaean Desert stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El (Bethel), and is marked by natural terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. This particular canyon is about 11 miles from where Jesus was baptized. Now, I’m not saying that our Lord was here. But it does give us an idea of the environment that Jesus was in when he was tempted by the devil. You can read the entire story in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

After that time of temptation, Jesus went north. Why north? Why not straight to Jerusalem first? The answer is, He’s following God’s plan.

In earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He will make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. (Isaiah 9:1,2)

So, we go to…

2 – Galilee

Galilee was the venue for most of Jesus’ 3 year ministry. It is located in modern-day Northern Israel, which in Jesus’ day was part of Roman jurisdiction. One of three Roman provinces of ancient Palestine, it included the whole northern section of the country, the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee forming the Eastern border. Lower Galilee, with its great plain and hill country running down into the Jordan, was one of the richest and most beautiful sections of Palestine. Upper Galilee, known biblically as “Galilee of the Gentiles,” was mountainous.[www.biblestudytools.com]

But before Jesus got to work, He had a wedding to attend.

Click LINK 3 – CANA

You are standing in-front of the Wedding Cana Church located in Kafr Kanna which is an Arab town in the Galilee, part of the Northern District of Israel. This Catholic church is a favorite destination for weddings and tourists. However, is this town the actual biblical site of Cana? Many believe not. Six miles north of Kafr Kanna is a hill with ruins of a Jewish village. It is believed that this may be a good candidate for Cana.

Click -> Google Map Photos of Khirbet Qana

[By the way, there are 2 other sites being considered as well.]

In John 2, Jesus Christ, His mother and His disciples were invited to a wedding (probably of a close relation). When His mother noticed that the wine had run out, she turned to her son. He knew what she wanted. Jesus gave her a loving and gentle rebuke saying, “What business do you have with Me, woman? My hour has not yet come” (2:4). But He relented by changing water into the best wine ever made. The Gospel writer had written that this act was the first sign of Jesus’ divinity. 

Well, enough of parties, let us go on a boat ride.

3 – Sites of the Inland Sea

Click LINK 4 – SEA OF GALILEE

The Sea of Galilee, also called Lake TiberiasKinneret or Kinnereth, is a fresh water lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). [wikipedia.com] You know what made this lake special for me personally. It is the only body of water where Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:25). By the way, here’s some trivia for you, Jesus was not the only one who walked on water. Peter the fisherman also walked on water, if only for a few steps anyway before sinking (14:29,30).

One other thing needs telling. One night, Jesus and his disciples were crossing the lake in the middle of a raging storm. The disciples were afraid that the storm would swamp their boat. As they panicked, Jesus was at the stern sound asleep, like one who had no worries at all. Finally, they shook him awake pleading to be saved. With a word, He calmed the sea. His words to them was, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Since, we’re on the lake, let us go to the north end to the shoreline village of…

Click LINK 5 – BETHSAIDA

This is a 360 aerial view of where the fishing village of Bethsaida once was situated. If you look north, at the copse of trees on the waterline, archaeologists had excavated there and had found remnants of the fishing village.

Bethsaida was best known in the Bible as the birthplace of three of Jesus’ disciples: Phillip, Peter, and Andrew (John 1:44–45; 12:21). Bethsaida was the scene of several miracles. One of those miracles performed was when Jesus restored the sight of a blind man (Mark 8:22–26). 

Three miles west from Bethsaida was…

Click LINK 6 – CAPERNAUM

This is a 360 aerial view of the area where the biblical Capernaum was located. Capernaum was one of the main trading towns in the Gennesaret area. It was a vibrant and prosperous part of Galilee. Many travelers, caravans, and traders passed through Capernaum on the Via Maris. It was a main trade route connecting Damascus in the north and Egypt in the south. It was no wonder that Jesus used it as His home base during His first 2 years of His ministry.

Below you is the Kfar Nahum National Park. If you zoom in, you can just make out archaeological excavations of this ancient town. The circular structure is the museum with see-through glass floors for visitors to get a better look of the ruins.

Click LINK 6a – MUSEUM

The block structure near the museum is the Pilgrimage Church of St. Peter in Capernaum.

Click LINK 6b – PILGRIMAGE CHURCH

It is a modern Catholic church which is part of the Franciscan monastery. Archaeological excavations carried out in this place discovered another layer of residential structures, on which the first half of a first century church was built. It is believed that it was built over the house of Peter’s in-laws.

Jesus stayed mostly in the house of Peter’s in-laws. His healing of Peter’s mother-in-law’s fever was the start of a daily influx of the sickly, the lame and the possessed. One story in particular was when a group of friends tore an opening through the roof of that house and lowered their paralytic companion to the floor before Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven. But some thought this as blasphemous. Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus justified His authority by healing the man (Mark 2:1-12).

To the right of the museum (white structure) was the location of the Synagogue.

Click LINK 6c – SYNAGOGUE

This synagogue that you are currently viewing may have been built around the 4th or 5th century. Beneath the foundation of this synagogue lies another foundation made of basalt, and it was suggested that this is the foundation of a synagogue from the 1st century.

According to Luke’s Gospel, the Capernaum synagogue at the time of Jesus’ ministry was built or funded by a Roman centurion based there. He was the same centurion who’s beloved ill servant was healed by Jesus in Matthew 8.

One other event that happened here was when Jesus was teaching, He controversially healed the withered hands of a man on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13).

Click LINK 6d – CAPERNAUM DOCK

Jesus had taught much in this town. When He went to the shoreline followed by a crowd, He found Peter and Andrew cleaning their nets after a failed night of fishing. Jesus climbed onto their boat and taught the crowd the parable about the farmer sowing his seed unto 4 types of soils (Matt 13:1-9). [The lesson, of course, was that the Word of God cannot work in our lives unless we have receptive hearts.] After the lesson, Jesus convinced Peter and Andrew to push their boat out back onto the lake to go fishing. Peter was skeptic until they started to haul in a net full that almost swamped their boat. That was when Peter really believed and followed Him (Luke 5:1-11). Now, speaking of fishing…

A Fish of a Tale

Have you heard a fishing yarn* lately? Well, I think some fishermen would probably love this biblical story in Matthew 17:24-27, except that this was no yarn.

Some tax collectors came to Peter one day inquiring if Jesus ever paid the two-drachma tax. He told them yes. When Peter went to ask Him about it, Jesus asked him first, “whom do the kings of the earth collect poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” After Peter gave his answer, Jesus rightly said that He and him should pay their taxes anyway. How? He instructed Peter to go fishing and in the first catch he got, just inside the fish’s mouth he found four-drachma coins. 

[* Yarn – a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible.]

Speaking of tax collectors, it was also here in Capernaum that Jesus called Levi the tax collector to leave his counting table and follow Him. Levi was renamed Matthew and became one of the chosen Twelve. He also wrote one of the 4 Gospels of the New Testament.

A little over a mile, west from Capernaum is a mountain top where Jesus gave His…

Click LINK 7 – SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Again, you are looking at a 360 aerial view 0f what tradition claim to be the site of where Jesus gave His sermon. Technically, this is not really a mountain but a large hill known as Karn Hattin. Below is the Church of the Beatitudes.

The Sermon (Matthew 5-7)

So, one day while He was traveling near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus decided to speak to His disciples about what it means to follow Him. Jesus went up on a mountainside (5:1) and gathered His core disciples around Him. The rest of the crowd found places along the side of the hill and at the level place near the bottom in order to hear what Jesus taught His closest followers.

The Message

The Sermon on the Mount is by far Jesus’ longest explanation of what it looks like to live as His follower and to serve as a member of God’s Kingdom. In many ways, Jesus’ sermon represent, even today, the major ideals of a true God-centered life.

For example, Jesus taught about subjects such as prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling the religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

In the end, Jesus made it clear that His followers should live in a noticeably different way than other people because His followers should hold to a much higher standard of conduct — the standard of the love and selflessness of Jesus Himself.

[www.learnreligions.com]

By the way, in this same neighborhood, to my surprise, is a place that I thought was located south-southeast from Bethsaida. But according to tradition, it was located a lot closer to where Jesus gave His sermon. What site was that? I’m speaking of the event of the…

Click LINK 8 – FEEDING OF 5000

Welcome to the Tabgha Church of the Loaves and Fish. Neat name for a church, isn’t it? It was named after the biblical reference of the boy who had a lunch basket of 5 loaves and 2 fish.

In Mark 6, John the Baptist was just executed by Herod Antipas. When Jesus heard, He withdrew in a boat to a secluded place. People followed Him on the land. When He came ashore and saw all the people who followed Him, His compassion only saw sheep without a shepherd (6:34). When the disciples wanted to send the multitudes away to the nearby villages for food, Jesus saw a lesson opportunity for them on how God provides BIG time. A lesson that Jesus used to drum into them repeatedly.

[Note: Scripture said ‘5000 men’ were fed, but if you add women and children in the mix, there may have been over 10,000 that were fed.]

After the mass feeding, Jesus had His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side… to Bethsaida (6:45). He went up to what I call…

Click LINK 9 – PRAYER HILL

You are standing on Ein Nur Observation which is the closest hill to the Tabgha Church. This hill is the logical site where Jesus went to pray and to get a high vantage view of His disciples straining at the oars—for the wind was against them (6:48). Jesus walked on water to give them a hand.


Now, Jesus’ ministry was not limited around the Sea of Galilee. Sometimes, He went home.

4 – Western part of Galilee

Click LINK 10 – NAZARETH

Set on the outskirts of old Nazareth, the Nazareth Village is built on ancient agricultural land that boasts the area’s last remaining first-century wine press. The original farm has been restored with its ancient wine press, terraces, irrigation system and stone quarry, and exact replicas of first-century houses, a synagogue, a watchtower, mikveh and olive presses have been carefully constructed using the original building methods and materials.

Click LINK 10a – PHOTOS OF VILLAGE MUSEUM

At Nazareth Village, bible scenes are brought to life by “villagers” who populate the farm and houses, living and working with the same type of clothing, pottery, tools and methods that Mary and Jesus would have used. Gifted and knowledgeable guides lead visitors through a living representation of the parables of Jesus within their original context before offering the opportunity to seal the experience with an authentic biblical meal.

Click LINK 10b – MT PRECIPICE

You are standing on the edge of a cliff on Mount Precipice located just outside the southern edge of Nazareth. What are we doing up here? It may be that Jesus may have climbed up and down these cliffs once upon a time. He did have a practice of going up to high places like this to pray in solitude. We just don’t know, but what we do know was that He was almost thrown off this precipice.

Luke 4:16-30

One day, Jesus and His disciple came home to Nazareth. As was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and He read a famous Messianic passage from the Prophet Isaiah. After that, Jesus rocked the very foundation of that synagogue when He boldly declared that what was just read had been fulfilled. Everyone there knew what was implied. It was an incredible thought. Is Jesus the Messiah? At first, the people spoke well of Him, but surprise and admiration soon gave place to a spirit of unbelief. Was he not a local boy? …a rather insignificant one being just a son of a carpenter? How had he gained such eloquence, such learning and poise? However, when, as he continued speaking, he pointed to their disbelief and compared it to stories of earlier biblical prophets, their puzzlement turned to anger. In the end, they vainly sought to throw him from a cliff near the town. But He passed through their midst and went on His way.

Six miles southeast from Nazareth is the biblical site of…

Click LINK 11 – NAIN

Nain was a fortified town built on a hill. From our high vantage point, Nain was located at the modern day Arab village of Nin just ahead.

It was there, according to Luke 7:11–17, Jesus raised a young man from death and reunited him with his weeping mother. According to Luke’s account, this young man was the only son of an unnamed widow. When Jesus saw the dead son being carried out and the mourning widow, he felt compassion for her. He walked towards the bier or stretcher, touched it, stopped the funeral procession and told the man: “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The man came alive, sat up, and began to speak. The people who were standing around were all struck by the event, seen as a sign that ‘a great prophet’ had arisen among them, and the report of it spread widely across Judea and the surrounding region.  [www.wikipedia.com]

Nearby is another mountain… a very important high-place… for this was where Peter, James and John were allowed a vision of who Jesus really WAS, IS & IS TO COME.

Click LINK 12 – MT TABOR

You are virtually standing before Church of the Transfiguration which is a Franciscan church located on Mount Tabor some 6 miles east from Nazareth. 

The Transfiguration was the glorification of the human body of Jesus. On this occasion His body underwent a change in form, a metamorphosis, so that it shone as brightly as the sun. At the time of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ earthly ministry was coming to a close. He had acknowledged that He was the Messiah and predicted His death and resurrection. Now He was to reveal, to a select few, His divine glory. [Don Stewart – http://www.blueletterbible.org]


Jewish villages and enclaves were not the only places that Jesus made His appearances.

5 – Gentile Country*

[* A Gentile is a person who was not Jewish]

Click LINK 13 – CAESAREA PHILIPPI

You’re standing on the ruin courtyards of what was once the Sanctuary of Faunus (Pan). It was a Roman pagan worship center of the Roman city of Caesarea Philippi which was about 26 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

It was in this area that Jesus asked the question that needed to be asked of His disciples. It was the question of, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ Only Peter got it right with the answer that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:13). Then Jesus declared that upon this rock… that is, the FAITH expressed by Peter (as well as all believers)… He shall build His church (16:18).

Click LINK 14 – TYRE

These are the ruins of Tyre which was an ancient Phoenician city in modern-day Lebanon. It was in this vicinity, that Jesus brought His disciples for a ‘weekend get-away’. But Jesus’ healing reputation had preceded Him even here deep in Gentile country.

Upon entering a house of an acquaintance, He was noticed by a woman of Greek descent* who had a daughter inflicted by a demon. She loudly pleaded for His help but Jesus said nothing until His disciples urged that she be sent away. Then, I believe, Jesus saw a teaching opportunity for His disciples; a lesson of grace and relentless faith. So, Jesus and her had an exchange of what can only be described as banter.** He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she countered with an undeniable and logical reply that even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. I can just imagine Jesus with a pleased expression on His face when He told her that her faith was great. She went home to find her child free of possession.

[* Syrophoenician woman; ** banter: playful and friendly exchange of teasing remarks.]

Again He left the region of Tyre and came through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, within the region of Decapolis. (Mark 7:31)

The Decapolis in Greek translate into the Ten Hellenistic cities established during the post days of Alexander the Great. They were also known as the Free cities, that is, independently governed outside Roman rule. And one of those cities was located on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was called…

Click LINK 15 – HIPPOS

As you can see, Hippos was a city built on a high hill overlooking the inland sea. On that shore, Jesus freed a gentile who was tormented by a legion of demons (Luke 8:28-30). Unfortunately for the residences of Hippos, there was a shortage of pork when the demons that were in the man went into a herd of pigs that went crazy and drowned in the lake (8:33). The man freed from the demons became a missionary for Jesus to Hippos and the surrounding region (8:38,39). It was probably because of his testimony that when Jesus returned, that people from throughout this region brought their sick and impaired to Him. For 3 days, He ministered and taught them. Just like the feeding of the 5000, He fed 4000 men in this location (Matthew 15:29-38).

One other place, we must visit is not exactly Gentile. However, to the Jews, it was worse than worse than being Gentile. Our next stop is to…

Click LINK 16 – SYCHAR

You are virtually inside an Eastern Orthodox church and monastery, in the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. The well of Jacob can be viewed in a chamber under this chapel. Jacob dug this well back when this town was once called Shechem. During Jesus’ time, it was the Samaritan village of Sychar.

In John 4, Jesus and His disciples were on their way back to Galilee. Instead of going back via their traditional route, Jesus surprised the disciples by leading them through Samaritan country which to a Jew was somewhat taboo. Why?

Here’s a quick background. There was great animosity between Jews and Samaritans. You see, the Jews considered the Samaritans as ‘half-breeds’; that is, half Israelites, half Assyrian exiled rejects (2 Kings 17). Back when Solomon’s Temple was rebuilt by the returned Judean exiles, the Samaritans were rejected as true Israelites. So, they went their own way. The Jews took great pains to avoid their territory.

Jesus arrived just outside Sychar where Jacob’s well was. While the disciples went to find food, a Samaritan woman came to draw water. She was there to quench her thirst but instead got an everlasting lesson on ‘Living Water’. She became a believer and her testimony convinces an entire town to believe, too. [4:15-42]

For over two years, Jesus focused His ministry in the north country. For Him to complete the work for the salvation of us all, He had to take…

6 – The road to Jerusalem

His first stop was…

Click LINK 17 – JERICHO

You are facing what is called the Tree of Zacchaeus which is located at the Al-Jummezeh Square in the City Center of Jericho. Is this the remains of the tree where a short tax-collector by the name of Zacchaeus climbed to get a glimpse of the Messiah? Well, this particular sycamore tree is more than 2000 years old. Even if it wasn’t, it was alive here in Jericho when Jesus walked the streets.

Imagine, if you will, Jesus walking the streets of Jericho, surrounded by a crowd. As He was walking under a tree, He looked up to find a rich man straddling precariously on a big branch. With a chuckle, He called him by name and told him that He was dining at his house. During the meal, there were critics that questioned Jesus’ wisdom of being a guest of a sinner. Well, Zacchaeus surprised them by testifying out loud that he was giving half his possessions to the poor and making it right for those he cheated. Then Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house… For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9,10)


Click LINK 19 – JERICHO ROAD to JERUSALEM

This is Highway 1. This goes from Jericho to Jerusalem and it probably follows the ancient caravan road that Jesus used. And it is on this road that we…

This ends our tour of Module 5. Thank you for joining me in  Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 1.

Click here to go to MODULE 5a: Walking the footsteps of Jesus – Part 2



SIMON THE LEPER part 15

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

In the morning, Simon came out of his tent feeling invigorated. Lazarus wanted to pull up stakes and make the return trip to Bethany today. But Simon was thinking about staying.

“Well, father, when we get home, we have to tell as many people that we found the Messiah… and show them how you were healed… and then…”

“No, I will not.”

“What! What are you saying, father? People must be told.”

“I agree, but it will not come from me.”

“Why, father?”

“Because the master asked me,” Simon said solemnly. “His words to me last night were ‘Tell not anyone about this. Go, instead to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering as is according to the law passed down by Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. It is most important that this will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.’ “

“Can we not even tell the girls?”

“Of course, we can.”

“Good. I cannot wait to see Mary’s face when you get home.”

Then, they were approached by two women carrying a large bundle. One of them said, “The master sends his regrets that he was not here to see you off. He and the disciples left before dawn. He asked us to bring you more supplies for your trip back to Bethany.”

Simon wanted to say that he was staying, but the other woman added, “The master also said that he knows of your desire to stay and follow him. But he instructs that you return home and await for him.”

Three days later, he was entering the village of Bethany to the surprise of everyone who set their eyes on him for they thought him to be long dead. When he reached his house, a crowd of curious neighbors had gathered. Just as he was getting off his donkey, he heard a gleeful sound and running feet.

“Abba! Oh Abba!”

It was Mary who was all grown up. They embraced for a long time. Mary took his face and looked closely at him.

“Are you healed, Abba?”

“Yes, Mary, I am healed…”, then a thought occured to him, “…and I am saved.”

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 14

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Then, the Nazarene turned his attention to Simon.

Simon took two steps forward and then like he realized who he was facing threw himself on the ground and asked, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

“I am willing; be cleansed.”

Then the Nazarene started to reach down and was actually going to touch him. The crowd simultaneously gasped and Simon flinched back. But the Nazarene was quicker. Before Simon could back away, his right hand was on his back, his left was gently grasping his arm and helping him up.

Simon felt a warm sensation throughout his body. Then the first thing he noticed was that he had feelings in his feet. He actually could feel the grass under his toes. Even his finger tips were tingling. He looked at his arms to find normal skin color rather than the expected sickly white flakes and bleeding sores.

“Look at his face!” exclaimed an awed voice from the crowd.

Simon hesitated for just a moment, then lifted trembling hands to his face. What his probing fingers revealed was a whole nose restored and no sign of sores.

Then, the valley was filled with celebratory singing and dancing. Lazarus, who had witnessed everything from among the crowd, went directly to his father and embrace him. They both wept.

“Come, follow me,” said the Nazarene.

Simon, still hugging his son, followed the rabbi to a nomad tent under the trees.

“Please, sit down,” the rabbi gestured to a matt on the ground. He went over to a low table and poured water into three clay bowls. He served the two bowls first to them, took the third bowl and joined them on the matt. “Drink first, then we talk.”

A woman brought in a large plate of flat breads, fruits, some meats and placed it in the middle of them. After they ate, the rabbi called for the men that were just outside the tent. Twelve men entered including the big man called Peter.

“Andrew, please take a couple of men and follow this young man to their camp and bring everything back here.”

“Yes, master.”

When they left, the rabbi gestured for the big man and two others to sit down with them while the others sat in other parts of the tent.

“Lord, what is your name? I only know of you as the Nazarene.”

“I am Jesus.”

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 13

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

Suddenly, Simon was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

The hill was a little steeper, so Simon had to slow down his descent. Lazarus was following a short distance behind. He looks up and saw that the Nazarene was already in the valley approaching the creek, working his way through the crowd. He was approaching the edge of the crowd on his side of the valley. He paused to figure out where to go. Should he skirt the edge of the gathered mass of people? It looks like the only way to get to him was through all those people. Simon hesitated.

“Father, what is going on?” His son asked as he gasped for air.

“I have to see him, Lazarus.”

Lazarus looked at him then he looked at the crowd.

“Father… No! Those people will kill you! You do not have to see you him today.”

Simon looked at him then said, “Yes, I do.”

Simon started to walk towards the crowd who were still about thirty feet away. Lazarus, not able to block or physically detain him, followed from behind.

When he was about ten feet from the crowd, Simon started to shout out to them. “Unclean! Unclean! Make way! Unclean!” At first, no one turned around, but then a young woman heard his shout. She turned around and screamed out loud. Apparently, Simon’s veil was uncovered and all the woman saw was a leprous face with no nose. Her scream came to the attention of other women and they too joined in the screaming. When people saw a leper walking purposely towards them, they scrambled out of his way. Simon managed to successfully penetrate through the crowd, so he thought he was going to make it. But then their initial surprise and panic quickly turned into anger.

Simon had to slow down because the angry shouting crowd was not moving aside as much. Then, they started to pelt him with stones. Some of the bolder ones started to come at him with long sticks. One of them hit him in the back of the head and Simon collapsed on his knees. Then they started to pound on him, hitting him on his back and his head.

Simon was dazed and his head was ringing. At one time, he thought his son was calling for him but his voice sounded so distant. Then, the pounding stopped and he heard like a long roaring sound. When he opened his eyes, the first thing he saw were beefy legs. He looked up in wonder to find what he thought was a giant of a man swinging his staff in a wide circle driving the angry attackers back. Then, the angry voices quieted down.

He slowly and painfully stood up amazed as he watched the Nazarene calmly walking over to the giant and placed his hand on his arm. He looked up at him half-scoldingly and said, “Peter…” He didn’t have to finish the sentence. The big man returned a half grin and a shrug. He smiled shaking his head and then turned his attention to Simon.

To be continued…

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Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 12

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

The Nazarene communicated to every sort of person. To the stingy and the attention seekers, he says to offer alms for the needy and to do it in private, so that only the Father, who sees everything, will reward them. He talked about the hypocrisy in how people pray and fast, then he would show them how. To those who work so hard to gain wealth and to toil even harder to keep it, he revealed unapologetically that it was temporary and even quite futile compared to true and everlasting treasures.

He told them of not judging others but looking deep in oneself instead. Finally, he summed up all that he spoke about with the golden rule – “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12 NLT]

Simon thought he ended his sermon there, for the Nazarene paused for such a long time. But then he spoke of entering God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate and then of being wary of false prophets by deeply checking their fruit. Somehow, the delivery was a little different and Simon wondered if the narrow gate had something to do with him.

And sure enough, the Nazarene spoke of himself and said something that may be construed as blasphemous.

“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” [Matthew 7:21-27 NLT]

Then, the Nazarene stood up indicating he was done. The people started to clap and call out to him.

For Simon, the words of the Nazarene was heaven in itself. He had almost forgotten that he was stricken with a flesh eating disease that will sooner or later take his life. He so wanted to live not because he was afraid. But because he wanted to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven. He watched the Nazarene work his way down the hill through the crowd. It looked like he was making his way to a copse of low lying trees on his side of the stream. It was then he noticed some tents among the trees. A thought occurred to him.

Suddenly, he was up and rushing down the hill with his son asking a little surprisingly on where he was going.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 11

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

You are the salt of the earth,” the Nazarene said. “But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.” [Matthew 5:13-17 NLT]

Simon’s ears perked up when hearing about the law of Moses.

“No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” Simon almost wanted to shout out, ‘how?’.

“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” [Matthew 5:18-19 NLT]

Then he said something that almost stopped his heart.

“But I warn you,” the Nazarene paused. “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” [Matthew 5:20 NLT]

Simon looked out at the crowd to gauge their reaction. From what he could see, a tiny number at the edge of the crowd reacted in silent protest. Clearly, there were probably some members of the ruling class in there.

To emphasize his outright blatant statement, he began offering a long series of achievable challenges on how to divinely deal with anger, adultery, and divorces. He spoke of on how holy vows are in the eyes of the Lord. He even tackled a subject that every Jew would find hard to swallow, loving their enemies and of revenge.

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.

SIMON THE LEPER part 10

A Bible Short Story by Johann Quisumbing

The next day, they reached the southern end of the sea of Galilee. Because there were many boats available for hire, many of the people decided to make their way to Capernaum by the sea. However, because Simon is a leper, no boats would take them. Instead, they forded the Jordan River and continued on by land. This added another day and a half to the journey. They found themselves north of the village of Gennesaret just a few miles from the city of Capernaum. Lazarus spoke to a few people from a group of villagers heading north. He found out that they were heading to a meeting place, to listen to a very charismatic rabbi in the hillsides near the city. So, they followed those people from a discrete distance.

The sun was just rising to its zenith, when the group turned off the road to join an even larger group that came from the city. From what Simon could see, the people were gathering in a dale between three hills. He knew that the people would become very violent if they found a leper in their midst. So, he and his son, instead found a goat’s trail that went up the slope of the hill on their left. When they climbed about halfway, Simon saw that they had a good vantage point to overlook the whole valley. The valley was actually a small hollow, a shallow basin with a winding stream down its middle. Except for a copse of trees, the valley floor up to the foot of the hills were blanketed with a dull yellowish brown grass.

Simon and Lazarus dismounted and tied their animals to a short stunted tree. As Lazarus set up camp, Simon watched the people below. From what he can see, there must’ve been about two thousand people. At first, he thought that the people were just idly standing on both sides of the stream. Then, he realized that they were all looking up toward the hill that was opposite from where they were. Simon followed the direction of their gaze up the hill to an outcrop of rocks sticking out of the yellowish grass. Some of the people started to climb the hill and gathered around the outcrop. Then, a group of men, about twelve of them, were coaxing people to sit on the grass. At the top of the outcrop, a man appeared. Simon knew he must be the Nazarene, but whether he was the miracle worker, he saw no sign of any miracles.

The Nazarene started to look at the people. His head turned to scan those who sat nearby, then to the people in the valley. Then, Simon saw that the Nazarene was looking at his direction for the longest time, or at least, he thought. His followers finally got the majority of the people seated. The Nazarene himself sat down on a rock and began to teach. For Simon, he was not sure what to expect. Then when the Nazarene spoke, he was surprised that his voice carried across quite clearly.

He gave nine proverb-like proclamations starting with the word, “Blessed.” The first set of blessings were addressed to an unusual group of unfortunates; the lowly, the mourners, the meek and those desperate for righteousness. Then, he realized that he himself is one of those unfortunates. Is the Nazarene saying that the kingdom of heaven is his for the taking? Simon was really listening to every word uttered.

The other set of blessings were addressed to the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and then a twice mention to the persecuted. When he ended that the latter was to rejoice and be glad, because great is their reward in heaven, Simon was flabbergasted.

“Lazarus!” Simon called out.

His son walked over from setting up the camp. “Have I missed anything? What is all that noise coming from the valley?”

“Oh that. The Nazarene instructed the people to discuss among themselves about a marvelous declaration that he just spoke about.”

Simon retold his son about the Nazarene’s ‘blessing’ dissertation.

“I tell you my son, never have I heard any man offer such hope to the hopeless. And he speaks with such authority,” Simon said amazed. Lazarus was about to talk… “Wait! He is speaking again.”

To be continued…

PREV


Author’s note:
Though my story is basically fiction, the character of Simon the Leper is an actual Bible personality who actually lived in Bethany, a village in Judaea on the southeastern slope of the Mount of Olives. He is only mentioned in two verses in the Gospels according to Matthew and Mark. There is no other reference of him in the Bible. So, I asked myself, ‘what was his story? How did he catch leprosy? And how was he cured?’ There are many such characters in the Bible, many of them had no names at all, but yet there are worthy stories to tell about them. With the help of some sanctified imagination and some artistic license, I felt their stories should be told especially of their faithful encounters with Jesus Christ.