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Published: January 5th 2018
“Today is special. Perhaps THE day of my life. I walked through Eden. Baptized myself in the River Jordan. Felt myself get physically sick to my stomach when I held the thorns that crowned Christ. And now I am sitting here on a still evening in Tabgha looking past a cross towards the lapping blue waters of the Galilee. I want nothing more. My heart slowed and sung out with joy today. I felt God so nearly and got a faint glimpse at what it might have been like before man had its earthly fall.”
These were some of the words I wrote in my journal this day. What brought on such strong feelings? Well, I’ll tell you. I hadn’t planned on seeking out the River Jordan during my pilgrimage. The place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus isn’t anywhere near here and I had read that it wasn’t totally accessible. However, the more I looked at my map of the Sea of Galilee the more I began to believe it was possible to walk there from Tabgha. I estimated it would take about 1 ½ to 2 hours to reach, stocked up on water, and headed off down the
Besides the River Jordan the only other sight I was anxious to see this day was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Twelve of Apostles. Its colorful red domes and white washed walls act as an alluring beacon to all passersby. There wasn’t anybody there this morning though, apart from some workmen clearing the property. I glanced up in tree to see a beautiful male peacock perched on a branch. In fact, there were numerous peacocks all throughout the grounds. The church itself was locked, but I found a long table under a grape arbor to relax and enjoy the scenery.
After leaving was when my walk really began to rev up into the mystical. The brick paved path gave way to a humbler dirt path. It wound through a kind of national park nature reserve. It was part the Kinneret Trail. The sun came out and the whole place hummed with life. I got a sense of God’s abundance. There were so many creatures about: hyraxes, donkeys, birds, and these numerous colorful caterpillars were everywhere yet I managed not to step on a single one. It was like they were all joyfully sharing my walk
Quite to my fortune I had the whole area to myself. Not a soul in sight. The trees, the rocks, the bright yellow flowers, the shoreline all popped with a deep significance. There was just a feeling in the air and an electricity of spirit. Unfortunately, words fail me as there is no way I can do justice to the description. It was an experience.
Even though I had been walking for about ninety minutes, I kept going not wanting to stop short of my quest to reach the River Jordan and dip my hands into its flowing waters. The path turned back towards the highway and I walked some more until sure enough I came across a bridge. I practically ran towards it and sure enough rushing beneath it was the Jordan. Touchdown!
There was not a good spot to get down to the river at that location so I crossed the bridge and wandered into a park area. Walking along I passed long since abandoned mechanical army bridges the Israeli Army had used to cross the river when they seized the area from Syria. I guess I had come so far that I
was technically in the Golan Heights.
After a bit of hunting and pecking I finally found an overgrown path that I was sure would take me down to the river’s edge. Upon arrival I was amazed at how much the river looked like the scene of Christ’s baptism I had had in my head since childhood Sunday school classes. Yes, there was the sound of cars faintly in the distance, but the color of the water and the river reeds were all there.
There was only one thing to do. I crouched down low, said a prayer of renewal, and scooped my hands down into the water. Yes, a self-rebaptism was about to take place. I don’t know if that is even thing, but it certainly felt good and I was soaked from head to chest by the time I was finished. Triumphant and with a sense of peace I turned around to start my return journey back to Tabgha.
Unfortunately, my legs had already been walking for two hours just to reach my goal and the way back would put another two hours on my now protesting legs. With nothing else to do I took it
one step at a time and pushed on. Back on the path I noticed a branch of thorns from the plant they used to make Christ’s crown of thorns. Just touching it sent waves of revulsion through me as I thought of his captors jamming it on his sweaty beaten head. I quickly dropped it and continued on.
Along the way I noticed a small boat in the distance of the lake haze with two fishermen calmly waiting for their next catch. The vision of Peter and his brothers performing the same activity two thousand years ago immediately popped into my head. Once again for me on this trip time condensed.
I stopped by the Greek Orthodox again just to check if this time it would be open. To my luck it was. Inside there was a pilgrim deep in prayer. I wandered around. The interior was ornate and colorful. And there was this ethereal chanting. I could not see them, but somewhere nearby the monks were singing. Everything about this day just clicked into place. I will close with a couple of last lines from my journal again.
“This day was translucent and shining
in vibrant color. I felt the Jordan’s waters wash over me and I felt full of life. God kept amazing me with one unbelievable, effervescent moment after the next. This was the day of my life. Just goes to show you never know when or what the Lord has in store for you.”
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