By Kathleen Nichols
On an early April morning, I quietly slid one of the paddleboards at Magdala onto the glassy surface of the Sea of Galilee for a sunrise prayer over the water. After the sun rose into white heat above the Golan Heights, I turned back toward the Magdala shoreline, using Mt. Arbel as my sure landmark home. The trails up the cliff face were mostly invisible from the distance, but I strained my eyes to see if I could make out hikers scaling the spring-time pathways to the top.
Rising almost 1,300 feet above the Sea of Galilee, Arbel is a monumental limestone and dolomite rock cliff that can be seen from a great distance. In the spring, it is dressed in a myriad of flowers, with new blooms appearing each week, providing a home for a diversity of birds, cliff-dwelling animals, wild boar, and deer.
Trekking in the shadow of Mt. Nitai on the trails past the impressive Arbel cave fortress and ancient synagogues, or while ‘walking on water’ with a paddle board over the waves of the Sea of Galilee toward the cliff, often bring a verse from the Song of Songs to mind:
Draw me in your footsteps, let us run! (Song of Songs 1:4)
The possibility of walking in Jesus’ footsteps enhances the natural beauty of Galilee for most pilgrims. There is nearly universal excitement imagining Jesus climbing these same trails or sailing on this lake. Visitors question if the attraction that drew the first apostles to follow the Lord is the same as their own inner fascination with the landscape around them which witnessed the history of salvation firsthand.
The apostle John, who met Jesus on this lake and perhaps walked with him on the Arbel paths, explains Christ’s universal appeal. Raised up on the cross, Jesus overcome death through his resurrection, giving life to us all.
Everyone – past, present, future – is drawn into the dynamism of eternal life won from the cross. My prayer that April morning became a petition to be drawn to love like Jesus did, to be raised above earthly things, to walk the path of self-giving like the Lord had done. Following his footsteps, my hope is that others, attracted by Christ’s saving mercy, will be drawn to him and acclaim together, ‘let us run!’