Author and pastor Tony Evans says a trip to Israel can strengthen your faith by bringing the Bible to life – thus allowing you to see the truth of Scripture "jump off the page."
Trips to Israel, though, are expensive – not to mention time-consuming.
That's one reason Evans and his family brought cameras with them during their last trip to Israel, which was part of an expedition with 700 people through his Urban Alternative ministry.
The result is Journey with Jesus, a film that will be in theaters for three nights – Nov. 15-17 – and follows Evans and his family as they walk the sites where Jesus walked. The film is part-inspiring, part-educational and part-evangelistic.
"We wanted people to share the experience of the truth, and not merely the knowledge of the truth," Evans, the senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, told Christian Headlines.
It was filmed before his wife, Louis, died in 2019 following a battle with cancer. She is in the film, as are Evans' daughters, Chrystal Evans Hurst and Priscilla Shirer.
In the film, Evans and his family visit multiple sites where Jesus lived and walked – from Bethlehem to the empty tomb in Jerusalem. The movie even shows Evans preaching from the Sea of Galilee.
"That was invigorating. Preaching on the same site where you can see it and feel it and having the people feeling it with you – it created a moment," Evans said. "People broke out in song, in celebration and were engaged because we were there. It was surreal to be in the place, talking from the passage where Jesus would have been speaking – in the exact environment. That turned into a spiritual moment for the group and for myself."
One of Shirer's favorite spots, she said, was the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. The film captures the moment they visited the site.
"The Garden Tomb area is where it is believed Jesus' body was laid, and then of course, where He was resurrected. And walking into that whole area – there's a holiness and a sacredness to it," Shirer told Christian Headlines. "But then going into the tomb and seeing that there is nothing to see. I've never been so glad to see 'nothing' in my entire life. But just that confirmation that He is not here. He is alive. I'm so grateful for, again, the cementing of that reality of our faith."
Some of Evans' favorite locations, he said, were Nazareth and Magdala.
"They re-enact the first century in Nazareth. So you actually see first-century living," he said. "You learn first-century lessons. So to have that experience exposed through an enactment of people living and farming and doing things as it would have been done in the first century was intriguing."
In Magdala, he said, archaeologists "have unearthed the synagogue where Jesus Christ would have taught."
"To have the [tour] leader show us some of the stones that a rabbi would have been teaching from gave a visual site to a location where people would be gathered to hear [Jesus] or where His enemies would be gathered to rebuke Him," Evans said. "And so it gave a visual to that environment."
Shirer said the trip strengthened her faith.
"Visiting those sites actually brings the Bible to life in a way that is unique," she said. "It just kind of adds a three-dimensional perspective to, particularly, the Gospels. … It really does add dimension and context to your view of Scripture, your reading of Scripture, and enables you to have an experience with it that otherwise might just be words on a page. It deepens your friendship and appreciation for Jesus' life."
Evans said he hopes moviegoers "leave with a new fire about their faith."
"I want people to be set aflame for their Christian witness coming out of the theater because they can say, 'This is real, not only because I believe it in the Bible, but because I've experienced it through this film,'" he said.
Photo courtesy: ©Fathom
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.