Within 15 minutes, I was doubled over, leaning on a rail, heaving, and covered with sweat.
- A new, Osprey 40 lb. backpack with a mesh back for moisture-wicking, tight shoulder support, and a comfortable hip belt for lower back support to carry my belongings
- Two carbon-based Black Diamond 120-140cm hiking poles
- Oboz lightweight, waterproof, mid-height trail boots with form-fitting insoles
- A gallon of water treated with electrolytes, held in a container in my backpack and fed through a tube positioned near my mouth for easy access
- Nutrient-dense Power Bars with the right macro mix to snack on every hour
- Specialty men’s Merino wool moisture-wicking hiking socks, moisture-wicking hiking underwear, moisture-wicking hiking pants, and, you guessed it, a moisture-wicking hiking shirt
In short, I had the best hiking equipment I could afford.
And I was stoked for four days of glorious hiking ahead of me.
The date: January 2019.
The goal: to hike “The Jesus Trail” along with two friends – a 40-mile walk beginning at Jesus’ childhood home, Nazareth, to Capernaum, the base of operations for Jesus’ ministry on the north side of the Sea of Galilee.
The only problem was in order to leave Nazareth we had to walk up the famous “405 steps” leading out of town.
In case you missed that.
That’s 405 steps.
A step is roughly 2.5 feet up.
405 steps x 2.5 feet = a 1012-foot incline.
That’s just a ridiculous incline.
Within 15 minutes, I was drenched with sweat and needed a break.
I had prepared for this hike by walking 5-10 miles a day, every other day, for eight weeks leading up to this trip. I had the right equipment to make it as easy as possible. And I still couldn’t make it to the edge of Jesus’ village without stopping for a breather.
A Startling Realization
The Gospel of Mark begins with a colossal understatement:
“As Jesus walked…” – Mark 1:16
Until that hike in 2019, I didn’t realize HOW MUCH Jesus walked.
I came home from that trip and re-read the gospels with an idea: I wonder if I could use Google Maps and my hiking apps to track how much Jesus actually walked.
Here’s what I found.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:21,
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Chorazin and Bethsaida were the two towns closest to Capernaum.
The point Jesus was making was he spent so much time walking to those towns and speaking in their synagogues and performing miracles that he was shocked people didn’t believe in him there.
If he had spent half as much time walking to the pagan cities on the coast – Tyre and Sidon – and performed miracles there, they would have believed in him immediately.
Anyway, notice this…
The synagogue in Chorazin was located 5.7 miles away, just north of Capernaum. It takes 2 hours and 4 minutes to walk there.
Bethsaida is located 6 miles east of Capernaum, and it takes 1 hour 59 minutes to walk there.
According to Matthew 11:21, we should assume that Jesus walked to these two towns a lot.
Two hours there.
Two hours back.
It makes me wonder when the last time was that I got up on a Thursday and walked 2 hours to go to the grocery?
This kind of walking – unless it’s going out on a hike in nature – seems so foreign to me.
Here’s another example.
In Matthew 13:35 we’re told that Jesus was a builder (Greek: tekton). Picture a cigar smoking, cussing, hard-hat wearing construction foreman swinging a hammer and barking orders to his crew, and that’s not far from the job Jesus had (minus the cussing and the cigar smoking).
Historians tell us that in order for a builder (tekton) to find work, Jesus and his dad would have had to travel to construction sites around Galilee. Nazareth was so small it just didn’t have the work available to make a living.
During Jesus’ youth the only booming city nearby continually hiring tektons was a Greek city called Sepphoris, north of Nazareth.
To get to Sepphoris, Jesus would have had to carry his tools up those “impossible” 405 steps out of Nazareth, and then walk 5.8 miles for ANOTHER TWO HOURS north to Sepphoris.
Assuming Jesus worked in Sepphoris, that means he walked two hours each way, to and from work, four hours total, every day, six days a week.
Here’s another example.
Matthew 16:13 matter-of-factly tells us,
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi…”
I used to read that and not even think about the distance.
The walk from Capernaum to Caesarea Philippi is 32.4 miles and takes 10 hours and 57 minutes of walking!
That’s 21 hours of walking, roundtrip!
And Jesus headed there like it was no big deal.
Tyre and Sidon
Here’s one final example of note:
Matthew 15:21 again, without really giving us an idea of the distance involved, says that…
“…leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to Tyre and Sidon.”
Do you know how far the cities of Tyre and Sidon (in modern day Lebanon) are from Capernaum?
It takes 20 non-stop hours, each way, through rugged mountainous terrain, to walk from Capernaum to Sidon.
When we flip through the pages of the gospels, we’re told repeatedly that Jesus walked here. Then he walked there. Then he got into a boat and traveled there. Then walked back over there.
Here’s the thing: Jesus didn’t have to walk like this.
It was customary for rabbis of his day to sit in one place and let their students come to them.
Jesus did the exact opposite.
In the span of 3 years, Jesus walked more miles than a committed, healthy, exercising 21st century individual would walk in a lifetime.
The simple question is, “Why did he do that?”
We’ll explore that next week.
If you found some value in this essay, and if you’re in the financial position to do so, consider buying me a coffee.