Biblical Exposition

Did Jesus Ever Run?

by Steve Ray on May 17, 2016

IMG_6602I posted this awhile ago, but thought it fun to post again. Though my running days are over (Doctors have told me I ran to much and my knees are shot), I still do a lot of fast walking and even have a bike in Jerusalem. But it is good to remember the days I felt like an antelope.

I’ve run a lot around Israel in the last year — along the shore of Galilee, from Nazareth to Sepphoris and back (click hyperlink to see on YouTube video), around the walls of the Old City and then back through the Stations of the Cross, from Jerusalem to Bethany and much more — I love it! But while huffing a puffing along I’ve often wondered if Jesus ever ran. I concluded YES and NO.

Primarily I run to to do the right thing and to stay healthy, and secondarily because I love it — especially the ability to see things up close and to experience places and things and people like you can never do from a car or a bus. At right I am running with my son Jesse’s family and you can see Maria Faustina racing along beside me. I like to do this too!

I don’t think Jesus or others of his time (except children playing and athletes training for the Olympics) ran for reasons of health nor to see places from the ground. They saw everything that way already since they walked everywhere out of necessity.

My suspicion is that people did not run when they could walk and didn’t walk when they could sit down. They tried to conserve their energy. Life was tougher in those days as it was. Nothing was automated. Even getting water was not simply turning a water faucet but walking a mile with a heavy jug on your shoulder. People did not exert energy for the fun or it or to stay healthy or to see the countryside. They walked or ran only when they had to.

screen-capture-1Walking and running tend to be unusual in our day to. It take too much energy and we tend to take the path of least resistance. We drive here and there. We take escalators or elevators to avoid the stairs. We park our car as close to the front door of church as we can to avoid walking an extra fifty steps.

I’ll never forget the scene in The Gods Must Be Crazy when the lady in curlers jumped in her car, backed it out the 30 foot driveway, got her mail and drove back up the driveway.

I did a word search in the Bible to see how many times the word RUN or RAN were used in the Gospels. It happens that in the RSV-Catholic Edition the words are used 17 times. All of them are about others running, not Jesus. Mary Magdalen ran to tell the disciples that she had seen the risen Christ; Peter and John ran to the tomb (see picture above to left). The father of the prodigal son ran to greet his wayward son returning home. Some ran to Jesus and some ran to tell others about Jesus.

screen-capture-2I think Jesus ran as a boy. All boys run. In our house we have a rule — “No running!” Yeah, right. Tell 12 grandkids not to run in the house! They are full of life — how can they walk? Jesus ran as a boy and had fun playing kick ball or chase through the dusty paths between caves in Nazareth. Mary watched him run and laugh and tumble many times. I have no doubt of this.

But did he run as an adult? When he and his father walked back and for to work every day from Nazareth to Sepphoris — did they walk or run? I ran back and forth but I don’t’ think they did. They were up before the sun and had an hour to walk to work where they probably labored in the heat for 10 hours or more before walking back uphill to Nazareth. I think they conserved their energy and walked, taking the easiest paths.

But there may have been times when he ran too. We are told very little about his actual life and day to day activities. Even John tell us the purpose of his gospel was to convince us to believe in Jesus as our savior, not to tell us what he ate or if he ran to work. He wrote, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:25).

gal_grk_oly_runningSt. Paul mentions running quite a bit. He uses it as a metaphor for living the Christian life. We must run the race, he says. He refers to Olympic runners who run for a leafy laurel which will wither and fall off in a few days. How much more should we run the race to win the crown of eternal life (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1). Olympic runners ran stark naked so as not to be tripped up or slowed down by his robes. Paul tells us to cast aside any encumbrance — like sin — that will keep us from winning the race. He is right!

Sometimes I wish the biblical authors had written more — for my curiosity’s sake. I wish Luke had told us more details of the discussion on the road to Emmaus or what Peter and Paul talked about for two weeks alone in Jerusalem. Maybe that is just my own problem since I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity.

When I get to heaven I am going to RUN up to Jesus and after I worship him and thank him for my salvation — I am going to ask him if he ever ran. And since I will want to explore heaven (and I will have new knees), I might as him if he would like to go out for a run and show me around. Well, maybe…

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The room was pretty full. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing—that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared, they had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal.

They were also anxious about the promise. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said.

Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means “the 50th day.” Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain, and so had THE Passover Lamb. Then there was the forty mystery days when Jesus was gone but not gone—with them but not with them, at least not like before. And he kept just appearing and then disappearing.

He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, gave them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.

The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and without even a formal Good-bye He started going up—and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.

They looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces—they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as He had commanded. They were praying for what they feared—fire upon a mountain, Mount Zion. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.

We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the word is “names” not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, “About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land”? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.

In Israel is a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word “church” in the New Testament is ecclesia which means “a group of people called out.” Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.

Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she is listed among the names with others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem as was, in a sense, giving birth to him again on Pentecost. What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing “Happy Birthday, to you…”? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church. What is being born? The Mystical Body of Christ. Who is there for the birth? The mother of course. Mothers have to be present when their child is born. Mary is the mother of Jesus the God-Man and Mary is the Mother of the Church, the Body of Christ. She was necessarily present at both births.

Mary was also there because the others were afraid of the descent of God in fire on this new mountain. I am convinced they trembled in fear not only of the Jews and Romans outside, but of the prophesied “baptism of fire” within—as they wondered and feared that might be. The gentle breeze was about to become a rushing wind.

But Mary was there to calm their anxieties. I bet she said something like, “Don’t be afraid my friends, the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed me and He was pure love. Just wait until you are bathed in His love!” The gentle breeze became a rushing wind but it was warm and

After nine days of praying the Holy Spirit fell in fire on the tenth day—which was the 50th day from the death of the Passover Lamb Jesus on the cross. The Jewish festival of Pentecost also celebrated the first fruits of the harvest.

Remember, Jesus said he was like a grain of wheat that would be buried in the ground. The grain must be buried and die to bear its fruit. Jesus died, was buried in the ground and rose from the dead as the first fruit. Now on the “Feast of First Fruits” the first of the harvest is brought to God. We learn that 3,000 people were added to the Church that day—all in keeping with the tremendous symbolism and deeper meaning to all these events.

And with these deep mysteries and truths we are just scratching the surface. Come to the Holy Land with us, get out your Bibles and study books (or Verbum Catholic Bible Study software) and dig deeper. “There is gold in them there hills” for those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts and minds to learn. Enter promo code STEVERAY for a 10% discount.

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One of our past pilgrims wrote with an apparent contradiction in the Bible and what I had said in Israel. The wording in the two verses below is what caused the confusion.

Acts 1:12  ”[After the Ascension] they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.”

Luke 24:50–51  “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.”

So, did Jesus ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives or from Bethany?

Church of Pater Noster

On pilgrimages I take my groups to the top of the Mount of Olives to the Church of Pater Noster (the “Our Father”) where Jesus taught his disciples to pray in “the Grotto of the Teaching” — a cave beneath the front of the church. It is here that the oldest traditions inform us that Jesus was raised into heaven. Here Constantine built a church in the early 300′s. Here we celebrate Jesus’ departure and pray the Rosary’s 2nd Glorious Mystery of the Ascension.

Muslim Chapel of Ascension

There is a Muslim mosque five minute’s walk away (called the Chapel of the Ascension) that most Protestants visit but I don’t patronize Muslim sites and don’t accept this as the authentic place of the Ascension. 

No one knows the exact square inches where his feet left the ground. But the Church of Pater Noster has the oldest tradition, is on the Mount of Olives and very near Bethany. 

If we had had the time, and there was not the big wall separating Jerusalem from Bethany like it does Jerusalem from Bethlehem, in a few minutes we could walked into Bethany from the the top of the Mount of Olives. We used to walk people there to go into the tomb of Lazarus. That is how close Bethany is to the top of the Mount of Olives. 

However, I can’t do that with groups anymore because there’s a big wall that keeps us from walking from the Mount of Olives into Bethany.

Bethany is on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives about 2 miles from Jerusalem across the Kidron Valley. At the time of Jesus there was nothing on the Mount of Olives but olive trees (even until the late 1800′s, see picture black and white picture from about 1900). If you left from Jerusalem, heading to the Mount of Olives, it was perceived you were headed to Bethany. 

 The picture shows that even until the turn of the 20th century there was nothing outside the old walls of Jerusalem. That meant there was just trees and open space between Jerusalem and Bethany. Bethany, though not seen on this map, was on the Eastern slope of the mount.

The other two maps show the proximity of Bethany, the the top of the Mount of Olives and the short distance from the walled city of Jerusalem. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.  He obviously saw no contradiction in referring to both places as the general location of Christ’s ascension.

It is easily explained this way. First, some suggest that he went as far as Bethany to say good-bye to the family he loved – Lazarus, Mary and Martha, then came back to the top of the mount and departed to heaven. However, there is no need to stretch things that far. Being on the eastern slope of the mount, Bethany is virtually on the Mount of Olives, especially from the perspective of Jerusalem. 

If someone asks me where I’m from, I always say “Detroit.” But those who have been to my house know I really live 40 miles east of Detroit in Ypsilanti. But since no one knows where Ypsilanti is – I say “Detroit.”

If there is nothing but trees and bare land on the Mount of Olives and you’re heading east from Jerusalem, people would say you are going to Bethany. Jesus left Jerusalem and went over toward Bethany to ascend into heaven.

So if the geography is understood there is no conflict. Scripture can be trusted.

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Interesting Pictures of Mary – Can You Figure them Out?

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