In His Land–An Armchair Tour of the Land of Israel, Timothy J Cross, ISBN 978-1-897117-85-9




Gospel Folio Press  80 pages, ISBN 978-1-897117-85-9
























One of the highlights of my life was an epic ten days spent in Israel, literally ‘walking in the footsteps of Jesus.’ I went to Israel on a study tour whose aim was to delve a little more deeply into the historical roots of the Christian Faith. There were about thirty of us in the study group –  Christians of varied ages and denominations . During our brief time in the Holy Land, we seemed to ‘gel’ together instantly and, with the blessing of God and the expertise of an experienced Hebrew-Christian tour guide, our days in Israel saw the Bible coming alive to us in a way that  it had never done before. We were actually walking on the scenery of Scripture!

On returning to the UK, I began to share something of the blessing I had received in Israel by giving 45 minute slide-show talks gleaned from my time spent there. I arranged the photographs I had taken into a ‘Gospel order’, beginning at Nazareth with the announcement to Mary that she was to bear a Child, and ending at the supposed site of Pentecost, when Peter preached and three thousand people believed and were baptised and added to the church. The idea behind my slide-show talks was to take people on an ‘armchair tour’ of Israel, stopping off at the main places associated with the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, and explaining their Scriptural significance. I never expected my slide show talks to ‘take off’, but ‘take off’ they did, in a way I never expected. I have since been invited to give the ‘illustrated, Holy Land talks’ many, many times, in a variety of settings, sacred and secular. To date, they have never failed to inspire audience/congregational interest and attention. Being encouraged by some to put the slide-show talks into a more permanent form, this book has resulted. What you have in your hand now then is not so much the ‘film of the book’ but ‘the book of the films’!

The Christian Faith is an historical Faith. It is not a philosophy or a teaching created in a vacuum, but concerned with an actual Person and events of time and space. The Lord Jesus Christ lived and ministered during the 1st century, and He did so in a particular, geographical place – the land of Israel. It is this ‘particular place’ – justly known as ‘the Holy Land’ – that we are now about to explore, using the Bible as our infallible guide.

It is my prayer that in reading the pages which follow, your faith in the historicity, reality, reliability and veracity of the Gospel records will be confirmed, and that, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit, they will enable you to read the sacred pages of the New Testament with greater understanding and imagination. Above all else, my desire is that, in reading the pages which follow, you will be drawn more closer to the One on Whom all Scripture focuses – the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God and only Saviour of sinners. It is He Who has made the ‘Holy Land’ truly ‘holy.’


Timothy Cross, Cardiff, Wales




… Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king …(Matthew 2:1).


The ‘little town of Bethlehem’ is situated some six miles south west of the city of Jerusalem. Its over-riding significance for the Christian is that the Lord Jesus Christ was born there. The Event was so significant that it divided time into BC and AD. At Bethlehem the One Who created the universe by a breath drew His first breath. At Bethlehem the eternal entered into time. At Bethlehem God actually became man, for the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). At Bethlehem the eternal Son of God came down to this earth, that all Who believe in Him might go at last to heaven. At Bethlehem, ‘Being’s source began to be’ – He was born so that we might be born again.

Bethlehem then is integral to God’s eternal plan to save a people for Himself for His Own glory. On the night when Jesus was born there, the message from heaven rang out loud and clear: To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11) – and Christians have been celebrating this Fact ever since:-


See! In yonder manger low

Born for us on earth below

See! The Lamb of God appears

Promised from eternal years


Hail, thou ever-blessed morn

Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!

Sing through all Jerusalem

Christ is born in Bethlehem.


The Fulfilment of Prophecy


Fulfilled prophecy is one evidence that the Bible is the Word of God, for only the eternal God knows the future, and hence only He can write history in advance. Some eight hundred years BC, God, through the prophet Micah, prophesied that Christ would be born in Bethlehem: But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One Who is to be ruler in Israel, Whose origin is from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).

Humanly speaking, it seemed unlikely that this prophecy would be fulfilled, as Mary and Joseph – Jesus’ surrogate parents – were living in Nazareth in the north, not Bethlehem in the south. But Almighty God ensured that His Word was fulfilled. He moved an earthly ruler – one Caesar Augustus – to have a census. Everyone in the whole Roman Empire, Augustus decreed, must go to his home town and be enrolled for taxation purposes. Hence Joseph … went up from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:4-7). God certainly keeps His Word!


Bethlehem in the Bible


Interestingly, the first mention of Bethlehem in the Bible is in Genesis 35, where we read of the death of Rachel as she gave birth to Benjamin. The Bible records as her soul was departing (for she died) she called his name Ben-oni; but his father (Jacob) called his name Ben-jamin (Genesis 35:18). The name ‘Ben-oni’ means ‘Son of my sorrow’- and the Lord Jesus is described in the Bible as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). The name ‘Ben-jamin’ means ‘son of my right hand’ – and at this very moment the Lord Jesus is enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). The account in Genesis 35 concludes: So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem) and Jacob set up a pillar upon her grave; it is the pillar of Rachel’s tomb, which is there to this day (Genesis 35:19,20) – and Rachel’s tomb can indeed still be visited near Bethlehem to this day.

The romantic story of Boaz and Ruth – see the book of Ruth – has its setting in the grain fields surrounding Bethlehem. Bethlehem’s soil was evidently fertile, as the very name ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘House of Bread.’ Jesus then was born in the ‘house of bread.’ This was most fitting, for He once made the claim ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’ (John 6:35). The One born at Bethlehem is still able to satisfy the innermost hunger of the human soul.

King David – Israel’s greatest earthly king – was also born in Bethlehem, some one thousand years BC. David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah named Jesse (1 Samuel 17:12). Jesus is sometimes referred to as ‘Great David’s Greater Son’ in Christian circles, for humanly, He was of David’s line and genealogy. The contrast between David and David’s Greater Son though is very great, for the Bible designates Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). Human greatness pales into insignificance before Him. David was certainly ‘great’, but his biography reveals him as being far from sinless. How unlike Christ he was in this respect. Scripture attests to Christ’s ‘impeccability’ – that is, He was totally without sin – holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners … (Hebrews 7:26). Hence Jesus alone was qualified to offer up His sinless life as an atoning sacrifice to save sinners.

One time, whilst away fighting in battle, David – perhaps with a touch of nostalgia – uttered the desire to taste the water from his home well at Bethlehem once again. David said longingly, ‘O that some one would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate’ (2 Samuel 23:15). Physical thirst is one matter. But there is also the matter of the thirst of the soul – the desire for fellowship with God our Maker. As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God … (Psalm 42:1,2). How is this soul-thirst to be satisfied? In and by the One born at Bethlehem, for Jesus still extends His invitation to sinners: ‘If any one thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’ (John 7:37,38).


O little town of Bethlehem


Bethlehem. It’s a special and significant place for the Christian, as our blessed Saviour was born there. In your mind’s eye, go to Bethlehem. Go to Manger Square and enter the Church of the Nativity through the low ‘door of humiliation.’ Descend some steps and enter the small cave – a cavern which has been revered as the actual site of Jesus’ birth since the second century. A shining, silver ‘star of Bethlehem’ on the floor marks the supposed exact spot where the eternal Son of God was born. Stand by it, bow your head and ponder the wonder of Jesus. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).


O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see Thee lie!

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight


O holy Child of Bethlehem

Descend to us we pray

Cast out our sin and enter in

Be born in us today

We hear the holy angels

The great glad tiding tell

O come to us abide with us

Our Lord Immanuel.