Unaka’s Bennett travels paths Jesus trod on trip to Israel

Published 9:45 am Monday, July 29, 2019

When reading the Bible, it’s difficult sometime to understand precisely what it was like during Jesus Christ’s time here on Earth and the places he visited.

However, a lot of that changed recently for Unaka High School head football coach O’Brien Bennett whose eyes were opened tremendously when he and his father, Kevin, took one of those trips of a lifetime traveling to Israel.

“It’s always been a bucket-list item for me,” Bennett said of the trip. “I have read and studied the Bible but I have done so from a distance — from a 21st-century western perspective.

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“So I have always wanted to go over there and see it as it was to bring to life the stories and to take a two-dimensional page on a book and make it a three or four-dimensional understanding.

“The opportunity arose this spring when my father called and asked if I would be interested in making a father and son trip and so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Bennett continued.

“I grew up with brothers so all of our trips were family trips and we never had a one-on-one trip him and me. He’s in his 60s now and that just made it that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something like that but especially with my father.”

Bennett said that the trip changed so many different things and ways that he perceived the stories that were recorded in the Holy Scriptures over 2000 years ago.

“There were some big takeaways,” said Bennett. “So much of the Bible was written toward a first-century Jewish person from a Jewish perspective — the feast, the holidays, the law.

“But also the geography of Israel. So much of it is the scenes where Jesus is preaching or events occurred.

“Israel is roughly the size of East Tennessee so many of these things happened in the same place so when they are speaking, they are speaking and referring to events that happened within sight of the viewers,” Bennett continued.

“For example, in Caesarea Phillipi, there was a large Roman resort called Baniyas, where temples for Jupiter and Pan predominantly existed. In the mountain, these temples were carved into the rock face where there is a giant cave the Jews called the Gates of Hell.

“Jesus goes here and teaches his disciples and tells Simon Peter that on this rock, I will build my church and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.

“When you read that in the Bible, that is something that you would miss.”

Bennett compared the explosion of knowledge to be like standing in a small foyer and then walking into a large room of understanding.

When others speak of traveling to Israel, there are often stories where personal lives are forever changed by visiting some of the locations where historical accounts of the Bible unfolded.

Bennett shared one of those personal stories from his trip.

“In Migdal, one of the events that occurred there was when Jesus was coming off a boat heading back to Nazareth and the road to Nazareth led through Migdal,” Bennett stated. “When he got out of the boat, people began pressing around him and a woman reached out and touched the hem of His garment and in this throng of people he stops and asks, “Who touched me?”

“We were able to have a worship service in the general vicinity of where that happened and we had a prayer service and I was able to pray for people in my life with sickness or illness.

“While I was doing that, with Jesus being God at the time that event happened in the Bible, He knew that 2000 years later I would be standing in the very same place praying for my son and his healing,” continued Bennett.

“He knew that I would be there and He thought of my son and me. He transcends time and He knew that we would be there praying 2000 years later for healing for people in my life and my son.”

Bennett said that another important event in his spiritual life was the opportunity to be baptized in the same river that Jesus was, the Jordan River.

“It had never occurred to me that the place where Jesus was baptized was the crossing place for the Jews — it was a common ford where the road from Galilee crossed back over Jordan going back up to Jerusalem,” said Bennett.

“We were 1400 feet below sea level, the lowest place on Earth, and Jesus went into the Jordan with John the Baptist below ever human being ever to be on this planet.

“When you go under the water, within six to eight inches under the water because it is so brackish, the water becomes pitch black,” Bennett continued.

“So as you go under you go into complete darkness below everybody on planet Earth and then you come up into the light of the blazing sun and you are looking straight into Jerusalem as Jesus did.

“It was just something to be able to experience that life-changing event in my life.”