Following Jesus in the Holy Land: Pathways of Discipleship through Advent and Lent


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Book Details

Format: Paperback (116 pages)

Publisher: Sacristy Press

Date of Publication:

ISBN: 978-1-78959-041-8

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Following Jesus in the Holy Land is a study book for individual and group use during the Church’s seasons of Advent and Lent. It provides ten chapters (four for Advent, six for Lent) that can be used by individuals or church groups for stimulation and discussion on a week-by-week basis.

Each of the ten chapters chooses a location with particular associations from the life of Jesus, so that this book is a kind of “armchair pilgrimage” through the Holy Land. The chapters each cover something of the history of the places concerned before delving into a connected biblical text, and then drawing out key implications and teaching for contemporary faith. The chapters include suggestions for Bible study and worship as well as ideas of how modern-day disciples can respond to what they have learned from their pilgrimage, real or in their imagination.

In the Preface, the author says: “This book arose out of several years living in the Holy Land and experiencing the holy places as powerful aids to re-imagining the gospel narratives as well as the seasons of the Church’s year and various stages in Christian life. Viewing the gospel narratives and events through the places associated with them in the Holy Land brings the texts and their meanings to life in a powerful and vivid way. There’s a chapter per week here throughout Advent and Lent.”

Stephen Need explores ten holy sites’ pasts and presents, deftly weaving New Testament hermeneutic and church doctrine to cheer and challenge contemporary mores. Spanning Advent and Lent, each chapter concludes with suggestions for Bible study, worship, action, discussion, and further reading, marking an immense but accessible breadth of scholarship. Throughout, locus is subordinate to Gospel imperative: transfiguration (often over-spiritualised) is boldly rooted in transforming action such as Kids4Peace and Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra; stooping to enter Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, Philippians 2 rings in your ears; the heat of Caesarea Philippi is terrific, with the cults of Pan and Augustus in the crucible, melting before Peter’s confession. It is all as if I sat in a boat in the midst of a silent Galilee, each surrounding village heavy with Christ, who comes as close as touch in Need’s astounding book.

The Rt Revd David Wilbourne, The Church Times

If we just read our Bibles through weekly or daily snippets from the lectionary, we may miss out on some important perspectives. The geography of the Holy Land is important in providing a lens to focus not only on the reality of events in Jesus’ life, but also their meaning. Through knowledge of location and setting we see Jesus ‘more clearly and follow him more nearly’ as disciples. Stephen Need’s book is a useful and knowledgeable guide to the Holy Land. You do not need to have been there – it is, as he states, ‘an armchair pilgrimage’, designed for spiritual refreshment in both Advent and Lent. … This book is a welcome addition to the options for both private study and devotion, and to group discussions during these liturgical seasons. Each short chapter provides a week of Bible passages, worship options and discussion questions. Practical and profound, this book is recommended as a sound Christian antidote to the superficial distractions of life as we journey towards Christmas, and onward to Easter.

Alice Burdett, The Reader

I am sure that being part of an actual pilgrimage party travelling through the Holy Lands, led by Stephen Need, would be an exhilarating and enlightening experience. Having lived in Jerusalem, he demonstrates a detailed knowledge of the main pilgrimage sites, and the book reads like an expanded script of the things he might have said at each of them. … I would certainly recommend the book as an aid to preachers. … There is a wealth of insight and glimpses of the author’s passion, showing his knowledge not only of the land but also of the Bible and Christian tradition.

John Holdsworth, Rural Theology

Stephen W. Need is a former Dean of St George’s College, Jerusalem, and has travelled extensively in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East. He is a parish priest in Essex and teaches theology at the University of Notre Dame (USA) in England’s London Global Gateway. He is the author of several books, including a guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

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