Sitting on a dusty rug in a dimly lit stone room, my knees bumped a little girl on one side and her mother on the other. Friends of ours from Nazareth, they had come to experience an evening as our guests. The spread we offered was not what most people consider elaborate, but all who gathered to eat the simple bread and lentils were delighted to be sharing the meal with one another. We were gathered to begin a journey.
Weeks ago we dreamed of walking the Jesus Trail in first-century style costumes, following the paths of Jesus. Finally, the moment had arrived. We stepped into our handcrafted clothes and began preparations for supper in a reconstructed Roman period house at Nazareth Village. Local lentils bought at the old dry goods store in town had to be cleaned for straw and rocks. A fire had to be started and kept up. As Betsy sat hand-sifting the lentils into a large pot, Philip struggled to keep a fire going. After many tries, he succeeded with small bits of wood from the woodworker’s shop and a small, terracotta oil lamp. At last, the large pot of lentils steamed over a bed of smoking coals.
While the stew simmered, Philip was busy starting another fire in order to bake bread. Our guests, six in all, arrived to billows of smoke, rain clouds, and tiny oil lamps against a dark night. Although the rain did begin falling in light sheets, the eight of us retreated to an almost cozy stone room for supper. Surrounded by the light of faithful lamps, we shared a large common pot, scooping up the steaming stew with fresh, chewy bread. One of our guests noticed the simple white cheese and cucumbers beside the bread and reminded us that many Arabs love this delightful combination. In the style of the Romans, we completed our meal with some watered down sweet wine.
As the meal drew to a close and the lamps flickered on, we sat wondering what people in the first-century would have done after dark. What forms of entertainment would they share? Our conversation led to its own form of entertainment. We watched each other’s faces across the glowing room. Our environment, which had seemed so primitive in the daylight, became soft and shared.
Thinking forward to the next three days, we do not know who we will meet, but we feel excited about the questions that will be asked. We do not know what weather we will walk in, but we know we will have friends to share a fire with at the end of the day. We do not know what we will learn, but we know that walking the Jesus Trail in a style reminiscent of Jesus’ day can only be an adventure.