My fascination with history was sealed on a school excursion when I was in year five. We went to Glenrowan in Victoria, where bushranger Ned Kelly put on his metal armour to make his last stand.
I found it amazing that it had all actually happened, there — right there — where I was standing. That was where Ann Jones’ inn had stood in 1880, and where Ned Kelly had put on his armour to battle it out with police. History had been made right there, under these same gum trees, in this same little town. It gave me goosebumps.
That prickly sense of connection with history was intensified when we visited Europe many years later. Historical events took on a greater sense of reality for me when I walked where famous people had walked — the Louvre, where Marie Antoinette had swished her silken skirts along the marble floors before fleeing to Versailles; the Tower of London where three unfortunate 16th century queens were executed, and the Empress Josephine’s lovely country manor Malmaison, where she created her extensive, exotic garden after Napoleon Bonaparte divorced her.
Later, as Jane Austen fans, my sister and I took it up a notch when we ‘walked’ in the author’s footsteps in historic Bath. Arm in arm we strolled along the uneven cobblestones to the famed Pump Room, where Jane herself had taken the waters. (We may also have worn our muslin frocks and bonnets for the occasion, to the amusement of other patrons. Doesn’t everyone take up their limited luggage allowance to haul Regency-style costumes halfway around the world?)
This year my husband and I stepped back in time again to visit ancient sites in Greece and Turkey, including magnificent Ephesus. It was definitely a ‘goosebump’ experience to walk along the wide, column-lined Harbour Street to the Great Theatre, knowing that Mark Antony and Cleopatra had walked along these same gleaming marble slabs in 41 BC, as did the early church leader, Paul, around 55 AD.
Paul spent two years in Ephesus, teaching about Jesus in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Acts chapter 19). I felt a strong sense of connection to Paul and the early followers of Jesus as I walked on the same roads, stood under the same magnificent arches and even sat on the same stone steps in the Great Theatre — but most of all, because I believed in the same Jesus.
Hebrews chapter 13 verse 8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Ephesus may have crumbled over the centuries, its magnificence diminished by war and natural disasters, but that gospel message proclaimed so strongly in the first century remains strong and true in the 21st.
And there’s the thrill; to know that what Paul wrote to the Ephesians nearly 2000 years ago is read by us in the Bible today. Have a look at it — there’s teaching about how to be a follower of Jesus and there’s plenty of encouragement. I especially like verse 18, in the first chapter of Ephesians, where Paul writes: “I pray that God will open your minds to see his truth. Then you will know the hope that he has chosen us to have.”