Tony Evans Leads an ‘Instructive, Inspiring, Illuminating’ Tour Through the Holy Land
In the film Journey with Jesus, playing in theaters Nov. 15-17, Dr. Tony Evans and his daughters Priscilla Shirer and Crystal Evans Hurst share insights and testimonies on-site in locations across Israel.
The Sea of Galilee. Bethlehem. The Garden of Gethsemane. Jerusalem. What do they look and feel like? How did the life and ministry of Jesus play out in these beautiful, ordinary places?
Author and Bible teacher Dr. Tony Evans presents a 74-minute whirlwind tour filmed on location in Israel. Starting Monday, Journey with Jesus plays in theaters for three nights only. The film starts at Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem and ends at the Mount of Olives, where he ascended to heaven. The film “brings visual and experiential life to what the Scripture speaks of,” Evans told The Stream in a phone interview.
Pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in downtown Dallas, Evans can usually be found preaching the paint off the walls every Sunday. He recently compiled his decades of teaching into a study Bible and 1,440-page Bible commentary. But viewers find that it’s not merely head knowledge for the evangelical minister — it’s a personal journey that gets him fired up.
Filmed in fall 2018, Evans’ embarks on this journey with his wife, Lois, and their three adult children — each one a powerful Bible teacher in their own right. “We didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last major trip we would be able to take with our mom on this side of eternity,” said Priscilla Shirer, an author, speaker and Evans’ daughter. “Traveling together as a family made this a meaningful experience.”
At every stop, the reading of Scripture moves quickly to practical application. Evans, Shirer, and sister Crystal Evans Hurst share their testimonies. Narrator Anthony Evans, Jr., transitions the film from one stunning location to the next. Whether or not one has been to Israel, Journey with Jesus stands apart as a unique walk where Christ walked.
In an interview, Evans and Shirer discuss the film, memories of Lois Evans — who passed away in December 2019 — and why the land of Israel matters to every believer.
Have you often visited Israel, and has that informed your ministry?
Tony Evans: I’ve been to Israel about five times, and it has greatly impacted my preaching. To be on-site where the realities of Scripture actually took place — where Jesus was born, lived, ministered, died, and rose from the dead — brings the Bible to life. It is instructive, inspiring, illuminating. and definitely transformational. All of that is played into a higher level of appreciation for God’s truth, God’s Word and God’s Son.
Priscilla Shirer: It was my second time to visit the Holy Land. My siblings, Crystal and Anthony, were there along with our mom and dad. This trip inaugurated what would become her last year, before she met Jesus face to face. Walking through the land of the Bible with her will be memorialized forever. It’s a storyline in the film that I believe people will find moving.
Dr. Evans, when you consider the loss of your wife, do you feel that the timing of the trip and capturing it on film was providential?
Evans: Absolutely. Because God gave us a unique memory, portrait, and a gathering of the family that will never leave our hearts and minds. The film makes it a blessing to others. God has a way of allowing negative events to have glorious, positive outcomes for good. While we certainly continue to grieve her loss, we do it hopefully and not hopelessly.
Today, we are all experiencing chaos around us in the world. People who join us in this experience will come away feeling a greater sense of hope in Christ.
Ancient Locales, Fresh Fire
Priscilla, during one segment in the city of Magdala, you and your mother share some moments in a chapel. What aspects of Jesus’s ministry come forward there?
Shirer: When we think of Magdala, we think of Mary of Magdala. Consider how the Lord Jesus brought such change in her life, not only spiritually, but also just socio-economically. He stamped dignity and value on a woman who would have been ostracized – not just for the behaviors that people knew her for, but also just for the fact that she was female.
So I loved being with my mom and sister in this place where Jesus validated our worth and the fact that women are image bearers as well. It’s a very significant location.
Dr. Evans, this experience is quite different from other Israel tour films that focus mostly on historical or cultural details. How would you say this film is unique?
Evans: Well, we didn’t ignore those aspects of history and what happened where. We also want to bring the scripture to life with contemporary relevancy to the audience. How does what happened in Israel, as recorded in Scripture, become informative for spiritual transformation today?
For the non-Christian, to take Christ seriously. For the Christian, to go deeper with Christ. We wanted that to be the outcome — that when the movie is over and people have watched it, that there’s a new fresh fire, excitement, and dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.
‘Centerpiece of God’s Work’
Priscilla, younger generations in particular sometimes have mixed feelings about the Gospel narrative and its backdrop. What will they gain by engaging with this film?
Shirer: They will gain an appreciation for the Scriptures, even if they are still wrestling with whether or not Jesus is the messiah. There is a historical veracity and accuracy that this film will bring. To walk where he walked, to see historical evidence of his existence and his miracles provides some cement to the Gospels. It puts flesh on the bones of the Scriptures.
Many people today have become skeptical of the faith, because of church hurt or unhealthy environments they have been in. The movie reminds them in a concrete way of who Jesus is and reintroduces him to them.
Dr. Evans, many believers are unclear whether Israel has relevance to their faith. Why does this land and its people and its history matter to Christians?
Evans: The centerpiece of God’s work in history is Israel, starting with the Abrahamic Covenant and concluding with Jesus ruling from Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom. From start to finish, what God wants to do on planet earth centers on Israel. In the Scriptures, God calls this people, “The apple of his eye.”
So to skip Israel is to skip God’s plan. That is why Israel must be held in the unique position that the Bible holds it. That doesn’t mean that everything Israel does is right. But it does mean that Israel, as God’s national point of reference, is critical and strategic for an understanding of Scripture. Truly, the work and mission of Jesus Christ centers on that ancient, vibrant land.
Journey with Jesus featuring Tony Evans and Priscilla Shirer plays in select theaters from Nov. 15th to 17th.
A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream and The Federalist.