By the time you read this on Sunday morning, I (and our group) will be somewhere over the polar ice cap, I hope. It has been a wonderful two weeks, but there is no place like home. Friday, we walked up onto and into the palace Herod the Great built outside Bethlehem which dominated the skyline back in the days of Jesus. Somewhere out in the landscape we enjoyed was where Ruth returned with Naomi and gleaned in the fields of Boaz. And Amos grew up to become a prophet. And then Herod the Great built this huge palace resembling a volcano. And Mary and Joseph arrived from Nazareth, and Jesus is born. That birth took place under the shadow of Herod’s palace. It would also become his burial chamber, but he had to destroy his intimate, brand new 300-seat theater to make room for his burial chamber. He’s no egomaniac or anything.
The fingerprints of Herod the Great are all over this land. There’s a harbor and a Temple and palaces and aqueducts. But you only learn about him when you visit Israel. Here, there are ruins of his architectural prowess just about everywhere. And yet, there was man up in the quiet of Galilee who called twelve to follow him and learn from Him. There were women in His party too. They listened and watched and learned from this Rabbi. But He didn’t build anything. He taught. He preached a lot. He did some signs to prove His identity. He changed lives.
Eventually, His story would be written down and passed along. Between the two, who changed the world? Herod or this Rabbi? As I sat on top of Herodium I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between the beauty of Herod’s buildings with the simplicity of the buildings in the Galilee. Galilee was quiet and peaceful. It was not like anything Herod built. And so, Jesus was able to invest in a small group and pour into their lives. He was away from the worldliness of all that Herod had represented. Herod the Great was long dead when Jesus began His ministry but the things he built remained. They still cast their shadow everywhere.
Into that world Jesus lived. In that world Jesus died. God set it all up to accomplish our redemption. Herod the Great was a tool used by God to bring God glory. Herod thought he was bringing himself glory, but he was just a tool in the hand of God. Here in The Land, we see evidence of God everywhere. That’s why we come. Our faith is enriched and our love for God grows. Just like it does as we gather to meet God. See you soon.