From the Archives: May 11, 2014
My head is spinning. My feet are aching. My heart is full. It is after sunset on Friday evening. On Monday morning we head to Jordan. We have the weekend to enjoy Jerusalem. My heart cannot absorb too much more. I just got back to my hotel after a walk to the Western Wall to experience the inauguration of Shabbat. What a spectacle. This sacred space (it is the closest any Jew can get to the Temple destroyed by the Romans in the first century) is home to worship. As light fades and Shabbat begins, there is singing and dancing and wall-to-wall black coats and hats. It is a celebration of the rest God provides. It is a sight I’ll remember for a very long time. But for me it is a bit of a hollow experience. The joy over the beginning of Shabbat is for me a reminder of what God’s people are missing without knowing the hope of a Savior in Jesus.
This morning I watched dozens of tourists rush into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and place their rosaries and crosses on the “stone of unction” (the stone on which the body of Jesus was laid out in preparation for burial). The other night, they had poured perfume all over the stone slab and kissed it and put things on it to bring the blessing of God…I guess. But nothing supports the authenticity of the stone. So it is a little sad that the Bible has not opened their eyes to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. It was a sad reminder to me of the greater joy of knowing the hope of a Savior in Jesus.
As we have walked up and down every hill in Israel (twice it seems) I watch the ritual. I watch the desperate seeking for God through some religious system. Some try to be close to God by being near to where He’s been before. Or they buy something with supposedly mystical powers that can bring to their lives the blessing of God.
Such are the dangers of travel to the land of Israel. You can visit the land but forget the God of the land. For me, it is worth the risk that I might learn how the land enhances the story God is telling. There is evidence everywhere of the intervention of God in the history of humanity as we walk these hills. But do I let the land inform my faith?
To be honest, it really doesn’t matter if Mary died on Mt. Zion or was born just north of the Temple Mount. What matters is how I treat my wife. It doesn’t matter if Jesus fed the disciples at Tabgha or if He fed 5,000 just south of there. What matters is this: am I willing to let someone go first at a stop sign? Am I willing to die to myself? It doesn’t matter if Jesus was crucified at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher or at the Garden Tomb. What matters is that I learn to put the needs of someone else before my own. And it doesn’t matter if the Western Wall is the closest point to the ancient Temple or not, especially if I trample over someone to make it there before the exact moment when the sun sets.
What matters is that Jesus lived. Died. And rose again. Finding the exact spot is not critical, but what we do with the truth is extremely critical. What is important? That I am patient. That I love Jesus even when I trying to get a great picture. Faith is lived out in the mundane of life. Sometimes I wish it weren’t so because I’m not always so good at the mundane. Are you?