Friday, November 5, 2010

Playing Catch-Up: Jerusalem

Jerusalem. I never thought I'd actually make it to Jerusalem. Every year for the last 14-15 years we've celebrated Passover as a family or as a church. And every year at the end of the Passover, we lift our glass and say together: "Next Year in New Jerusalem!"

I never thought I'd actually visit Old Jerusalem. The Jerusalem where Jesus walked. The Jerusalem the Romans took over. The Jerusalem that crucified Him. The Jerusalem that missed the Messiah. The Jerusalem that saw the miracle of Jesus dying for our sin. The Jerusalem that saw the miracle of Jesus vanquishing darkness and rising from the dead!

In the words of a dear friend of mine: "I WAS THERE!"

Yes, and I felt Him there.

You know, I just spent a month in Israel. A place known as the Holy Land. A place for pilgrims to visit. A place thousands and millions visit journey to in hopes of meeting a void in their hearts. A place where they look eagerly for a physical sign of Jesus, for a moving Spiritual event. They hope to meet Him there. But I discovered something. I don't have to visit Israel to feel Jesus. Or find Him. Or see Him.

I feel Jesus at home in everyday life.
I find Jesus at home in everyday life.
I see Jesus at home in everyday life.

I feel Jesus when He touches me and heals an imperfection.
I find Jesus when I meet someone who shows His Love.
I see Jesus when I look around me at the many blessings He gives me.

This is not to say it is vain to look for Jesus in Israel. But if you never make it to Israel, you can still feel Him, find Him, see Him.


In Jerusalem, I visited the Wailing Wall which is now known as the Western Wall. It is a small portion of a wall that surrounded the Second Temple, the Temple Herod built over the temple that Solomon built. It was destroyed by the Romans. Then others came in and gained control. The Turks filled in the Eastern (Golden Gate) because they heard that the Messiah was supposed to enter through that gate. Later as everyone knows, the Muslims gained control of the Temple mount and built a Mosque. So now the Jews only have access to the outer wall.

The Golden Gate

I visited the wall several times. Once, during the afternoon. Once early early on Shabbat morning. Once at midday. Each time I was there I noticed how quiet it was, and how reverent people were. When entering the area, you should have your head covered and arms covered. You approach the wall and spend time praying, or reading a scripture. As you leave, you back away for about 50 feet. Some people write prayers to leave in the wall. It is quiet except for the murmur of prayers. Prayers in all languages, prayers of fervor, prayers deep in the heart.

One of the golden moments I will always remember from this trip occurred when I visited early on Shabbat morning. There were only a few Orthodox Jews present. Real people who really live and worship. I and my companion were the only "tourists" and we were there reverently and for a purpose, just as the Orthodox were.
The sun was just beginning to send rays over the mountain. There were few out, so it was quiet. People were intent on praying. Suddenly, from the men's section (which is fenced off separately from the women) came a loud prayer and song in Hebrew. The voice was full of feeling. He was singing and praying for Messiah to come. For Messiah to save.
When the voice died away, the women at the wall praying with me were in tears. They wanted Messiah too.

I loved Jerusalem. The streets were busy, brisk with people buying and selling. So many smells and sounds and languages, and sights. I could imagine how it might have been when Jesus was walking those streets. We visited an archeological park where they've excavated down to the 1st century streets around the base of the temple. Surely, surely Jesus walked those stones.

Another Jerusalem memory was the 12 stations of the cross tour I took with the archeology team from Mexico. The leader was speaking Spanish, but if I could see her and hear her well when she spoke, I could catch the idea of what she was saying. And the team was very gracious to translate everything for me as well.
I walked the steps that Jesus walked the night he was betrayed. I visited the prison he might have been held in, I experienced the pain of the muscles in climbing the hills and walking the distance between the Mt. of Olives and Pontius Pilate's house. I think the most meaningful moment was standing in the prison, where historians think they threw Jesus and hearing the 88th Psalm read...
... I am overwhelmed with troubles 
   and my life draws near to death. 
 I am counted among those who go down to the pit; 
   I am like one without strength. 
 I am set apart with the dead, 
   like the slain who lie in the grave, 
whom you remember no more, 
   who are cut off from your care....

Another moment on the tour was in the Holy Sepulcher. There hidden away are two tombs carved from rock. It was there that Jesus was laid. There that Jesus was risen!

The womens section of the wall.

Prayers in many languages.

Prayers stuck in every crevice.
The wall must be bathed in prayer.

Another view of where the Temple stood.

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