During my recent and unforgettable adventure to Israel, my wife and I got to share with 80 other ministers, elders, and leaders from around the state of North Carolina a most moving experience.
During this trip where our theme was “walking where Jesus walked”, we saw many sites around Israel where Jesus taught, preached, and healed. In addition to many places, we went all around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus’ Galilean ministry happened, as well as Jerusalem in the final days of Jesus‘ ministry and ultimate execution.
There were several memorable moments during our trip, many of which I will likely be processing for some time to come. Such as hearing the beautiful song Via Dolorosa sung in the dungeon prison cell of the high priests Caiaphas' house where Jesus was tried. I was moved to tears. And singing hymns at the traditional garden tomb and our group being asked to sing on the main stage for other groups to worship along with us. We also sailed on the Sea of Galilee while considering how courageous and faithful Peter was to get out of the boat to go to his Lord while walking on the water.
But there were also some very unexpected experiences I had while I was there as well. Often the land geography and topography is called the "5th gospel" because it draws some much of the scriptures together and helps them to fit and make so much more sense.
But perhaps one of the most surprising, and upsetting, things from the trip came from the first day we were in Israel when our tour guide asked us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. After traveling around for a week, I started to understand why.
I have known from afar for a long time the tension and animosity in that part of the world, dating all the way back to the biblical story itself (c.f. Gen 21). But being there personally and seeing the devastation in the West Bank, and seeing the city of Jerusalem under 3 different occupying entities, all for religious reasons, was overwhelming. All I kept thinking to myself while I traveled around was that this is perhaps the most "holy, spiritual, and religious" places on the planet for thousands of years, and yet it has been ripped to shreds by war, greed, and hatred. And unfortunately much of it has been done by Christians in the name of Jesus over the centuries, a direct contradiction to Jesus and his teachings.
My heart breaks for Jerusalem, just as my Lord's did as he entered the city (c.f. Lk 19:41)
Two days after returning home to the U.S. Israel was bombed out of Gaza after killing an Islamic Jihad leader. I invite you to join with me as I continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and that Jesus' kingdom of peace and love would reign in the hearts of men and women all throughout that region of the world, and that it would start in our own hearts.