Truth Over Power: Israel 2018
When you experience something moving or meaningful, your first instinct is usually to find someone with whom to share it. If, for example, you encounter a beautiful sunset, you almost can’t help but run back inside the house to call for your spouse to come out and join you. Somehow the experience means more to you if you can bring someone else into it.
It was almost two years ago that I had the chance to visit the Holy Land. I came with a group of ministers from around the country who, like me, had never been here before. As you might expect, our time together was an opportunity for incredible learning and growth. The Bible came alive for us as we made connections between its stories and this incredible land in which they happened. As soon as we left to come home I knew I wanted to come back again, but only if I had the chance to bring others with whom to share it.
As I write, that desire is coming true. On Monday afternoon of this week, a group of 52 of us left Roanoke to begin the long journey to Israel. Because of the time difference, it was late Tuesday night - local time - by the time we arrived. We collapsed into our hotel rooms for a few restless hours of sleep before awaking early Wednesday morning to begin our tour. It is now Thursday night here, and we’ve been going so hard and strong that this is the first chance I’ve had to sit and begin to reflect on what we have experienced so far. We are all exhausted, and yet we are all exhilarated at the same time! It has been thrilling to see others begin to make the connections that I had the chance to make two years ago. And watching it happen for them has only deepened those connections for me.
Yesterday we traveled north from Tel Aviv up the Mediterranean coast. Along the way we visited the ancient city of Joppa, the ruins of ancient Caesarea Maritime, Mt. Carmel, and Megiddo, all of which factor into the Biblical narrative in important ways. It was a chance to get introduced to the important archaeological work that goes on in this part of the world and how it helps to deepen our understanding of what happened in the Bible.
Today we spent our entire day moving around the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is the land of the ministry of Jesus. We visited the ruins of several villages where either we know that Jesus visited, such as Capernaum, or places he spoke about directly, such as Corazin. It is incredibly moving to walk into the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum and know that Jesus would have most certainly stood in that very room.
The most compelling part of the entire day is to visually recognize that for the entire three years of Jesus’ public ministry - before he made the choice to go toward Jerusalem - he moved about in a space no more than 25 miles long. That’s it. This is a man who turned the world upside down, and yet most of what he said and did happened in a rural, backwater district that was no bigger and no more significant than the stretch of road that connects Blue Ridge to Bedford.
It brings to life the fact that Jesus wasn’t interested in political or cultural influence - at least not in the way we think of such things. He spent his days out in the places of ordinary folks who otherwise would have been totally lost to and overlooked by history. Jerusalem was the center of power in those days, but the only reason he went there was to die. Jesus was not interested in power; He was interested in truth. The truth He proclaimed was unsettling and disruptive, so much so that it made people mad enough to kill him. And yet that truth has changed the world and has given us our only hope for redemption.
Tomorrow we leave the Galilee region and begin making our way south toward Jerusalem. Stay posted.