O, Jerusalem

I’m fresh off of an all-night flight from Israel to the US. Actually, fresh isn’t a good word choice. I slept little on the plane so my eyes burn and I have a hunch that my next step is toward the bed. But it was a wonderful five days in Jerusalem.

IMG_3012This trip came at the invitation of Matt and Laurie Crouch from the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The idea was to capture Christmas and Easter messages. We filmed over twenty pieces in locations like the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Nativity and the Garden Tomb. TBN has recently completed the construction of a gorgeous studio that overlooks the Old City. There we recorded a couple of interviews with Joel and Victoria Osteen and Matt and Laurie. (We’ll keep you apprised of the broadcast dates.)

The tapings went well. The film crew was terrific. But the highlight of this trip, as is the highlight of every trip to Israel, were those moments I found myself thinking, He was here. Jesus walked these streets. Jesus saw these hills. Jesus may have gazed on these stones.IMG_0374

Of course, the streets of his day are long since submerged beneath the centuries of building and rebuilding. There is hardly a spot about which one can say with accuracy, He was here. Even so, the imagination resists the leash. At least mine does.

There were a couple of moments in particular. Yesterday morning I ventured down to the Western Wall. The day being a holiday for Orthodox Jews, it was even more crowded than IMG_5205usual. There were throngs of black-robed men.

Their phylacteries bobbed as they prayed. The air was full of chants and verses and intercession. So, I joined the chorus. It’s gracious that they welcome folks like me; a tall, redheaded, Protestant who can’t seem to keep the yarmulke from sliding. I found an unoccupied corner and stood where men of prayer have stood for 2,000 years. I placed my hand on the massive stone and began my prayer with, “Did you stand here? Did your eyes fall upon this portion of the wall? Might it be, oh God, that you once did what I’m doing?”

And then there was a moment near the Garden Tomb.  Again, only Jesus knows IMG_1163the exact location of his burial. But the kind folks of the Garden Tomb make a compelling case for the legitimacy of their claim. Compelling enough to make me think, as I stood outside the tomb: what if this was the location? What if his glorified, pierced feet stood right here? What if angels positioned themselves on this rock?

Jerusalem is a ready reminder of this: our faith is an earthly faith. Our God was not content to distance himself from his children. He had to get into the muck and mire and thick of it all. Into Bethlehem. Into Jerusalem. Into the tomb. In our world.

Our God was here! In the flesh. With fingers, kidney and eyes that grew weary. Precious is this truth! He not only hears us, He gets us!! He understands, empathizes and relates. He might even respond to one of your prayers with the thought: I remember what that is like.

The implications of his incarnation are immense. If God was willing to wrap himself in rags and drink from a mother’s breast, then all questions about his love for you are off the table. You might question his actions, decisions, or declarations. But you can never, ever, question this zany, stunning, unquenchable affection.

He became like us for one reason- so that we could become like Him.

You needn’t go to Jerusalem for that reminder. But it sure helps.

©Max Lucado, September 2016