I was fortunate to be able to visit Israel recently. I wrote a few Journal entries that I hope will provide some biblical context. If you missed the first part of this series, I encourage you to go read it here.
“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Matthew 4.12-17
It’s the beginning of day three for us in the land of the Bible. Three days of soaking up that which I’ve already seen three times (I feel so blessed). It’s my third trip but sometimes it feels like my first. Three trips to a place so remarkable, three trips to a place so spectacular, three trips to a place where God’s Son Messiah came, lived, died and rose again.
Yesterday I saw two incredible places: 1) the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and 2) the town of Capernaum, where Jesus lived, Peter was reinstated and many miracles were performed by the Christ.
And in it all, I find myself longing not for more history but for the man Jesus. I’m not wanting to know more about what happened at each particular site, I can read about that in the Bible or on Google. I’m finding I’m wanting to know him more — the one true Child who came to reconcile the world to himself. Sometimes I feel like the disciples in Acts 1 who after Jesus ascended into Heaven stood looking up into the sky wondering when he would return.
Now I certainly think it’s okay to be in this land, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, and to acknowledge the earthly locations of Christ. But what I want is more of Him. I don’t want to read about Jesus, I want to look into the face OF Jesus. I don’t just want to talk about him, I want to talk TO him. I want to meet the Risen Christ along the roads, the waterways and the countryside. I want Jesus to come up out of the ashes and ruins and step into this century. I want to see him face to face.
I wonder if this is how the disciples felt? I wonder if this is what Jesus really wants? For us to long for him. For us to long for the power and the presence of the God of the Universe, not just stories about him — but to truly know him and to meet him in person.
Matthew 4.16 reminds us, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Jesus is that great light. He is that great hope, he is the One true God, and I long to see him face to face. His light has dawned and it lives in my heart.
Do you share in my longing? Have you seen the great light? Draw near to God, my friends, and let’s chase after Jesus. Not just a memory of him, but he who is alive, risen and ready to reveal to us the Father – filling us with grace and love.
“O Lord God, on this third day of my arrival back into the land of your birth, I find myself longing for your presence. I want to meet with you, sing to you, pray to you and praise you. I want to be near you in this place and have you speak words to my face. Come now, Holy Spirit, find your servant willing and ready. Redeem my life and cleanse me from my iniquities. For you are good and your love endures forever and ever.” Amen
“When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22
Yesterday, I walked in the Jordan River. Yesterday, I waded in the same water where my Lord and Savior was baptized, confirmed by His Father and filled with the Holy Spirit.
I have no idea if I was close to the same location, but the principle is what’s important to me. The significance of being in those waters was inspiring and affirming.
As we know from Scripture, Jesus was baptized by John. In another Gospel, John tells Jesus he isn’t worthy to baptize him (or even untie his sandals). Yet in spite of this, Jesus was baptized by his cousin and the same prophet used to prepare the way of the Christ.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was baptized “and as he was praying….the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” I wish I could say the same thing happened to me when I stepped into the waters of the Jordan River, but it didn’t.
I wish I could say I heard the voice and saw the Holy Spirit, but in truth, I really just got my feet wet. I waded ankle deep in a dirty green river without much fanfare. However, I waded where Jesus had been and trust me – that was more than enough.
To spend a week in the land of the Bible affirms what I read in Scripture and deepens my faith in his love. It reminds me that I am not alone. Even if my experience is not as dramatic as Jesus’s experience, I know God is with me. I know I have been baptized, I have experienced the power of his Holy Spirit, and I have been saved by his grace.
I know that every good thing comes from him, that each day is a gift, and that I am being transformed as I conform to his image and made complete by his love.
Whereas my wade into the waters of the Jordan didn’t bowl me over or blow me away, it did bless my life. It reminded me of a Savior who over two thousand years ago, took a dip in this river – to the joy and delight of his Father.
“O Lord God, I expect amazing moments of inspiration as I walk through this life. I expect to see you rise out of the ashes or up from the banks of the Sea of Galilee. But I know this will not happen- for you are risen. You are near to me. You dwell in me. You’ve set before me a task – to love you, glorify your name, and to be who you’ve called me to be. Come now, Holy Spirit, and fill me with your power and love. I thank you for saving me and for giving me new life. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen
“When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2.13-17
Many things consume my passion. Sometimes they are good, healthy, holy things; sometimes they are selfish, sinful, evil things. The things that consume us control us: be it righteousness and godliness or personal gain and selfish ambition. The things that consume us control us.
Worship consumed Jesus. And not just any kind of worship, worship for the Father God: Yahweh. Worship for Jesus filled his life in such a way that when he went up to Jerusalem, as recorded in John 2, zeal for God’s house consumed him.
What does it mean to have zeal for the house of God? Perhaps it means to have zeal for God. How can we love the church without loving the Christ? How can we strive for holiness yet live a lie? How can we be filled with one thing and filled with another? I can only fill a cup full of water one time and then it’s full. If I try to pour in another substance, the water flows out and what was once pure is now contaminated.
Jesus says, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” After Jesus said this he stormed into the temple, over-turning the tables of the money changers, and setting straight the worship of God. He returned our focus to why we worship and away from personal gain and sin.
It’s day five of my trip to Israel, and I sit staring at Mount Moriah where Jesus went into the temple. I am looking at the very hill where he walked, gathered, and challenged the religious leaders. I am looking over Jerusalem and wondering if I will grow in my zeal and my love for the Father.
I pray that today, as I walk the streets of the Old City Jerusalem, that God’s zeal might consume me. I pray I would be confronted with my sin, turned from self-consumption, and allow the God who dwells in the hearts of believers to consume my heart today. Will you do the same?
“O Lord God, you are good. Thank you for allowing me to be in this place. To see the city that once held your temple and once contained your son. Thank you for saving us and for delivering us from sin and death. Even when our love fails, your love remains steadfast. Beautiful Savior, cleanse me once again. Allow me to walk in newness of life and to live according to your Word. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen
to be continued