Finally, the last day of the tour – I want to apologize about this last day as it took me more than 3-4 weeks to compose. Not only for the simple reason that I had to catch up on work upon my return but it was more of contemplating about the entire trip and translating it into words. By the end of this short exposition, I will write a little bit about what is going on in my heart and mind. I would say that the Promised Land is truly a must see and if you can set aside the time and money for it, by all means do so. Let’s begin…
For the last day, we started out on the top of the Mount Of Olives making our way down to the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus wept and the disciples slept. That very idea is so true up until this very day, sometimes the things that move our Father in heaven happen to be the things we care the least about. The Christian life is truly a life of continuous alignment and yielding to the Father’s will until that faithful day will come where we will stand and look Jesus in the eye.
While walking around the garden it felt so commercialized, I felt no solemnity in the area. It was packed full of people. Unfortunately, they walled off the actual garden to further preserve the olive trees. My attention was drawn to this one olive tree that stood so beautifully in the middle of the Garden, my eyes welled up in tears as the tour guide spoke of the possibility that some of these trees could have been around during Jesus’ time. If only the trees could talk and tell their stories.
Here is a picture of the garden. Try and imagine Jesus walking around this area, his heart bursting with emotion as he very well knew that the time was near for him to lay down his life. He had purposely evaded crowds of people trying to crown him King (John 6:10-14) because He understood that His purpose was the cross first, before the crown. His life was to be given as a ransom for many!
Carrying emotional tensions in my heart, we traveled to the Western Wall (The Wailing Wall). This is considered by the Jews the most holy place in all of Jerusalem. You will see hundreds of Jews come at different times of the day to pray standing in front of the wall. Unlike many of us who go to church to pray in such a distracted manner, I watched these men and women at a distance as they walked toward the wall. Some 15-20 meters from the wall you notice the poise and the grace as they walk toward it, but as soon as they come within inches of the wall it is like an internal switch of heartfelt prayer is flipped. You could sense that prayers from the heart are passionately spoken to God, if we could learn to pray like this, I mean to truly pray our hearts out to our Father in heaven. I too stood within inches of the wall and took time to pray.
Thousands of hand-written prayers have been inserted into the tiny fractures of the wall. Oh! if we could very well grasp the immensity of God; His unsearchable grace and mercy! I write this now with a stunning image of the Father’s heart like that fractured wall with many inserted prayers I am convinced that every prayer spoken in passionate emotion or in the dullest disconnected way are remembered by the Father. It is like hand-written paper inserted into his immeasurable heart. He hears, he understands, and he remembers. He remembers your cries and can recount the story of each tear that rolls down your cheek!
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8, NLT)
“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15, NLT)
The Garden Tomb was our next stop, I was excited. This was believed to be the tomb where Jesus lay!
This place was a just as I expected. It was filled with awestruck hearts for Jesus. Excitement was in the air, worship was being sung in every tent, prayers were being lifted up in adoration! I had taken out my bible to read a few scriptures of the finished work of Jesus on the cross (Romans 5). I could sit here forever enjoying the presence of the Lord! In this photo we took a short tour of the garden, the tour guide in the Garden was giving us a brief background of entire Garden and how it was first discovered.
A long line was formed to enter the tomb. It was quite small, only about 7-8 people could go in at a time. We can never know for sure if this was the actual tomb but all the details indicated in the scriptures fit this structure. The entrance was quite low just as described in Luke 24 when Peter stooped down to enter the tomb. Here is a photo of my standing by the entrance.
This is how the tomb looks like. A portion of it was fenced which further limited the number of persons allowed inside.
Before we left the area, we were allowed a spot to have fellowship, pray and partake of communion. It was such an intimate experience with the Lord. We prayed with joyful hope knowing that the grave we entered is empty and that Jesus is coming again one day, He will part the clouds and come in glory and his very toes will touch the earth! I look forward to that great and terrible day as the bible describes it.
The last portion of our tour was Bethlehem, which was a total disappointment to me personally. Just like some of the areas we had gone to, the place was filled with people and huge church structures were built to honor the birthplace of Jesus. I, once again, felt like everything was disconnected and distant as to how Jesus was born and the circumstances that surrounded his childhood life. I don’t have anything else to say about Bethlehem.
In closing, I want to say a few words. This has been part of my reflection of the entire trip. I would definitely cheer you on and encourage you to go and visit Israel; I would even push you to keep that nation in your daily prayer. If you have set aside the time and the money then please make the effort to visit the Holy Land. It helps when the bible we read becomes three-dimensional, and it stands as a firm reminder that the bible we read is not a mere textbook but the Word of God.
To balance out this truth I would also say that the health of the Christian walk is not dependent on an Israel tour. You don’t go to Israel hoping to get a spiritual fix because all the fixing and all the wrestling in prayer and reading the Word of God happens in the place you live. The spiritual high you hope to get in Israel is the same brand of spiritual high you can receive from the Lord in the very place you live. Israel is a must see but definitely not a requirement for spiritual growth. The same Holy Spirit that moved us in the wonderful places we had walked is the same Holy Spirit that can move you in the very church you sit in, or in the prayer closet you pray in, or in the bible study you attend each week. My friends this Christian life is a wonderful life with or without the Israel tour. The power to change the heart does not rest on the tour but it rests on the power of God for those that believe. Only He can turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh that respond greatly to his call.
I leave you with this. Grow wherever the Lord has placed you now. Learn to live in hopeful perseverance in the season that the Lord has placed you now because he is a Father and He has a plan for your life.