We spent the final three days of our Israel journey in the city of Jerusalem which means “City of Peace”, and as we consider the tremendous turmoil and fighting that has taken place in this area I really have to consider what it means to have peace. True peace can only occur when we are in right relationship with God, not peace in the terms that so many think (Matthew 10:34-39). There will be peace someday, but that will only occur once Jesus returns.
Jerusalem sits atop a mountain, and in the Old Testament it is said to be the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2), we know this to be accurate as we look at 2 Chronicles 3:1 and we see Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. This really gives context to our reading when Jesus tells His disciples they are going “up” to Jerusalem when they are actually north of Jerusalem in the region of Judea after having come out of Galilee (Matthew 19:1). In our modern vernacular we generally refer to up and down by the direction of north or south.
Matthew 20:17-19 Now Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples aside on the road and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify, And the third day He will rise again.”
Jerusalem is an incredibly busy and thriving city. It is a mix of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and pagan all living together in a hodge podge of interesting interaction. You would never know this by the news accounts. As we traveled from one section to another the contrast is stark. It’s pretty easy to identify the Muslim neighborhoods. To put it plainly they are trashy. They do not believe or care about keeping their neighborhoods clean. There is trash everywhere you look. I’m not saying this to be critical, even though the Jewish neighborhoods might be cleaner; they are both worshipping a false god, but to our minds we somehow want to equate external cleanliness with internal cleanliness. We know the Lord didn’t see it that way.
Matthew 23:25-26 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.”
There is so much to say about Jerusalem and all of the false worship that occurs in this city, and as the Jewish people rejected Christ as the Messiah they became idolaters.
Jesus’ words are so incredibly true and clear, when He said the road was narrow and that very few will find life, He meant it (Matthew 7:13-14) It’s overwhelming to me to see so many have missed the Savior and have invented a religion that attempts to gain favor with God by their own hands.
I was humbled to be able to pray where Jesus prayed as He knew what was before Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then to stand on the stones where the Roman guards cast lots for His clothing and see the road He would have bled. That precious blood that has washed away my sin is almost too much for me to consider. As Pastor’s Tim, Mike and Voddie prayed in that location there was not a dry eye as we considered the horrible price He paid to redeem His people. Then as we had an opportunity to see Golgotha and the spot He was crucified and the Garden Tomb where He laid, what else can I possibly say? His plan is perfect and we must submit to this God, the One True God. Satan can distract us so easily with shiny things and with religious systems that are really close to the truth, but are not the complete truth.
It was an amazing experience to see the Bible come to life and to see the incredible accuracy which the writers of the Scriptures have written. These were not simplistic and less sophisticated people, as so many want you to believe, but inspired men of God that wrote as the Holy Spirit inspired them (2 Peter 1:19-21).
I walk away from Israel with a desire to share the news of the One that came to earth and humbled Himself to His Father’s plan. I must share the Good News, because it’s “news” and it’s “good”. I must tell people that their sin separates them from a Holy God and that separation produces death, but God has provided a way for those that will place their trust in Him.
That is the Gospel. And that is what I learned in Israel.