Saturday, June 25, 2016

Walking Where Jesus Walked

One of the great privileges of our time in the holy land was walking where Jesus walked.  I don't mean the precise locations which after 2000 years are often disputed or uncertain, but the towns and villages, roads, hills and lake sides where Jesus walked. It has made me aware of both Jesus' humanity and his divinity.

Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth
 His humanity first of all.  Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, and even Jerusalem, are ordinary places. Life goes on in these towns and cities.  We experienced bustling markets in Jerusalem and saw people fishing in Galilee.  We visited the church of the annunciation in Nazareth and imagined the angel telling Mary she was to give birth to the Saviour of the world. Quite apart from the fact that she was a virgin, it must have been difficult to think that anything so miraculous could happen there.  "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

Fishing Boat on the lake of Galilee
When Jesus got up each morning there is a sense in which it would have been like any other morning. The empty slopes up from the lake of Galilee where Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes were ordinary hills, yet they became filled with the extraordinary.  We were sailed on the lake and the team members spoke about what God was saying to them through the time in the Holy Land and Galilee in particular.
The challenge for all of us is to expect, recognise and participate in the extraordinary things that God will do in our ordinary day. I'm not saying that there aren't special kairos moments in the history of salvation. I will say more about that in a moment. However, we can't wait for the "superspiritual moments" or the "superspiritual people."  God has always worked through ordinary people.  I believe God delights to do mighty things through humble people.  Isn't that what the announcement to Mary was all about? Even if one doubts that God exists, one cannot doubt that some extraordinary things happened in this place.

On the other hand the very miraculous nature of the events pointed me to Jesus divinity.  Just like the disciples in the boat after Jesus had calmed the storm on Galilee, I found myself thinking, "Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?"  We drove by Cana where Jesus carried out his first miracle turning ordinary water into the best wine of the wedding.  This picked up a theme of our sabbatical for me, "What miracle do I need Jesus to perform?"

Door at the Church of the Annunciation
The divinity of Jesus was also apparent in the unfolding of salvation history.  Although the birth of Jesus occurred in an ordinary town to a humble peasant girl, it occurred at a special time in history. When Jesus began his ministry he said, "The time (kairos) is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news."
Christians over the centuries have revered the holy sites we visited, often building churches there to remember the events.  Some tourists are put off by the gaudy monuments and icons remembering what happened there.  Certainly there is a danger of worshiping the place instead of the one who was at work there. However, overall I found it helpful to remember that these everyday places have in a sense been "set apart" (made holy) by the special events that occurred there.  The door at the church of the annunciation depicts the life of Jesus, surrounded by the earlier events that prepared the way for this new relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This pictorial telling of the Bible stories has been a common theme throughout the churches of the Holy land and Europe. In days gone by, many people couldn't read.  Perhaps that will become more important for Bible stories again in cultures where people read books less and less.

1st Century ruins at Capernaum & church over Peter's house
One final reflection on the divinity of Jesus.  One notable difference between Jesus and other rabbis of his time was that usually students/apprentices/disciples sought out a rabbi they wanted to follow. Jesus on the other hand chose his disciples and called them to follow him.  This was very real to me as we walked on the shores of Galilee, past what archelogists are almost certain was Simon Peter's house.  Jesus invites us to follow him.

The site of the Sermon on the Mount near lake Galilee
I remember a key moment in my call to ministry reading Jesus words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) and an exposition of these chapters by Don Carson.  There was a sense of that call being reaffirmed as I sat praying and re-reading those words of Jesus on the site where he delivered them.

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