Jump Start # 2886
Luke 9:23 “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
This is the last segment in this short series on lessons learned from the land where Jesus walked. Going to Israel was something I was always interested in visiting but I had a reluctance as well. I was fearful of how commercial some of the places would be and how much they would try to market what they thought were actual places where Jesus was. To my surprise it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Two places that draw a lot of attention are the “Garden Tomb” near Jerusalem where some claim Jesus was buried. It is worth seeing because of the age of the tomb and how people were buried. But historically, it is unlikely the tomb of Jesus because it dates many years before. And, then there is the Jordan River. There is a place where some claim Jesus was baptized. It is commercialized. One can buy water from the Jordan or, pay even more and get a baptismal gown and be baptized in the river. Many were doing that. It is very unlikely that Jesus was baptized at that location. It’s too far north and John likely would not have been there.
But other places, although maybe not the actual spot are very near to where events took place. The Byzantine era, which started in the 300’s is when many churches were being built to protect “sacred” spots. Word of mouth passed from one generation to the next could very likely be accurate just a few hundred years later. But what is most impressive, is looking beyond these various church buildings and seeing the area, still very natural like the days of Jesus. Cascading hillsides that would make a perfect setting for teaching. The beautiful sea of Galilee that He crisscrossed so many times. Hilltop fortresses from which one can see for miles and miles. So many places remained untouched and natural and very much like it was in Biblical times.
It was a blessing to visit Israel. I would recommend the trip to anyone, but go with brethren, it makes all the difference. Go with someone who has been before. But for many, many brethren, they will not be able to make such a trip. The costs. The time. The journey there and back. Not everyone can do that. Our group was tested and tested multiple times for Covid, including blood tests. It was a bother, but it was worth it. Through modern technology, there are many videos taken at the Bible lands and one can get a good impression just from watching those.
Our faith does not rely upon standing on the same hillside that Jesus did or sitting in a boat on the sea of Galilee. Our faith comes from the word of God. That’s how the Lord designed it. Going to Israel does not make one a better Christian. Our walk with the Lord does that. Being in Israel adds color and insight to so many passages that we read, but it is not necessary to go to Heaven.
As I watched a long line of people in white baptismal robes waiting to be baptized, I wonder what was running through their minds? Did they think that this would make them more dedicated or purer? Did they think that this would assure their salvation? The Jordan River isn’t a pretty river. It’s muddy. There are places where it’s pretty polluted. What the Lord wants from us is not to sit where He sat and stand where He stood, but to walk by faith and imitate His character. Through the Scriptures, not the land of Israel, we learn to be kind, patient, forgiving, and helpful to one another. It is through the Scriptures that we learn to worship as God designed. It is through the Scriptures that we learn the promises and hope that is in the Lord.
Seeing the land is fascinating. There are places, especially around Qumran and the Dead Sea that are desert. It’s rocks and dirt. There are not very many trees. It’s hot. It’s dusty. It’s not very pretty. And, had special events in the Bible not taken place there, most would never visit there. But what is beautiful is to see a life that has been marred by sin and living day to day in misery come alive in Jesus Christ. It is wonderful to see faith springing forth and the changes it produces as one comes to know the Lord.
One should never feel that he is better than others because he got to go to Israel. Our faith isn’t measured by the places we visit. It is a blessing. And, as with all blessings, one needs to be thankful and share with others what he can.
But one thing is sure, as wonderful as our trip was to Israel, our entrance into Heaven will be even greater. And, unlike Israel, you can be in Heaven. There won’t be a cost factor that keeps some out. You may not be able to afford Israel, but you can go to Heaven. I’ve talked to some since I have returned from Israel, and they have said, “We sure wish we could have gone, but it’s too late in life for us to go now.” Heaven is not that way. The only thing that will keep you out of Heaven is YOU. Your faith. Your walk. Your belief. Your hope. Your journey. It’s all there in Jesus Christ.
And, unlike our trip to Israel, Heaven won’t end after ten days. We won’t go back home after a visit to Heaven. Heaven will be our home. And, all the photos I took, just to remember and share with others, won’t be necessary in Heaven. We’ll be there. We’ll be there forever.
So, if you don’t get to make the trip to Israel, don’t be sad. There’s a greater place you are going to. It’s far better than Israel. It’s beautiful. It’s forever. And, it’s with God.
Heaven Bound…that’s us!