This trip has been so meaningful to me. Words cannot describe the experience. It’s bringing tears to my eyes just thinking about the last five weeks and the fact that they are coming to a close. I miss my friends and family, but I am truly going to miss living in Israel with the lifestyle we live. I’m going to miss the walking, the people, the languages, the smells, the tastes, my roommates, the constant learning, random dance parties, singing on the bus, the lack of technology, meeting new people with unique life stories, Bible stories with Brian, walking through the Old City..I’m even going to miss my top bunk! The list could go on. The point is I love it here. It’s a wonderful city.
We spent the day making our way back to Jerusalem from Galilee. Our first stop of the day was Gamla. We went on a two hour hike down a valley onto the mountain where the city was located. We were able to see some ruins and best of all climb some rocks on a cliff! We were dead tired by the time we got back to our starting place but it was awesome. The hikes have become one of my favorite aspects of this trip. So much nature to see and walk through.
From here we drove all the way down to Jericho. While overlooking yet another one of Herod the Great’s palaces we talked about the political expectations the disciples as well as all of the Jews had of Jesus. They felt he was going to deliver them from the Romans and that it was going to happen immediately. Jesus tries to explain to the disciples that there will be a delay but it is clear they do not understand the actuality of Him talking about his death. Jesus gives the parable of the talents/pounds in the exact location we were looking over. In Luke it talks about the fact that the king would leave and come back. Throughout the Bible we see the disciples not being able to grasp the fact that Jesus was actually going to die. The idea of a king who would physically deliver them from the hands of the Romans had been embedded in their minds. Brian suggests that the gospels were written afterwards and have hints of “aha” moments throughout. Though the disciples may have missed things, the gospels are written in such a way that we do not miss the message! This may be why it seems so obvious and blatant to us, making us wonder how they could misunderstand so many times. In order to understand what the disciples felt we have to look at the context of the situation and dig deeper into the text. But they were not written in such a way that we could understand and relate to the disciples. They were written to spread the message of Jesus. They wanted to make sure we did not make the same mistake they did and that it was very clear what Jesus did through his ministry and on the cross for us.
Our last stop of the day was the Mount of Olives and the churches located on it. My favorite of these is the Church of all Nations. The Garden of Gethsemane is commemorated at this church and some of the Olive trees are said to be over 2000 years old making this a very possible location for the actual garden. After spending some devotional time in the church, Brian spoke with us near the garden about what happened that night. On holidays it is known Jesus would usually come to Bethany and spend his time. Because Passover began the night of the last supper, if Jesus wanted to come back into the city of Jerusalem the next day he would not be able to walk all the way back to Bethany because it would exceed a Sabbath day’s walk. In the text it said He came to the garden “as was his custom”. This shows that this was a place he would come to on a regular basis and Brian explained that he believes this would be the place Jesus would always come to stay in these situations. This would also explain why when Judas betrayed Jesus he knew exactly where he could find Him.
Besides all of the extremely insightful information we learned today, I felt there was one point Brian made that really stuck with me. Though the entire situation was clearly wrong, Jesus tells Peter not to fight back while he’s being arrested. There are so many times in life where I feel I have the right to argue with people if I know I’m right, or to “fight” for what I believe is right. But in many, not all, but many of these situations Jesus would ask that we put down our weapons. We are not called to be defensive in every situation even if we are right. Many times being a Christian means choosing the road less taken. Accepting the persecution. Jesus said we would be persecuted for following Him and many times instead of expecting that and being prepared to respond in a loving way regardless we become defensive and angry and bitter. Jesus would ask more of us. This reminded me of a sermon my Pastor Pete once gave. He stated that as Christians there is a rule and an exception to life. Adversity is the rule..Prosperity is the exception. Though many people would make the claim that looking at life like this is negative, that is not the case. God warns us of trials and tribulations. But for many of us when they come our way we seem shocked and as though we do not deserve it. Jesus tells us we will be persecuted! Yet we fight back and become defensive as if it should not be happening. If we live rather with the mindset that adversity is the rule then we are not shocked but prepared. And how much more would we then appreciate the prosperity? If we live as though prosperity is the rule, we are automatically setting ourselves up for disappointment. When the adversity we are warned about comes in a life where we feel prosperity is deserved we become embittered and angry. We should listen to the words of Jesus more carefully and be sure not to miss things as the disciples did: expecting things from the Lord when he gives us clear warnings against them. As an answer to the adversity we should be expected to face, Jesus tells gives us the answer of laying down our weapons and simply accepting what we cannot change in times so that He is able to get the glory. We lay down our own pride and rights in order to further the kingdom of the Lord and lift his name higher.
I am truly going to miss learning so much about the Bible here and hope I can apply myself to keep digging deeper upon getting home and actually beginning to apply these teachings to my life!