I finally understand why people who have been to Israel say, "You'll never be the same." On October 31, 2017, I had the pleasure of accompanying SHINE-FM listeners on a trip to Israel.
Our job for 10 days was to explore Jesus' world.
We walked through His homeland, the land God loves and set apart for Himself.
One of my favorite moments was when we sailed and worshiped on the Sea of Galilee, the same sea where Jesus walked on water and he told the waves to be still. The boat captains happened to be Christians and played worship music from Elvis to Matt Redman (you'll hear Elvis in this clip - ha ha).
It was incredible to worship God on the sea. Our captain, seeing that worship was happening, cut the engines and let us float on the sea while we worshiped. The normal 45 minute boat ride was allowed to extend to TWO HOURS. Incredible! The Lord gave us the gift of Himself in that time.
We sat on the steps at the Temple - the same steps where Jesus would have walked up and down as he went to the Temple to teach and pray.
We visited the Jordan River, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
One of our last stops was to the heart of Jerusalem.
This is the Golden Gate, the eastern gate of the Temple wall. It's believed that when Jesus made His triumphal entry, He came through this area, and when He returns, it will be through here. Interestingly, Suleiman the Magnificent, a sultan during the Ottoman Empire, sealed the area for the third and final time.
They also turned the area in front of the gate into a cemetary, believing Jesus wouldn't be able to enter through concrete walls and wouldn't go through a cemetary because it was ceremonial unclean. AMAZING. They believe in Jesus and His power!
We spent time in what has long been believed to be the Garden of Gesthemane, the garden where Jesus prayed before being arrested. It was surreal to see these trees and know many of these trees were witnesses to the moment an angel ministered to Him in His distress.
It was incredibly humbling to sit on the steps of the church that oversees the garden to pray together. We reflected and remembered the significance of this place to Jesus. It was a place he often went to to pray to the Father and it was also the place where he sweat blood in prayer and was eventually betrayed.
As we left the area, our group was spontaneously moved to sing Casting Crown's song, "Glorious Day."
Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He's coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day
We spent time at The Garden Tomb, the area believed to be the burial site for Jesus.
Our trip pastor, Jason, led us through Communion. We remembered the sacrifice that caused our Savior to spend a two days there, but rise on the third day. Praise God, we serve a risen Jesus!
As I take time to reflect this Easter week on Jesus, his life and sacrifice, I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed by His presence there. Even now, I think about all I saw and experienced, and I am deeply grateful for this opportunity. Experiencing Jesus' culture, getting a glimpse into His life, the land, and the people that He loved has made me love Him even more. It's made what I've read about in the Bible come alive. This Easter, I have an even greater understanding and appreciation our Savior's sacrifice.