Monday, April 25, 2011

Journey to Israel - Chapter 9

Chapter 9 - Thursday, 3/23/89

This morning started out with a time of conversational prayer in Shepherd’s Field, outside of Bethlehem. This is the area where the lowly shepherds watched their flocks. How touching that God chose to reveal the birth of His Son through angels to the humblest class of society. Today the Church of the Nativity is built over the place where Jesus was born. Not too far from there is the Herodian, a huge mountain that King Herod had constructed with palace like living at the top. It was to be his tombstone, for he wanted a shrine built for everyone all around to see and remember him.

King Herod had wealth beyond imagination....Jesus was born in poverty. Herod ordered men to serve him....Jesus came to serve men. Herod was cruel, killed maliciously, was hated by everyone, and people rejoiced when he died. His season of reign was finally over. Jesus came in love, came to die for us, and now He lives forever and will one day reign as King throughout eternity. He who is last shall be first...he who is least shall be greatest. I can truly worship such a God as that!

We journeyed to Bethany, a two mile distance from Jerusalem, located at the foot of the Mount of Olives. We went there to walk the walk that Jesus took on Palm Sunday. First we stopped at the tomb of Lazarus, where Jesus had wept over the death of His friend...or did He weep over the lack of faith and understanding of those He had spent so much time with? Does it break His heart today when we show that same lack of faith in Him?

We continued our walk up the hill to Bethpage where Jesus cursed the barren fig tree that represented the Saducees. Outwardly they were spiritual, but they bore no fruit. This disciples were not to worry about them, for the Saducees would perish even as the fig tree did. It was at Bethpage that Jesus mounted a donkey to ride into Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecy of Zechariah (9:9)...”Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

It was also on the Mount of Olives that Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. I believe He looked down through the ages and saw all that God’s chosen people, the Jews, and holy city of Jerusalem would go through. It was knowing they could have chosen Him and avoided their destruction that broke His heart. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” In their rejection of Him they marched on toward the Holocaust.

The Mount of Olives represented other events in the life of Jesus also. It was here that He gave His Olivet discourse. Here on this Mount he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, surrendering Himself to His Father’s will. And it was on the Mount of Olives that He ascended into heaven. Jesus had spent much time in this area, and as we sat in the church at the Garden of Gethsemane and sang “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine”, tears flooded my eyes. I thought of Jesus on that day of His trial, with the crowd jeering at Him, and all of the humiliation He went through. In quiet submission He faced His death to give me blessed assurance.

Thursday night we were served a Passover Supper in a very natural setting with low tables and oil lamps as our source of light. We were served unleavened bread, wine (grape juice), stew (beef in place of lamb), and bitter herbs (onions, radishes, peppers, garlic). This meal was symbolic of the last of the plagues in Egypt when the death angel passed over those homes with blood on their door posts. They were saved from the sorrow of their first born being killed, and were then let go from Egypt...freed from bondage. In like manner we are freed from bondage to sin by the blood of the Lamb. Thank you, Jesus.

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