He Was Here
Pastor Joel continues his thoughts while on his trip to Israel.
So as I posted yesterday. I’m currently on a sort of pilgrimage through the Holy Land, and while I’m terrible at journaling, I’m trying to write some blog posts about my experience here. Not necessarily from the perspective of what cool sights we see each day, but more from the perspective of what insights and thoughts being here inspires.
On that vein, I recounted one particular insight I had yesterday while on Mt. Carmel, you can read all about it here. Today I wanted to share a second insight I had yesterday (hopefully at some point I’ll be able to catch up with what’s going on the day of). Yesterday was our first full day in Israel, and our final stop for the first day was at a place called Mount Arbel. If you’ve never heard about it don’t feel bad, I hadn’t either until this trip. There are a couple of references to Mount Arbel in history, particularly in the history records from Josephus. But what makes this place special is that it offers one of the best views of the northern Galilee region, particularly the northern end of the Sea of Galilee.
Here are a couple of pictures of our view from the top of Mount Arbel.
And as we hike up to the top of the Mount, our guide is telling us all about the region, and casually mentions how most of the instances of Jesus doing something in the Sea of Galilee (the miraculous fishing, the calling of Peter, Jesus walking on water, etc.) would have happened around the area we were currently looking over. And when I heard him said that, I don’t know how else to express this except to say that I had this overwhelming feeling of awe. And the only thought that was in my mind was “He was here.” Which might sound like the understatement of the century (duh, of course He was here, that’s the whole point of visiting the Holy Land). But it was something a little bit deeper than that. The best way I can describe it is that it’s as if Jesus became more real to me. It’s not like I didn’t believe in Jesus before, or that I wasn’t sure if He was a historical figure. But there is something about looking out at this lake and imagining these events taking place.
This summer my wife Meghan and I were able to visit Ecuador. This was Meghan’s first time in Ecuador, and for me that was the thing that brought me the most joy about the trip. Being able to finally show her all these places and people I had been talking about for years. I’m sure Meghan never had a reason to doubt that the places and the people were real. But it is something entirely different to actually seeing the places and meeting the people. They become real on a more profound level.
I guess that’s my main hope for this whole trip, that as we visit all these different sights, and read some of the stories from the Scriptures, in the actual locations where they took place, that Jesus would become even more real to me. And that that “becoming more real” of Jesus in my life, would lead me to a deeper devotion, and to more clarity, and to a renewed sense of purpose and love for Him and for His mission.
However, if you are reading this and you’ve never had the opportunity of visiting the Holy Land I’d say this. A passage that’s been on my mind this trip is when Thomas sees Jesus right after He resurrects in John 20:24–29. The gist of the story is that Jesus has just appeared to the rest of the disciples but Thomas wasn’t there when it happened. So when Thomas finally shows up they tell him what happened (by the way, this is probably the ultimate version of FOMO I’ve heard of) he doesn’t believe them. And he basically says that unless he puts his fingers on his wounds he wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive. Lo and behold, next thing that happens is that Jesus shows up and invites Thomas to put his fingers on His wounds. And Thomas of course just falls at His feet in worship (as any of us would on that situation). But I have never forgotten Jesus’ next words: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29). Jesus is saying that we don’t need to see to believe. Even more important, those who believe without seeing are “blessed” another translation of that word is “happy.” There is a joy that comes from childlike faith, from taking God at His word and believing He is real. And you don’t need to come to the Holy Land to get that, you just have to believe. And if that’s you today, then I invite you to believe, to take God at His word, to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, and that He really does love you as much as He says, and to trust Him. In the words of Jesus “stop doubting, and believe” (John 20:27). Because there is a joy on the other side of belief. May you be blessed and happy, when you believe without seeing.