My husband and I recently toured the Holy Land. We went from Nazareth to Magdala to Tiberius to Capernaum to Caesarea Philippi — and that was just in the first 72 hours. With each change of location, information was shared about the verification of archeological findings via carbon dating or expert analysis and their veracity when compared to scriptural accounts. After eight days of traveling throughout Israel, our brains and hearts were full to overflowing.
Books have been written about what we experienced, and as a novice pilgrim, I would not attempt to educate you regarding the impactful discovery of a fourth-year Maccabean revolt coin or the ashen walls in the Hasmonean sewer we traversed in the City of David or the similarly burned walls on the Tel Hazor ruins. My mind was stimulated as each fact confirmed my faith. My eyes saw Golgotha; my feet stepped on the stone path of Pilate’s Praetorium; and my hands placed a prayer in the Western Wall.
With all the factual evidence we encountered, I expected all this new knowledge to inform my understanding of Scripture. But the physical things that I saw did not hold a candle to what I saw spiritually. I saw the Wesleyan Church philosophy of Believe, Belong, Become in the life and ministry of Jesus.
We stood on the rock-tiled road where Pontius Pilate sat in the “judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement” and condemned him, and I realized that in his sacrifice, Jesus showed us how to believe in God. With all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, he believed in God’s redemptive plan — he gave up his position and bore our sins. We complained about the heat and the hills on the small walk up the hill on which he was scourged and condemned to die. How is it we will take up our cross? By believing with the faith that Christ modeled as he carried his.
We looked out at the place of the Skull, and I realized that at the cross, Jesus showed us how to belong. When Jesus saw his mother and John, he said, “‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother,’” (John 19:26b-27), creating a new family structure, a belonging to one another because of what he accomplished on that cross. We stood on the steps where on the day of Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel that God would pour out his spirit on all people and anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This began the fellowship of believers, a new family to which everyone could belong through the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
We sat in the Garden of Gethsemane, and I realized that in his prayer life, Jesus showed us how to become sanctified. We viewed the temple mount from the place where he would have seen Judas and the large crowd armed with swords and clubs coming for him, led by Judas. Here he proclaimed, “Here comes my betrayer!” This betrayer had hours before been his friend, sharing in the Passover meal, singing a hymn right next to him. Even the one who was to betray him was shown love, hospitality and grace, to the same extent as the one whom he loved much. Reclining around that table, Jesus showed us how to behave toward others — not just loving our friends but loving our enemies.
Israel is the Holy Land, as everywhere you turn there is evidence of the reality of Scripture. But we can have the same spiritual awakening in our homes, communities and our churches as I had in the places where Jesus walked, if we make it our purpose to continue to walk with him as we believe, belong and become.