After a week to reflect on my Israel journey, I’ve summed the adventure into three takeaways. Takeaways you can process yourself, even if you’ve never stepped foot out of your own hometown:
Standing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, I watched lines of people stop to touch, kiss, and pray on a giant rock slab. This stone, according to tradition, is the place Jesus body was prepared for burial after He was taken from the cross (we later found it was placed in the entryway during a 19th Century renovation of the church, but who really cares about details?).
After days of watching buses of tourists pile into these “holy sites,” and realizing my own propensity for getting caught up in the drama of these historic locations, I heard God make a clear statement from the vestibule of this Gothic church that will stay with me the rest of my life:
“Many people want the blessing of being where I’ve been, but so few want to pay the price to follow me where I’m going.”
From the ruins of this Capernaum temple on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus spoke some of His most difficult words. Just days after He fed 5,000 people on a Galilean hillside with 5 loaves and 2 fish, He challenged many of these same people to embody the essence of Who He was, not only the blessing of what He could do for them.
Jesus loved to create unresolved tension.
After hearing these words, Scripture tells us “many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.“ It’s easy to look backward and wonder how anyone could have stood in the physical presence of the Messiah and walked away. But standing in these temple ruins where Jesus Himself had stood, I heard Him ask me the question:
“If you had been standing here in this temple that day, would you have stayed with me or left like so many others?”
I grew up in a charismatic church movement. And honestly, over time I grew to resent it. Because of what I experienced in many “spirit-filled” encounters, I pushed the Holy Spirit away. I despised the manipulation. The abuse. The emotionalism. All with little evidence of truly transformed lives.
So I rejected the Spirit, too. Not overtly. Subtly. In my heart.
But standing in the Upper Room, the ascribed location for Acts 2, I realized my prior experience was mis-informing my current reality. What I was rejecting was the man-made charismatic subculture, not the Holy Spirit Himself. That would be asinine!
Jesus promised the Spirit to bring transformation, power, and the miraculous into our lives. The desire and ability to follow after Him. He is meant to be a normal reality of everyday life, not some crazed, event-driven emotional pursuit.
Why would I allow man’s abuse cause me to reject that offer?
A statement. A Question. A Person. This is what I brought home from Israel. How does it resonate with you?