Hello friends . . . grace and peace,
Our time is winding down here in Israel & Palestine. We will be leaving for the airport in about 72 hours. There is still more for us to learn, however, in these last few days and so we ask that you please pray for all of us in this Palestine of Jesus class that our focus would be on God first, our safety second, and on learning as much as we can about who Jesus was and is. Thank you for all your prayers!
We have met some amazing people here in Jerusalem as well as in the Nazareth and Galilee areas. We have met people who proclaim to be of the Christian faith, Jewish faith, Muslim faith, and more. All of them, every single one, is a beautiful creation of God. We have not been disrespected by anyone. We have listened to them and learned about their lives, their ways, their cultures. And as we have listened, we have come to realize that there are many different ways of looking at things.
Our professor, Fr. Kamal Farah has taught us the deep importance of reading the scriptures. Over and over again he has said that if we get home and we don’t read the letters, laws, poetry, proverbs, histories, prophecies, philosophy and stories of the bible, then we have missed the point of the class. BUT, just as we’ve listened and heard about the culture, way, and beliefs of the people we’ve met, we MUST do the same with the people and narratives of the bible. “Context, you see? Alway the context.” is one of Kamal’s favorite things to say.
There are whole segments of the scriptures that, unless you SEE the land, unless you LEARN the culture, unless you LISTEN to the history, we fail, completely, to gain any knowledge of what Jesus was actually about and up to with his teachings.
For example . . . look at the photo below . . .
This is photo Aran took of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives. You’re looking at the southeast corner of the wall that surround the Old City section of Jerusalem. The gold dome you see is the Dome of the Rock, the 3rd most holy place for people of the Islamic faith.
Now, stay with us here . . .
In Genesis 22, we read the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac in the region of Moriah on a mountain (verse 2). The region that Abraham was told to go to is the very place you are looking at in the photo above. In fact, very close to the corner of the wall is the spot where biblical scholars and archeologist believe Abraham was sent.
(by the way, while may of us read this story and think “HOW COULD GOD ASK A FATHER TO DO THIS?!?” it’s actually believed to be because human sacrifice was a common place among the other religions of the world and God took this opportunity to say, “no more”)
Back to the above photo . . . spinning forward from Abraham and Isaac several hundred years, in 1 Chronicles 28, we read about the plans for the Temple in Jerusalem. This was to be a place of worship and sacrifice. Animal sacrifice, not human (remember Genesis 22?). These sacrifices were to be for the renewal of The Covenant which God made through Abraham and all his descendants.
The location of that Temple was just up from the spot where Abraham and Isaac were. The First Temple (destroyed in 586 BC) and The Second Temple (destroyed in 70 AD) were in the spot where the Dome of the Rock currently sits.
The sacrifices are moving up the hill . . . it’s almost as if it’s leading us somewhere . . .
You’ve probably figured out where this is going. God, instead of maintaing a sacrificial system of covenant renewal that had to be repeated year after year (remember 1 Chronicles 28), offers the His own Son (remember Genesis 22) and establishes a New Covenant. And this time, it’s not just for Abraham’s descendants, it’s for ALL PEOPLE.
Back to the photo . . . in John 19, we read that Jesus was taken to the place of the skull, also called Golgotha. That place is now located within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is just a bit up the hill and to the left in the photo.
So we have 3 different sacrificial places, and each of them moves further up the mountain, and each time God provides what it needed . . . just like it says in Genesis 22.
There is just no way that this stuff can be learned from a book or a set of pictures or any other means. It’s all about . . . “Context, you see? Alway the context.” – Fr. Kamal
peace to you