Tuesday, July 13, 2010

From Joppa to Jerusalem

The day after the conference was a Saturday. This is the sabbath in Israel, and it is a day of rest for the nation and a day of worship for believers. The day starts for the Kashtans with Eitan, the husband, leaving the house around 7:30 a.m. to pick up congregants in his large 11 passenger van for church. He leaves early because he has to make two trips, dropping the first van-full off and heading out for a second round before the service begins at 10.

This particular morning their pastor was out of town, so Eitan was also preaching. Every service is translated into Russian and English, and this morning, Alon, the Kashtan's son who is in the military, translated for us. Also, Amir, another son, was home for the weekend from his military station, and he played guitar in the praise band. An Israeli soldier is never without his weapon, even when on leave, so he stood with a guitar in hand and his gun slung on his back...a very strange site to see for an American, but not so strange for an Israeli.

After the service, Eitan met with a committee who was planning a ministry outreach event for about 40 deaf Israelis at a beach nearby - the youth of the church would serve lunch to the group and the final details needed to be discussed. So with hands flying and interpreters keeping pace, that meeting lasted about forty minutes. Meanwhile, the two vans-full of passengers patiently waited for Eitan to finish, so that they could get their ride home. About an hour and a half later Eitan arrived at home, done with his taxi-ing, ready for dinner. After dinner, we made plans to head out to visit nearby Jaffa (Joppa), while Eitan prepared to go to a nearby town to preach in the evening service at a Russian church. He arrived home shortly before we did, which was nearly ten at night.

I tell you this because Eitan has done this for a decade. This is his sabbath routine. Granted, he doesn't usually preach in his own church, but there are times he does and he teaches the youth in addition to everything else on his plate. This man truly has a servant's heart and on his only day of rest, he gives it to the Lord. Truly a great testimony for all of us...

The picture at the top is our group sitting on some steps inside the city of Joppa. Joppa is the town that Jonah escaped to, to catch a boat as he ran from God's directions. Also, this is where Peter was staying when God gave him the vision of the cloth filled with unclean food - the call to go to the Gentiles. It is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea and there are Roman ruins as well as great Hebrew history within its walls.

But I want to jump to the next day, when we visited Jerusalem.

This is a scenic shot of Jerusalem. If you put your finger in the middle of the picture and then drag it to the left about an inch, you will land right on top of the mosque that sits atop of the Temple Mount. The picture below gives a closer look at that site. But before we leave this picture, let me give you some perspective.

We are looking out across Jerusalem and the amount of Bible history that took place in this one frame is pretty incredible. I know this is hard to see but let me give you a few notes:

* On the far side of the city, where you see two towers, is the Mount of Olives - those towers are where two separate mayors thought the ascension took place...

* You can see in this picture, as well as the one below, the wall of the old city of Jerusalem

* The city of David is actually located just below this wall and to the left a bit - remember, the David did not build the Temple, but simply gathered the materials for his son Solomon to use

* From where we are standing, it is thought that this is where Abraham told his servants to wait and then headed with Isaac to that Temple Mount, Mount Moriah, to offer him as an act of obedience

Standing at this place, imagining it completely empty of structure, I tried to imagine Abraham's mindset as he worked his way down one hill, into the valley and then up to the place where God would eventually provide the Lamb. I think I could have sat there in silence for an hour or two and still not have grasped the significance of everything I was looking at. But Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:56 that Abraham understood exactly what God was planning to do and he was glad. Abraham told his son that God would provide a Lamb - not a ram, which was given on that particular day, but a Lamb who would save his people and redeem his offspring.

And he was glad.

He rejoiced.

I think that sometimes we look at where Jesus walked and are reminded of His sacrifice and it brings a sadness to our hearts. We know we are responsible for His death and His tears over Jerusalem were tears over our sin as well. But His sacrifice is cause for rejoicing - His life is cause for celebration for those of us who know Him. It should produce gratitude and joy - yes, sorrow over our sin, but relief and praise in the work of the Son.

Which brings me to this picture. Here we are on the other side of the city. The Mount of Olives is actually to our right and beneath us are the graves of wealthy, lost Hebrews, who know the prophecy about the Messiah coming to Jerusalem and standing on the Mount of Olives. (Zechariah 14:4) They want a front row seat for that event, but the problem is that they don't think Jesus is the One who will be standing there. They don't know the true Messiah and as one of the girls said that day, "Boy, are they going to be surprised when they see Jesus standing there." In actuality, since they are dead, they already know that Jesus is the Messiah, right?

We ended that day at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. We ate lunch within the city walls and walked through the shopping district in Old Jerusalem, coming out at the Wailing Wall. The base of this wall is part of Solomon's Temple and it is here that the Jewish community comes to pray for the Messiah. There is a barrier to separate the men and women, and if you look closely, you will see that on the right side, it is packed with women, where the men's side has only a handful. This is not necessarily typical - I think it was more due to the time of day than anything else. There was a large group of boys in the square, singing and dancing - perhaps a bar mitzvah celebration or a class visiting the wall. If you go to the wall to pray, you are expected to back out of the area, not turning your back to the Holy Wall.

When you see the ritual set up that is void of Jesus Christ, this is the time to be sad. Knowing the suffering that took place in this area on your behalf should cause joy - seeing the rejection of this gift should cause sorrow. Do you see the difference?

We could have spent days in Jerusalem and not seen it all...but time ran out on us and we had to move on. I think it left a longing in the young girls' hearts to return to see more some day...


  1. What an amazing view of this city! It is truly breathe taking! But how heart breaking that they can't see what has already been fulfilled in the first coming of Christ. That this chosen people could be missing the signs that He clearly tells us to watch for.

  2. Thank you for bringing this all into perpective, it is truly amazing to view it thru eyes with wisdom.

  3. wow. How blessed you are to have been able to visit *the* place where Jesus roamed! Oh wow. :) An additional plus is that you are able to point out the places where such amazing things happened. Thanks