April 15, 2013
My wife and I just returned from a two-week trip to the Holy Land in conjunction with our local church. The time was deeply strengthening and moving. Don’t make the mistake I have made, namely, waiting until I was 65 to go. If you get a chance, it is well worth the time, effort and money.
I want to share two reflections of my time there. First, it was very encouraging to see, time after time, how geography and archeology have regularly confirmed the historicity of the biblical text. To be sure, many alleged cites of biblical events are based on mere tradition and we do not know if they are accurate. But many cites are, indeed, accurate. For example, I stood in the very synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus launched his mission, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and walked in a number of places where Jesus walked. It was eerie and wonderful to be at these places and the Lord’s presence was there.
Secondly, with a qualification to be mentioned shortly, it is hard to see how Jesus’s movement ever got off the ground. Nazareth was, and is, a mediocre town in an unimportant location. Jesus only ministered for around three years and most of that was within a 15 mile area around the Sea of Galilee where, in Jesus’s day, uninfluential people lived. He was executed by crucifixion along with thousands of others under the authority of Rome. You feel the power of the Jewish temple and various purification laws over the Jewish people of the first century. I realized in a deeper way how utterly implausible it was that Jesus’s teaching and movement would have any chance of being perpetuated. However, there is one qualification on all this that, in my view, provides the only plausible explanation for the movement’s success: Jesus actually performed miracles during his ministry and he actually rose from the dead. In my view, that alone can adequately explain the subsequent history of the movement he set afoot. Jesus is, indeed, the very Son of God who is alive today. Among other things, that means that he truly loves us, he walks with us, he is with us in suffering and he has called us into the world to serve a purpose. It doesn’t get any better than that, and it is a supreme privilege to be numbered among his followers.