Thirty-five years ago I graduated from seminary and Donna and I took a trip to Israel before beginning my new pastoral position. I always said I would like to lead a tour of Israel one day. On March 1, fifty-five of us flew to Tel Aviv, Israel to begin our journey and walk in the footsteps of Jesus. It was a first-time experience for almost everyone and was the trip of a lifetime. Certainly, for me … it was a dream come true.
Our journey began in the north in Galilee where we went to the ancient ruins of Caesarea, took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, and visited Nazareth, Cana, Mount of Transfiguration, Valley of Armageddon, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, and the location of the feeding of the 5000. Ten people were baptized in the Jordan River. The fingerprints of God were everywhere. We couldn’t help but praise God … knowing that if we didn’t, the “stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40).
We said goodbye to Galilee and headed south … Temptations of Jesus, Jericho, Sycamore tree, Qumran, Engedi, Jordan Border, Masada and the Dead Sea. We were on the path to Jerusalem. It was amazing how many biblical sites we saw even while remembering, “and there were also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Jerusalem and Bethlehem came next … birthplace of Jesus, Shepherd’s Field, U.S. Embassy, Knesset, Western Wall, Via Dolorosa, Caiaphas House, Stephen stoning, Gehenna, Judas hanging, Yad Veshem Holocaust Memorial, Mount of Olives, Pool of Bethesda and an evening dinner in groups of 4 to 6 with Palestinian Christians in the Palestinian Authority. What an eye-opening glimpse into the lives of a precious family in this very complicated part of the world.
My favorite place of all was the Garden Tomb. I looked in. The tomb is empty. He is risen. Very moving. Heart-warming. Life refreshing. I know that I know that I know He lives.
One unique experience was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre … the historical location of the crucifixion. For centuries, leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, Armenian, Orthodox, Assyrian and Coptic Church have fought for who controls this church, including who controls the key to open the church doors and lock them. In 1187 AD the key was finally given to a Muslim family who was commissioned to unlock and lock the door, and this assignment has been passed down through the generations for 900 plus years. I got to meet the doorkeeper and hold the key. What a lesson!
In a world of strife and a city of Jerusalem which is often a powder-keg as a holy city for Jews, Islam and Christians … you would think that Jesus-followers could get along especially at the place we call Calvary or Golgotha. Is it any wonder that on the eve of the cross Jesus prayed for his disciples and for you and me, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). We need to practice unity and love and not fight over who gets to open a door or other minor things. May we be the answer to His prayer.
Am I going back? Lord willing. Maybe you will join me!!!
The Louisiana Legislative Session starts April 10. This is my busiest time of the year, yet the opportunities are the greatest. Pray for open doors, the Bible Studies, divine appointments and a mighty move of the Spirit. Without Jesus, we can do nothing. Pray for the Governors Prayer Breakfast and the National Day of Prayer Event I will coordinate in the Senate Chamber. I am once again betting the farm on God.
Helping Louisiana’s Leaders,