FIRST-PERSON: Seeing Jesus in the Holy Land
ANDERSON, S.C. (BP) -- Our family recently returned from spending a week in Israel. It wasn't my first time visiting the Holy Land, but it felt like it. Honestly, I could visit Israel a hundred times and each time it would feel like the first. It's a special place to unplug from my hectic routine and spend time with Jesus.
I am always awestruck by how beautiful and peaceful the land is. You always hear news about wars and bombings in Israel. But as we traveled with our tour group, I saw God's promise fulfilled to provide His people with a land flowing with milk and honey. I saw a blessed land with blessed people.
On this trip, though, I made a conscious effort not to act like a tourist. I was on a mission.
I wanted to learn as much as possible about Jesus in the place where He lived, preached, healed and ministered. I never left the tour group, but I removed every possible distraction from my mind. I kept my cellphone on airplane mode. I designated our son and daughter as trip photographers. I left my backpack and purse on the tour bus. I didn't want the burden of a heavy load. I desperately wanted to hear God's still small voice and see what He wanted me to see.
Once I made the decision to shut out the world, I began to see Jesus -- obviously not with physical eyes, but as I read Scripture and visited each site. I saw Jesus being baptized in the Jordan. I saw Jesus in the quiet solitude of the Galilean countryside. I saw Jesus on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. I saw Jesus feeding the five thousand and preaching the Beatitudes. I saw Him overturning the moneychangers' tables at the temple. Everywhere I went, I saw Jesus.
That's when it hit me: Many people who spent time with Jesus never truly recognized who He was.
Countless people witnessed Jesus' miracles while He was on earth. He taught them, fed them, healed them and blessed them, but many of those same people never fully trusted in Him. Jesus walked the streets of Israel, calling men and women to repent. He called twelve men to be His disciples. Judas was one of them, and yet, after three years with Jesus, he also failed to recognize Him as Messiah.
Many people living in Israel today are still looking for the Messiah, not recognizing that Jesus the Messiah has already come, and it left me overcome with grief.
My grief, however, turned to overwhelming joy when we visited the Garden Tomb. While standing in line to view the tomb, I saw crowds behind me. They all wanted to see inside. When I reached the front of the line and looked in the tomb, I saw that it was empty. It will forever be empty because God raised Jesus from the grave. Hallelujah!
I walked away smiling at the thought of how the knowledge of Jesus' resurrection still makes throngs of people take pilgrimages to the Holy Land year after year. We peek inside a tomb we already know is empty. But that empty tomb reminds us that Jesus is Lord. It is a constant source of comfort for millions who visit. I personally met Asians, Africans, Europeans, Latin Americans and others from different parts of the world. They all come because they recognize who Jesus is. They come because Jesus is their Savior.
His own people did not recognize or accept Him. That fact is true. But we still have hope. As we continue reading to John 1:12, we find these words: "But to all who did receive Him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name." My prayer is that you will recognize Jesus today.