There are a lot of fun people on this trip. One of them is Brian White, the former Nazarene teen heart throb. (I’m not sure if he is a former Nazarene or a former teen heart throb.) We have been friends for a long time and he and his wife Karyn are traveling with Chonda, Doris and I, on this Holy Land adventure. It’s Brian’s first time here and today, while we were walking, he said, “It blows my mind how close everything is to one another.” We started the day on the Mount of Olives. Our first stop was a spot on the edge of the Kidron Valley with the Garden of Gethsemene behind us and the eastern wall of the Temple Platform in front of us. It must have been a 20 or 30 minute walk for Jesus and the disciples when He walked these hills.
The Pool of Siloam, where the blind man was healed is in the shadow of the Temple. The house of Caiphas, where Jesus was taken after His arrest is couple of blocks from the western wall where He might of preached the day before. When you read the Gospels everything seems spread out, but here it is in such close proximity. Just a few steps, or at most, miles apart.
Proximity is the word I kept thinking of all day. Everything is in close proximity to everything else. Here’s another way that that is true. We drive through the unbelievably busy, and crowded streets of Jerusalem, (talk about proximity), and the Eastern City and the Western City intermingles in your windshield, the Jewish part of Jerusalem and the Arab part of Jerusalem are not divided by miles of desert, or even blocks of “downtown.” They are literally right on top of each other. Some places the street itself was the dividing line, one side a more manicured, organized, western, or Jewish side, the other, chaos, and squalor of the Arab side. We walked past Arab vendors, protected by young Israeli soldiers, to go into Christian sacred sites. All dwelling within steps of each other.
And speaking of steps, we ended the day on the Southern Steps of the Temple Platform. We took part in a worship service complete with sound system and Victory In Jesus, and then a super message by Governor Mike Huckabee. That, sitting on the steps with our backs leaning against the base of the huge Al Aqsa Mosque that now sets atop the Temple Mount. I mean, the kids in the windows of the mosque could have spat on us as we worshipped. (They didn’t, by the way.) it is just hard to fathom the close proximity of people, religious sites, and political differences here in Jerusalem.
Sometimes I feel that at home. I walk out of church and the car won’t start. I finish my devotions and the phone rings with a problem at Branches. I would like a little distance, a little space between my holy moments and the time when all hell breaks loose. But they are all in such close proximity.
Even with the good stuff, the kids are buying a house, Doris is speaking for a women’s event, Jon-Mical won the math thing at school, Chonda has invited us to go to Israel. Everything runs together and I don’t even have time to breath, much less seek God’s face and direction about all of the happenings of life. Doctor’s reports, appointment with the accountant, grandparents day at school, it all runs together and I am overwhelmed by the proximity.
Heck, I’m writing this sitting on the toilet in the David Citadel Hotel, so I don’t wake up Doris who is sleeping just a few feet away, Talk about proximity. (I probably pushed that visual image just a little too far didn’t I?)
So how do we handle it when all of life comes crashing together and the schedule and the budget and the day to day crises are on top of us? What do I do when my enemies are so close I can hear them whisper threats? When my loneliness is so near my blessed times that I can’t enjoy the latter because the former is banging on my hearts door? I need a little quiet space. I need a holy moment. I need His Presence, not proximity.
Govenor Huckabee told us today there are a lot of traditional sites in Israel where people celebrate the things that Jesus did, but they probably are not all that accurate. There are some archeological places where there is a good chance that Jesus was, at least, near there. But the Southern Steps of the Temple Platform was the main entrance to the Temple for the common people in Jesus’s day. In the last week before the Passion of Christ, the Bible tells us He came there everyday to walk the steps and preach to the crowds that were gathered. In other words, this IS the place where Jesus walked, really. (I drank from a coke machine today that He may very well have drank from.) To quote an old song, “I walked today where Jesus walked.” We had a worship service right there.
But you know what, we do that every day! When the kids are sick, and the bills aren’t paid, when the boss calls me into his office, or the nurse says, “The doctor wants to talk to you about that,” when the hard times of life are in close proximity, I remember that The writer of Hebrews says, “For we don’t have a great high priest who cannot sympathize with all of our weaknesses, but One who was tested in every way like we are.” The he says, “So let’s hold unswervingly to our faith and approach the Throne of Grace with BOLDNESS.” (Hebrews 4) That solves the proximity problem. Wherever you are, whatever you are going through, Jesus has already been there. You are walking today where Jesus already walked. In the words of that famous theologian, MC Hammer, “Can’t touch this” enemy. God has got my back, (and my front). Jesus has walked these steps before me. He and I will get through all of this together, no matter how close it is or how fast it comes. Wow! That’s a good Word. So whatever YOU face today, remember the lesson of proximity. He is not far away. He is not distant He is not unaware. He is in close proximity.
Now, back to Brian White and that heart throb thing….