Unable to contain myself any longer, I rush forward to the grassy knoll and fall on my face, arms spread out beside me. Embracing the land, I kiss her – my beloved Israel. Not until this moment, as I lay here on the Mount of Olives, the scent of spring grass filling my nostrils, do I realize I am indeed a Zionist.
I rise to rejoin my traveling party, greeted by a mix of emotions reflected on their faces. Self-righteous indignation at my uncouth behavior darkens some, but an understanding is seen in the eyes of others.
From the crest of the mountain I see the Holy City, shimmering in the morning sun. A cry escapes my lips. The Dome of the Rock dominates the Temple Mount. Its tiles blaze brilliantly in the sunshine, radiating as a golden flame. I close my eyes and try to imagine another time, another temple.
We enter the Old City and follow the crowd toward the Western Wall, commonly known as the “Wailing Wall”. Devout Jews, skullcaps secured, rock back and forth on their heels, offering prayers and tears to God for the sins of their nation and the loss of their temple. According to legend, the dew found on these stones each night are the tears of the wall itself as it joins these souls in mourning.
Waiting for Messiah, these prisoners of hope continue, for a time, to reject Him. We know, however, that hope does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5-NASB) “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead.” (Romans 11:15-NASB)
Hebrew chants and song lift my spirit as I press on toward the revered stones - the only surviving remnant of the temple. Following the tradition of those before me, I tuck my written prayer, scribbled a thousand miles away, in a crevice of the wall. Resting my cheek on the cool stones, still moist from the dewy tears of yesterday, I weep too, knowing my prayer will be answered.
My pilgrimage continues down the Via Dolorosa. This “Way of Sorrow” begins where Jesus is condemned by Pontius Pilate, and traces His steps to His crucifixion at Golgotha. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt several times since He walked here. We realize the path ahead is marked out by hope rather than any archeological evidence.
Nevertheless, nothing can dissuade us from our walk of faith. As we travel this road, our hearts and minds focused on the sacrifice of love our Savior was willing to offer, we enter into an intense time of worship. I know the Lord has truly walked this route – in the hearts of His people.
Where is the Via Dolorosa? It is the everyday path of holiness, as we take up our own cross and follow Him. And treading this path, we may have the honor, as Simon of Cyrene did, to bear the cross of another.
Approaching Golgotha, many hearts sink with disappointment at the intrusion of piety destroying our visions. The little hill of Calvary is completely hidden by an enormous and gaudy church. It takes amazing will power and overcoming faith to block out the myriads of distractions and focus on the holiness of this site – the only one on this route with convincing evidence of its authenticity.
Closing my eyes to block out the mad assault on my senses, I remember Calvary. I remember the immeasurable love of God as all my sin was laid on his sinless Son. I have been to Calvary – not here below this monstrosity of religious cover, but in a little chapel on the other side of the world. It was there that the arm of the Lord was revealed to me, pulling me under that rugged cross to be cleansed by His blood. I remember Calvary.
But who has believed our report? (Isaiah 53:1) My heart aches for Jerusalem and her people – Jew and Gentile. With revived fervor, I echo my written prayer, tucked within the sacred stones of the Western Wall, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” (Romans 10:1-KJV)
“Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:9,10-KJV)
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