Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Madman in Jerusalem ?

Once, I went to Israel and made it to Jerusalem for a 6 hour tour.  I was alone except for 5 other strangers who sat in a minivan while the english speaking tour guide whipped out of Tel-Aviv, and drove 60 klics east to Jerusalem.  When we got to town, he sped around corners, pointed and shouted things like "that's where .....", and "over there to the left is .....",  "on the right at the top of the hill you can see .......".  He did this hundreds of times and I was only catching every third phrase that he spoke.  I had a map and was trying to follow it as he turned right, left, right, left.  I was sea-sick and hot and sticky and thirsty.

Then, very casually, he pointed up a hill to the left and shouted "that's where they crucified Jesus".  Never slowed down, never acknowledged much of anything, just raced on to the next site.  I turned in my seat, now just barely able to make out the hill through the rear window.  This picture is the hill he was pointing at.  (whether it really was the hill, I don't know).
It was a big Nothing.  A waste land of dirt and weeds, chain link fencing, electrical wires dangling, an old gas station below, trash everywhere.

I thought to myself - "no, it's impossible - surely there's more to it than that!.  Golgotha is a joke.  Don't they know I'm a tourist looking for the most sacred spot on the planet.  Can't he slow down long enough to let me focus the camera on something worth taking a picture of ...... is there anything worth taking a picture of?"

I became irate.  I'm thinking:  "The Promised Land?  This place sucks!"   And I felt guilty for thinking it.  But I can tell you, if you're looking for the land of Milk and Honey - go to Texas, or California - not Israel.  Even the beaches in Tel-Aviv are nasty - but maybe for people who don't know any better, they'll do.  What is everyone fighting for over here?  And by the way:  someone clean-up my hill!
Preachers use stuff like this to make a point in sermons on Sunday morning.  Like:  'it was the worst of places where Jesus came, in the worst of circumstances, for the worst of people - like you ......'  Ever heard that one before?
I think way back when Moses and Joshua were alive - it was an incredible place of beauty.  Then, a couple thousand years later when Jesus showed up in person - it wasn't so nice, but not too bad.  Then, a couple thousand years later when I showed up - the devil had done a lot of damage, because that's what the devil does.  He destroys beauty.  He belittles what really matters.  He takes our focus off 'The Hill' - and onto the pavement.
Golgotha wasn't a joke.  Jesus wasn't just some cool guy in flip-flops,  and he sure wasn't just a great teacher or philosopher.

I like how CS Lewis puts it:
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God."  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us."   
We should all be 'Madmen in Jerusalem' - crazy for Jesus.  He died on a sorry little nothing of a dirty hill - for us. 




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