We arrived in the holy city last evening to the strains of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing!” blasting through our bus’ loudspeakers.
Coming through the tunnel and seeing the Temple Mount for the first time causes various reactions from those on the bus.
Tears. Cameras clicking. Eyes fixed. Jaws agape. Sniffles. Shouts. And smiles.
I enjoy watching people’s responses. They are always moved at the first sight of Jerusalem . . . yet in so many different ways.
Chuck gave a stirring message this morning on the Southern Steps of the Temple. What could be better than a Sunday morning worship service on the steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? (Except for the Rapture, not much!)
The steps were a place where Jesus would have taught the crowds. Here Gamaliel trained a young Saul, later to become the apostle Paul (see Acts 22:3). Here Peter preached to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost, baptizing thousands in the ritual baths, or mikvot, which still sat next to the steps (see Acts 2:41).
On these steps, we sat in one of the few places where we can say with absolute certainty, “Jesus walked here.”
We also saw the Western Wall—the remaining stones of the retaining wall that surrounded the temple of Christ’s day. The wall—called Kotel in Hebrew—towers 50 feet above the people below and shaded the busy goings-on from the morning sun.
Branches of wild caper and hyssop grow out of the cracks in the wall, bespeaking the fill dirt behind it that Herod the Great brought in to expand the Temple Mount above. The stones pinch in their gaps countless scraps of paper on which people have scrawled their prayers. (Prayers are removed once a year.)
It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and we Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.
But without the heart engaged, our worship becomes as phony as those who don’t know the true God. Blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling or jumping—with no personal relationship with God through Christ, and it’s totally pointless.
God cares far less about our traditions than He cares about His Word in our hearts and lived out in authenticity.
Tomorrow . . . walking the Passion Week of Jesus!
(A neat extra for today: check out the 360-degree views of the Western Wall.)