Jerusalem would have to be the most fought over city in the history of the world. It has been controlled by so many different civilizations throughout the centuries – the Egyptians, the Jebusites (who King David captured it from), the Israelites, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Muslims, the Turks, the British and now modern state of Israel (since 1967). You can still feel the tension in the air – religious tension (Jerusalem plays a central role in the three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam), racial tension, and political tension. No doubt, this tension will only increase as the time of the end draws near. Commercialism is alive and well too – with markets, hawkers and moneychangers everywhere, including along the Via Dolorosa, the supposed route Jesus took to his cruel death by crucifixion at a place called Golgotha.
The humanity of Jesus comes to the fore while visiting Israel. Jesus was born as a man into a specific culture and grew up as a Jew. Understanding this is essential to understanding so much of Jesus’ thinking and teaching. Christianity is an off-shoot of first-century Judaism, though its roots go directly back to Abraham through Jesus our Messiah. There is much to learn from how God established and related to the Old Testament nation of Israel. Although we are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not through our good works or obedience to the law, there is much wisdom in the ways of God and the principles we can learn from our heritage in men and women of faith from ancient times.
Many of the Jewish People are still praying and waiting for their messiah (others have stopped believing at all, while a small minority have accepted Jesus). A visit to the Western Wailing Wall brings this into vivid focus. Here Jews of all ages, both men and women, gather each day to pray, to read the Torah and to cry out to God for deliverance. These people are sincere but blinded from seeing Jesus as their long-awaited Messiah. As Paul said, there is a veil over their eyes (2 Cor.3:13-16). Observing them first-hand in their own land where Jesus was born and did so many miracles evokes feelings of compassion. May we all pray that the Jewish people will see Jesus as their Messiah and the Saviour of the world.