Holy of holies

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September 29, 2011 by theresiugoes

We are visiting the “Holy Land”. It has been overwhelming at times – we’ve done so many things, seen so many places, and hear so many historical facts – it’s really just a case of information overload. But lots of it has felt almost completely underwhelming, and I’ve been a slightly surprised at my inability to connect emotionally with many of the sites.

Dome of the Rock

We first visited the Dome of the Rock, and while I enjoyed the scenery and taking in the history around us, I didn’t really feel anything on the inside – except for maybe the nerves as I expected the Muslims and Jews around us to break into battle (apparently that only happens on TV – everything seemed fine).

Plundering the Egyptians

And then we walked through the Old City and I was a bit entranced by the sparkling jewellery, beautiful patchworks and cheap religious paraphernalia that were for sale – even as we walked the Via Dolorosa (traditionally the route that Jesus took as he walked led to his crucifixion) I could not think of Jesus – but rather was fascinated by the sights of the Orthodox Jews, the beautiful smells of the spices in the market place, and the textures of the fabrics and beads.

Ornate tomb

When we arrived at the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre), I was blown away by the cheapness of it all. The Holy Sepulchre is likely to be the site of the resurrection (and the burial of Jesus) – a hugely significant site for Christians and one, that I would have hoped, would move some emotion in me – but it was just so tacky, with plenty of gold and silver on the walls, tacky baubles and pushy, noisy, Eastern European in too-tight dresses. I was angry and frustrated at what was going on around me – it was so, so far removed from Christ Jesus, it was so far removed from any thing He had ever taught, it was so far removed from His plan for His people.

And from there, we went to the Western (Wailing) Wall – the only remaining wall of the ancient, Jewish temple, a site that we know Jesus definitely would have visited, and again I was left…bemused. In the women’s section, there were women weeping as they recited the Psalms, praying to and pleading with God and all I wanted to do was hug them, and comfort them, so that they too would know there is no longer a need for the temple…

It all seemed futile. Not visiting these places – the history here is amazing, and I have loved seeing the ancient stones, the towering mountains and the well endowed museums. It is the “holy places” that I have found futile – they have not connected me to God in any way – they have only placed obstacles in my relating to Him. And I wonder what Jesus would do if He came here – I am reminded of Him overturning tables in the temple courts and that response would be completely appropriate here.

And I am drawn to Him more – His righteousness, His humility and His glory – and I want to proclaim it from the mountaintop. I am blown away by His faithfulness to His Word, to His people, and the overarching story He has written throughout history, revealing Himself to the world.

And so it’s not really futile, is it? It’s been unusually helpful, for which I am so grateful.


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